Building on a Solid Foundation

After approaching broadcasters, distributors, creditors, and every friend and family member within calling distance, doc-makers are left with few funding options - or so they might think. In truth, foundations and funds offer an additional layer of financial support. RealScreen offers...
November 1, 2000

After approaching broadcasters, distributors, creditors, and every friend and family member within calling distance, doc-makers are left with few funding options – or so they might think. In truth, foundations and funds offer an additional layer of financial support. RealScreen offers a select list of public and private organizations


701 St. Paul Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21202

Phone: 410-547-6600

Fax: 410-547-6624



Contact: Joy Moore, communications department

Guidelines: Focuses on initiatives that have significant potential to demonstrate innovative policy, the delivery of services, and community supports for children and families. Tends to favor production and dissemination phases.

Residency: International (project content must be U.S.-based)

Funding Range: US$50,000-plus per project

Deadlines: None. Submit letter (three pages maximum) outlining proposal, project goals, population served, amount of funds requested, and a brief history of the organization.

Past Projects: Have funded ten documentaries in the past five years including Hoop Dreams, Steve James; and This Far By Faith, Mieko Ouchi.


111 Riverside Ave., Suite 130, Jacksonville, Florida 32202-4921

Phone: 904-359-0670

Fax: 904-359-0675



Contact: Jonathan Howe, executive director

Guidelines: Prefer history, science and kids’ programming with educational value. Emphasis on finishing funds for major educational series assured of airing nationally on PBS. Consideration also given to outstanding stand-alone programs.

Residency: United States

Funding Range: 15% of grants are typically devoted to public TV; of these funds, the largest percentage is for docs. Recent production grants have ranged from US$100,000 to $500,000.

Deadlines: None. Initial approach should be via letter with project description and budget.

Past Projects: Adventures from the Book of Virtues, KCET (L.A.)


65 Bleecker Street, 7th Floor, New York, N.Y. 10012

Phone: 212-598-9900

Fax: 212-598-4934



Contact: Esther Robinson, program director, media and arts

Guidelines: Supports artists who take innovative approaches to form and/or content in the visual, performing and media arts. Will work closely with its funded artists to provide audience development, marketing and other forms of assistance tailored to individual projects. In return, artists share a portion of their proceeds with Creative Capital.

Residency: United States

Funding Range: US$5,000 to $20,000 per project

Deadlines: Bi-annual (next grant deadline in 2002; applications available at the end of August)

Past Projects: Star Eaters, Peggy Ahwesh



114 Whitfield Street, London W1P 5EF

Phone: 44-207-383-7755

Fax: 44-207-383-7745



Contact: Jill Henderson or Rebecca Maguire

Guidelines: One of several regional offices in the U.K. geared to supporting projects in economically deprived areas. On April 1, 2001, the Film Council will begin acting as a coordinating body for these funds.

Residency: Filmmaker must establish an office and spend a percentage of money in the region where funds are designated.

Funding Range: £1,000 to £80,000 (us$1,500 to $118,000) – maximum 25% of total budget

Deadlines: To be announced in April 2001.

Past Projects: Brother Deado, Ken Fero


5926 Fiddletown Place, San Jose, California 95120, or 48 Lakeshore Drive, Westwood, Massachusetts 02090

Phone: CA: 408-268-2083; MA: 781-326-7922

Fax: CA: 408-268-2083


Web: In development

Contact: CA: Lucius R. Eastman; MA: Jennifer Eastman

Guidelines: Mainly provides completion funds for a variety of documentary and narrative projects. No specific criteria for selection. Rarely provides development funds.

Residency: International

Funding Range: US$2,500 to $5,000 per project; awarded $152,900 in 1999 to 46 projects in total, including 26 docs

Deadlines: Three times per year: January, May and September

Past Projects: Long Night’s Journey Into Day, Frances Reid and Deborah Hoffmann; Like A Mother Bear, Lynn Feinerman


Council of Europe, France 67075 Strasbourg, Cedex

Phone: 33-3-88-41-26-40

Fax: 33-3-88-41-27-60

E-mail: eurimages@coe.nt

Web: //

Contact: Mireille Paulus, executive secretary

Guidelines: A copro fund offering interest-free, conditionally repayable loans for feature films and creative docs. Projects must be a minimum length of 70 minutes and have at least two coproducers from different member states of the fund.

