National Film Preservation Foundation: Grants for Film

OVERVIEW: The National Film Preservation Foundation was created by a 2008 congressional act to preserve American films and improve access to them for study and exhibition.

IP TAKE: The National Film Preservation Foundation has a specific commitment—to preserve the catalogue of American film. Grant seekers with a historic and orphaned film may find support with this foundation.

PROFILE: The National Film Preservation Foundation (NFPF) was created in 2008 by way of a congressional act (specifically the The Library of Congress Sound Recording and Film Preservation Programs Reauthorization Act of 2008 (P.L. 110-336)). It seeks to preserve already-produced American films that would not survive without public support. The foundation supports “activities nationwide that preserve American films and improve film access for study, education, and exhibition.” It pursues this through all three of its grant programs:

Basic Preservation Grants: for preservation of orphan films (work that has been abandoned by its owner or copyright holder) made in the U.S. or by American citizens abroad, and not protected by commercial interests. Grant amounts range from $1,000 to $18,000 in cash and/or donated laboratory services. This grant must be used to incorporate “new film preservation elements” (such as the soundtrack), to create new public access copies, and/or to create closed captioning (on sound films) for potential web or television exhibition.

Matching Grants: for “complex, large-scale preservation, reconstruction, or restoration projects involving a single film or film collection of special cultural, historic, or artistic significance.” Grant amounts range from $18,001 to $40,000, but—as the program title suggests—the organization receiving the grant must “match” at least one-fifth of this gift through another avenue of funding. The bigger scope of this grant means that the foundation requires that applicants have previous experience restoring a film with a NFPF grant. Grant seekers can find more information about the application process here.

Avant-Garde Masters Grants: for “preservation of a film or films by a single filmmaker or from a cinematic group significant to the development of avant-garde film in America.” (Works made in the past 20 years are not eligible.) Grant amounts range from $5,000 to $50,000. Grant seekers can find more information about the application process here.

All three grants require that grant seekers be a public or 501(c)(3) organization to apply for support. All three also have an open application process—though they are complex applications that required detailed discussion and analysis of the “significance” of the film (i.e. its worthiness), goals for the film’s future study and exhibition, grant seekers’ budget, facilities, and experience in preservation.

It is also a multi-part process. There is a registration deadline (late January or early February, depending upon the grant), then a full application deadline about one month later (again, it is dependent upon the grant).

Past granted organizations include museums, universities, and film cooperatives from Alaska to South Carolina. NFPF keeps a detailed grant search engine where grant seekers can look up previous years’ grantees (or peruse by state).

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