San Francisco Film Society: Grants for Film

OVERVIEW: The San Francisco Film Society offers an array of support to individual filmmakers, screenwriters, and producers through their Filmmaker360 program, including help with project development, residencies, and a number of different grants. Deadlines for individual grants vary throughout the year, so signing up for the newsletter is the best way to keep abreast of which ones are approaching.

IP TAKE: You don't have to live in San Francisco to receive support from SFFS. Grants and other modes of support are available for filmmakers and screenwriters across the country.

PROFILE: The Filmmaker 360 program is the branch of the San Francisco Film Society that provides support to filmmakers through various grants and other tools. The program was started to provide "unparalleled assistance and opportunities including grants, prizes, development assistance, and residencies for working filmmakers at all stages of their careers."

Their grant program has awarded over $3.14 million since 2009 and is given in several areas:

  • SFFS Documentary Film Fund - Provides post-production support for documentaries "distinguished by compelling stories, intriguing characters, and an innovative visual approach." Grants range from $20,000 to $50,000 and deadlines are typically mid-year at the end of June.
  • SFFS/KRF Filmmaking Grant - These grants are given in partnership with the Kenneth Rainin Foundation in support of "feature narrative films that through plot, character, theme or setting explore human and civil rights, anti discrimination, gender and sexual identity and other social issues."
  • SFFS Women Filmmaker Fellowship - This fellowship supports female writer/directors working on their second or third narrative film project, and includes both financial support and mentorship. Fellows in the Bay Area received $40,000 over a six month period, and those elsewhere received $25,000; these funds must be used for living expenses. Additionally, fellows receive consultation and feedback from Filmmaker 360 staff on their projects. Application to this fellowship is by invitation only.
  • SFFS Producers Initiative - This initiative supports independent producers working on narrative features through both financial support and mentorship. It includes the SFFS/KRF Producer Fellowship, for producers working in the US, and the SFFS International Producer Fellowship, for producers working in other countries. Fellows in the Bay Area received $40,000 over a six month period, and those elsewhere received $25,000; these funds must be used for living expenses. Additionally, fellows receive consultation and feedback from Filmmaker 360 staff on their projects. Application to this fellowship is by invitation only.
  • SFFS Producer Travel Fund - Grants from this fund support travel by producers to film festivals around the world that are screening SFFS/KHF supported productions. Applicants must be producers on these projects, and priority is given to film festivals in places where the productions have not yet been screened. Up to $2,000 is provided for domestic travel, and up to $4,000 for international travel.
  • Djerassi/SFFS Screenwriting Fellowship - These fellowships provide a one-month residency for emerging and established screenwriters at the Djerassi Resident Artists Program, located
    in the Santa Cruz Mountains, 40 miles south of San Francisco. This fellowship is open to both U.S. and international screenwriters and includes living and studio accommodations and all meals for the time of your stay. Application to this fellowship is by invitation only.

You can find more information about the application process here.

    The main criteria for these grants and fellowships are that you are at least 18 years of age and have a key creative role for the project (i.e. producer or director). The more established you are in your profession, the more priority you will tend to be given. They are also careful to point out that winning a grant or fellowship does not necessarily entitle the recipient to be included in the San Francisco Film Festival (though they will take it into consideration).

    In addition to the grant and fellowship program SFFS also has a fiscal sponsorship program, which allows filmmakers to enter into a partnership with the organization in order to bypass some of the red tape and paperwork associated with fundraising for certain projects. As fiscal sponsor, all funds raised pass through SFFS, which they track and keep a record of, ensuring that everything is in compliance with required laws and procedures. They then pass the funds on to the filmmaker minus an administrative fee. This relieves the burden on filmmakers from going through the process of gaining tax exempt status for an individual project.

    The SFFS a also offers other services like their Off the Page script workshop, FilmEd, "an interactive platform and Open Educational Resource for teaching media making and viewing in the classroom," and FilmHouse, a residency program that makes office space available to independent filmmakers in various stages of production.

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