Residency: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey

Funding Range: Amounts vary.

Deadlines: 2001 deadlines to be posted.

Past Projects: Nuages, Marion Hansel


10 Little Portland Street, London W1W 7JG

Phone: 44-207-861-7932

Fax: 44-207-861-7862



Contact: Jenny Borgars, head of Development Fund; Paul Trijbits, head of New Cinema Fund

Guidelines: A new organization channeling public money for film production. The Development Fund and New Cinema Fund are best sources for doc-makers. Projects intended for theatrical distribution are preferred.

Residency: Accepts proposals from U.K. and other states of the E.U.; encourages copros with international partners.

Funding Range: Each fund has an annual budget of £5 million (US$7.4 million). Council offers 15-50% of a film’s budget.

Deadlines: Accepts applications year-round.

Past Projects: None (fund began April 1, 2000)


320 East 43rd Street, New York, N.Y. 10017

Phone: 212-573-5000

Fax: 212-351-3677


Contact: Barron M. Tenny, secretary

Guidelines: Global foundation with arms in N.Y., Africa, Asia, Latin America and Russia. Docs are normally funded through the media division.

Residency: International

Funding Range: US$25,000 to $1 million. Funds distributed multi-year. In 1999, total program activities were $578 million.

Deadlines: None. A letter of inquiry is advisable.

Past Projects: I’ll Make Me a World, Sheila Curran Bernard


International Film Festival Rotterdam, P.O. Box 21696, 3001 AR, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

Phone: 31-108-909-090

Fax: 31-108-909-091



Contact: Marianne Bhalotra

Guidelines: A fund for filmmakers from developing countries for creative and feature docs. Grants to be spent in one of the developing countries. Full length only; must have theatrical potential; minimum 60-65 minutes.

Residency: Filmmaker must be based in a developing country.

Funding Range: Three categories: development, US$9,000; post-production, $26,000; distribution, $13,000. Offers a total of $850,000 annually, with individual grants of up to $50,000.

Deadlines: March 1 and September 1

Past Projects: Crane World, Pablo Trapero


51 Federal Street, Suite 100, San Francisco, California 94107

Phone: 415-356-8383

Fax: 415-356-8391



Contact: Beky Hayes, programming & development coordinator

Guidelines: Endorses programs that take creative risks and represent points of view not usually seen on commercial or public television.

Residency: United States citizen or legal resident

Funding Range: Up to US$250,000 per project.

Deadlines: Open call – February 15 and August 15, 2001 (applications available in December for February deadline)

Past Projects: Sing Faster: A Stagehand’s Ring Cycle, John Else


Jan Vrijman Fund/IDFA, Kleine-Gartmanplantsoen 10, 1017 RR Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Phone: 31-206-273-329

Fax: 31-206-385-388



Contact: Noor Zwinkels, coordinator

Guidelines: An initiative of the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA), the fund aims to stimulate productions at all stages – development, production, completion, distribution and promotion – of creative documentaries from developing countries. Submissions must be in English.

Residency: Filmmaker must be based in a developing country.

Funding Range: Development, US$4,000; production & post, $15,000; distribution $7,000; workshops & festivals, $15,000 – 25 projects/year for a total of $221,000

Deadlines: Bi-annual (Feb 1, 2001 and June 1, 2001)

Past Projects: Borderland, Carl Biorsmark; Down Rockey Street, Khubu Meth; A Day Under the Sun, Vlado Zrnic


Office of Grants Management

140 South Dearborn Street, Chicago, Illinois 60603

Phone: 312-726-8000

Fax: 312-920-6258



Contact: Alyce Myatt, media division

Guidelines: The general program offers grants for innovative media projects, especially those that increase the diversity of voices and viewpoints in film, television and radio.

The foundation welcomes proposals that encourage community outreach and supports all phases, but tends to favor

production. Does not support political activities, or attempts to influence action or specific legislation. No narrative dramas or personal documentaries.

