OVERVIEW: The National Film Preservation Foundation was created by a 2008 congressional act to preserve American films, as well as 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. If you have a historic and orphaned film you seek to save, this is the foundation for you.
PROFILE: The National Film Preservation Foundation (NFPF) was created in 2008 by way of a congressional (specifically the The Library of Congress Sound Recording and Film Preservation Programs Reauthorization Act of 2008 (P.L. 110-336)) with a primary focus on saving already-produced American films that would not likely survive without public support.
The foundation’s priority is to save “American orphan films of historic and cultural interest” and 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. You can find more information about the application process here.
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. You 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.
You can find more information about the application process here.
All three grants require that you be a public or 501(c)(3) organization to apply for support. All three also have an open application process—though beware, they are complex applications that required detailed discussion and analysis of the “significance” of the film (i.e. its worthiness), your goals for its future study and exhibition, your experience in preservation, your budget, and your facilities.
It’s also a multi-part process. There’s a registration deadline (late January or early February, depending upon the grant), then a full application deadline about one month later (again, it’s dependent upon the grant).
In 2014, NFPF gave out Basic Preservation Grants and Matching Grants to 35 institutions to preserve 63 films. The granted organizations spanned museums to universities to film cooperatives from Alaska to South Carolina. Five institutions received Avant-Garde Masters Grants that same year, for the preservation of 10 additional films.
NFPF keeps a detailed grant search engine where you can look up previous years’ grantees as well (or you can peruse by state). Perhaps create your own viewing list to indulge in for once you’re done with your own application.