026 Grant writing for documentary film

Process you should go through

  1. Research (reading article, talking to experts, watching films)
  2. Raise money from the people you know who will care most about this – CALL AND TALK TO THEM
  • Seed money; learn what people care about in regards to your topic & what questions they’ll ask; you’ll find the holes in your knowledge and plan
  1. Shoot some footage; lockdown access to your story; create fundraising video
  2. Crowdfunding campaign
  1. Go to website for the International Documentary Association (documentary.org)
    1. Documentary Core Application – standardized application
    2. Sample budget form – 3 different levels
    3. Grants directory
    4. Also lots of videos and webinars (grant writing next tuesday March 30th 2021)
  2. Sundance Collab


Logline: brief catchy summary, 2-3 sentences

  • Who, what, when, where 

Story Summary: synopsis + treatment

Synopsis: expand on your characters and story, short paragraph – elaborating from logline; 1st paragraph of the Story Summary

  • Leads into story summary/treatment (but more digestible than treatment)
  • What is the topic
  • Who is the main character or characters?
  • What activity will that character be doing and during what time period
  • What questions are you, the filmmaker, exploring and in what style
  • Use good ACTION verbs (struggling, probing, confronting, piece together)

Treatment: detail of story arcs, characters, structure, and access. 1-2 pages

  • Expand on the brief synopsis, giving more detail about main character(s), topic, context, and the storyline
  • Lay out the actual story line

Topic summary: explain why this topic is important; expand on the themes, questions, and stakes, 1-2 pages (thesis statement about greater context)

Artistic approach: describe your creative vision; ½ page (verite, interviews, etc)

Impact Statement: Look at the website for that organization and use their exact wording. Then give details for what you will use the money for – they want to make sure the money will be used to move the project forward, not stagnate.

  1. Ask mentors (not your biggest fan) to read and give feedback; ask friends who are in marketing or lawyers
  2. Yes, you need a video. Even if it is totally archival and stock footage, find a way to visually portray your concept for the film. 
  1. Create a spreadsheet!!!
  2. Apply multiple times, talk about when you applied before and what has progressed