Residency: Open to applicants of all nationalities, but the

project must have a good chance for broadcast in the U.S.

Funding Range: US$25,000 to $200,000-plus per project (approximately $5.5 million awarded in media grants last year)

Deadlines: No fixed deadlines. Decisions made throughout the year. Send letter of inquiry (three pages maximum) plus project summary via mail or e-mail

Past Projects: Well-Founded Fear, Shari Robertson and Michael Camerini; Local News, Calvin Scaggs and David van Taylor; The Fights in the Fields, Rick Tejada-Flores and Ray Telles


420 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10018

Phone: 212-869-8500

Fax: 212-852-8438



Contact: Joan Shigekawa, associate director, creativity & culture

Guidelines: Supports independent media artists in the U.S. and Mexico through film/video/multimedia fellowships, awarded by nomination and administered by National Video Resources. Emphasis on work ‘exploring the conflicts, connections, and commonalties of diverse communities.’

Residency: International

Funding Range: US$20,000-plus. In 1999, funding for film, video and multimedia was $1 million.

Deadlines: None. No unsolicited proposals. Send a brief letter of inquiry describing project and its purpose.

Past Projects: Tierra Sagrada en Zona de Conflicto (Sacred Land in a Conflict Zone), Carlos Martinez Suarez


90 Park Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10016

Phone: 212-687-4470

Fax: 212-697-3248



Contact: Peter Kardon, program director

Guidelines: Provides fellowships for advanced professionals in all fields except performing arts. Fellows are selected on the basis of two separate competitions, one for the United States and Canada, the other for Latin America and the Caribbean. All applicants are expected to be advanced professionals in mid-career. Have awarded several grants to documentary and narrative filmmakers. Only individuals are eligible.

Residency: Must be a citizen or legal resident of the area where the competition is held.

Funding Range: US$30,000 on average

Deadlines: Once per year. United States and Canadian competition: October 1 (postmarked). Latin American and Caribbean competition: December 1. Application forms available by mail in July or on the website.

Past fellowship recipients: Arthur Dong, L.A.-based producer and director; Jennie Livingston, N.Y.-based writer, director, producer


6777 Hollywood Blvd., Ste. 500, Los Angeles, California 90028

Phone: 323-466-7110

Fax: 323-466-7521



Contact: Marlene Dermer, executive director

Guidelines: Promotes participation of Latino producers, directors, writers and on-air talent in public TV programs. Solicits films through an annual open call.

Residency: Must be a U.S. citizen or legal resident.

Funding Range: US$10,000 to $50,000 for development; $50,000 to $100,000 for production and completion. Yearly budget for grants is approximately $634,000.

Deadlines: Open call – June 2, 2001 (guidelines mailed out in December/January)

Past Projects: Every Child is Born a Poet, Ashley James


4802 Fifth Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15213

Phone: 412-622-6443

Fax: 412-622-1331



Contact: Mable Haddock, executive director; Shirley Bowen, program coordinator

Guidelines: Devoted to the preservation, production, distribution and promotion of diverse films and videos about African-Americans and African diaspora experiences. The Program Development Fund awards grants to films in all phases: research, script development, pre-production, production, post-production, community outreach and audience development.

Residency: Must be a U.S. citizen or legal resident.

Funding Range: US$1,000 to $50,000 (Has provided more than $5 million in grants to both independent and station-based producers since 1979.)

Deadlines: For 2000, in-office open solicitation – November 30, 2000

Past Projects: Two Towns of Jasper, Marco Williams and Whitney Dove


1100 Pennsylvania Avenue N.W., Suite 726, Washington, D.C. 20506

Phone: 202-682-5452

Fax: 202-682-5721



Contact: Mary Smith, media arts specialist

Guidelines: Supports the development, production, and national distribution of radio and TV programs on the arts. Priority is given to programs with the potential to reach a significant national audience. Projects may include high profile multi-part TV and radio series, single docs, performance programs, or arts segments for use within an existing series. Programs may deal with any art form (e.g., music/dance/literature).

Residency: Must be a U.S. non-profit with tax exempt status (or have a fiscal sponsor with the above qualifications).

Funding Range: US$20,000 to $175,000

Deadlines: March 2001

Past Projects: My Generation, Barbara Kopple


Division of Public Programs, 1100 Pennsylvania Avenue N.W., Room 426, Washington D.C. 20506

Phone: 202-606-8267

Fax: 202-606-8557



Contact: Pamela Elder or Virginia Field, division of public programs (Media)

Guidelines: NEH is an independent grant-making agency of the U.S. government, dedicated to enriching American cultural life by promoting knowledge of human history, thought and culture. Priorities include subjects of national significance, projects geared to diversified audiences, collaboration with other cultural organizations and the use of multiple formats or interactive media technology. Grants are offered for projects at various stages: planning, scripting, implementation and production.

Residency: Must be a U.S. non-profit with tax exempt status (or have a fiscal sponsor with the above qualifications).

Funding Range: Varies depending on stage: up to US$30,000 for planning; $60,000 for scripting; $200,000 to $800,000 for production. In 1999, NEH funded 19 documentaries totalling $5.4 million.

Deadlines: planning grants – November 1, 2000; planning, scripting and production – February 1, 2001

Past Projects: The Murder of Dr. Parkman, Eric Strange and Melissa Banta; Alfred Stieglitz and the Making of Modern America, Susan Lacy


330 Seventh Avenue, 21st Floor, New York, N.Y. 10001

Phone: 212-629-0500

Fax: 212-629-0508



Contact: Kim Bistrong

Guidelines: The fund for Jewish Documentary Filmmaking supports original docs that promote Jewish history, culture, identity and contemporary issues.

Residency: U.S. citizen or permanent resident

Funding Range: US$20,000 to $50,000 per project. Funds four to six projects per year.

Deadlines: Early April (applications available in January)

Past Projects: Arguing the World, Joe Dorman; Mayor of the West Side, Judd Ehrlich; The Papp Project, Karen Thorsen and Tracie Holder; Divan, Pearl Gluck


1800 North 33rd St., P.O. Box 83111, Lincoln, Nebraska 68501

Phone: 402-472-3522

Fax: 402-472-8675



Contact: Carol Cornsilk, director, programming & production

Guidelines: NAPT seeks to increase awareness of cultural diversity of Native people. Annual open call funds through production licensing agreements, which give NAPT first option to distribute programs to PBS and/or educational outlets. Funds all phases. No experimental, industrial or student projects.

Residency: Must be a U.S. citizen or legal resident.

Funding Range: Development: US$10,000 to $20,000 per project. Production/completion: $50,000 to $100,000 per project. Typically funds up to ten projects per year, totalling $636,000.

Deadlines: September, 2001

Past Projects: Andy Payne Story, Dan Bigbee


Skovveien 2, 0257 Oslo, Norway

Phone: 47-23-283-939

Fax: 47-22-561-223


Web: None

Contact: Kristin Ulseth, project consultant

Guidelines: Provides production funds for docs and fiction. Producers must already have national or TV funding before applying. The number of documentaries varies each year: 12 were supported in 1998, and 24 in 1999.

Residency: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden

Funding Range: 100,000 to 500,000 Kroners (US$12,000 to $60,000) per project – 4% to 25% of the budget

Deadlines: Applications accepted all year.

Past Projects: The Cinderella from Tallin, Pirjo Honkasalo


1221 Kapiolani Blvd., Suite #6A-4, Honolulu, Hawaii 96814

Phone: 808-591-0059

Fax: 808-591-1114



Contact: Annie Moriyasu, programming director, media fund

Guidelines: Interested in programs produced by and about the indigenous peoples of the Pacific, particularly those aimed at national public broadcast. Majority of projects tend to be docs solicited through PIC Media Fund, an annual, national open call with a spring deadline. Funds all stages except distribution.

Residency: Must be a U.S. citizen or legal resident.

Funding Range: Up to US$15,000 for research and development; up to $50,000 for production and post-production. (In 1999, awarded $441,000 to 14 projects, the majority of which were docs.)

Deadlines: August 3, 2001

Past Projects: Where I Put My Feet, That’s Hawaii, Michael Glass and James Culp


Funding Exchange, 666 Broadway, Suite 500, New York, N.Y. 10012

Phone: 212-529-5300

Fax: 212-982-9272



Contact: Ms. Trinh Duong, program officer

Guidelines: Provides pre-production and distribution funds for projects by organizations and individual artists. Topics of interest include: aids and other health issues, racial and gender justice, reproductive rights, homelessness and welfare reform. Women, gays and lesbians, disabled persons, artists from communities of color and people with little recourse to other funding sources are particularly encouraged to apply (video submissions must be NTSC format).

Residency: International, but projects must have relevance to the U.S. population. Funding Range: US$3,000 to $6,000 on average, to a maximum of $15,000. In 1998, $161,500 was awarded to documentaries.

Deadlines: Applications are due annually on May 15. Awards are announced in late August or early September.

Past Projects: Family Name, Macky Alston


680 North Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, Illinois 60611

Phone: 312-751-8000

Fax: 312-751-2818



Contact: Cleo Wilson, executive director

Guidelines: Since 1978, the Foundation has awarded grants to documentary film and video projects that identify injustice and advocate social change. No religious programs, individual needs, capital campaigns, endowments, scholarships or fellowships, nor social services. Grants are limited to the post phase.

Residency: United States

Funding Range: US$1,000 to $2,000 per project

Deadlines: Applications welcome year-round.

Past Projects: Grist for the Mill, Other Pictures


107 Suffock, Studio 517, New York, N.Y. 10003, or From The Heart Productions, 1455 Mandalay Beach Rd., Mandalay Shores, California 93035

Phone: NY: 212-982-5008; CA: 805-984-1768


Web: or

Contact: NY: Drew Figueroa; CA: Carole Lee

Guidelines: Seeks projects that will inspire, archive, or make a social commentary. New projects or works in progress, any length, with budgets under US$300,000 are acceptable. Student filmmakers, indie producers and prodcos are eligible. Offers N.Y., L.A. and Chicago grants. Projects must be completed within two years of the grant.

Residency: International

Funding Range: Contributes US$35,000 to $40,000 in kind per project – including film and video stock, equipment rental and post services. Four grants per year. In 1999, 64% of funding went to documentaries.

Deadlines: NY: January 28, 2001; CA: June 30, 2001

Past Projects: In My Corner, Ricki Stern and Ann Sundberg; American Chain Gang, Xachery Irving; Salvaged Lives, Barbara Leibovitz


Open Society Institute, 400 West 59th St., New York, N.Y. 10019

Phone: 212-548-0657

Fax: 212-548-4647



Contact: Diane Weyermann, program director

Guidelines: Provides seed, production and distribution funds for international documentary films and videos on significant issues in human rights, freedom of expression, social justice, and civil liberties. Only contemporary-issues projects. No historical projects, biographies or series.

Residency: International (Applicants must have creative and budgetary control over the proposed documentary.)

Funding Range: Production: US$25,000 to $50,000; Seed: $10,000 to $15,000. Has provided around $1.5 million each year since 1996.

Deadlines: No formal deadlines. Board meets four times/year.

Past Projects: Photographer, Dariusz Jablonski


470 Columbus Ave., Suite 209, San Francisco, California 94133

Phone: 415-391-0911

Fax: 415-391-4587



Contact: Thomas C. Layton, president

Guidelines: Supports projects proposed by U.S. non-profit organizations. Funds around five docs per year, typically in pre-production or early production phases. Primary focus is on the San Francisco area and Hawaii, on issues of

public interest.

Residency: Must be a U.S. non-profit organization.

Funding Range: Varies. In 1997, docs won US$4,700 to $25,000.

Deadlines: None. Submit letter of inquiry with short description of the project, addressed to Thomas C. Layton. The board meets four times annually.

Past Projects: The Nation Within, Tom Koffman

About The Author
Daniele Alcinii is a news editor at realscreen, the leading international publisher of non-fiction film and television industry news and content. He joined the RS team in 2015 with experience in journalism following a stint out west with Sun Media in Edmonton's Capital Region, and with communications work in Melbourne, Australia and Toronto. You can follow him on Twitter at @danielealcinii.