February 9th, 2013
by Aaron Zeghers
You want to make a film, I get it. So do I. But what now?
Getting a film funded can be tough, especially if you are early in your career. It’s important that you make small, affordable filmmaking attempts yourself, before applying for most grants. And perhaps even more important is knowing the history of your art form – cinema! – and where your work fits into this milieu.
Most Manitoban filmmakers will need an history of exhibition to qualify for grants from the Manitoba Arts Council, Canada Council for the Arts, and I believe the Winnipeg Arts Council grant has this provision as well. Basically, if you haven’t made a film and screened it somewhere (preferably a legit festival or curated screening), you’re going back to the story board. This is proof that distribution is key to your practice as a filmmaker, as troublemaker Clint Enns tackles for Cineflyer HERE!
However the Winnipeg Film Group does have a First Film Fund, that virtually any member can apply for.
There are also a number of alternative or corporate funding sources, like the BravoFACT fund, MTS’s Stories from Home, courses through the National Screen Institute, and additional funds from Manitoba Film & Music.
Most film and video grant applications are similar, though each will have it’s unique specifics that you must be careful to follow. Be sure to carefully read all the rules, regulations and required items. You can expect to include an artistic CV, synopsis, treatment or script, artistic outline, support material and budget in most applications. Other additions like storyboard or shot list, shooting schedule, letters of support, letters of commitment, cover letters, and proof of pre-existing funding may be required.
When writing a grant there is many things to consider, but perhaps most important is “know your audience”. Arts organizations will generally care about different things than, say, BravoFACT. Most arts organizations will want, first and foremost, a project that is artistically valid. Why are you doing what you’re doing? How does this project relate to your greater artistic practice? Do you exhibit a strong understanding of the medium you work in, as an artist?
On the other hand, BravoFACT or NSI jurors will probably be more likely to raise questions like: Is it marketable? Is it entertaining? What kind of audience does this have? Is it funny/cute/scary/thrilling/sexy?
However, all cash-money gate keepers will want to see your previous work. This is very important. Your support material is usually submitted on DVD (or VHS according to many of the guidelines!) and should show a strong relation to the project you’re applying to.
The Manitoba Arts Council
MAC is by and far the best funding organization within Manitoba. They have some great grants for local filmmakers from all walks of life, ranging from $6,000 to $20,000. The grants are relatively easy to apply to, and the gestation period after applying to a grant is usually pretty reasonable.
Here are the programs offered via MAC:
Travel / Professional Development Grant
Aboriginal Arts Creative Development in Film/Video // up to $7,500.
Aboriginal Arts Mentorship Training and Development // up to $5,000
Scriptwriting Grant // up to $6,000
Film Project Grant // up to $6,000
Film Production Grant // up to $20,000
The Winnipeg Arts Council
Twice a year there’s the WAC Individual Artist Grant deadline. Emerging artists can get $2,000 and mid-career or established artists can get up to $5,000. WAC accepts submissions from all artists, but from what I’ve seen filmmakers making tradition films are rarely funded. This is probably mainly due to the fact that a lot of artists apply and there isn’t a lot of money to be had.
However, it is far from impossible to get a WAC grant. I would recommend applying with an idea that you already have some momentum for. It seems like WAC bites when a) the project is semi-underway already, or b) if you will be exhibiting the final product at an art show. And of course you want to have a strong artistic explanation of what you want to do and why you are choosing to do it.
The Canada Council for the Arts
Another great place to apply for arts funding, no matter where you are within Canada. Their emerging artist film grants are perfect for those that have a few films and screenings under their belt. Established and Mid-career artists can get a maximum of $60,000.
Scriptwriting Grants // from $3,000 to $20,000
Production Grants // $3,000 to $60,000
Research/Creation Grants // $3,000 to $60,000
Aboriginal Media Arts Program // $3,000 to $60,000
Travel Grants for Media Arts Professionals // $500 to $2,500
The Winnipeg Film Group
The WFG has a couple of film funds available to its members.
The First Film Fund is a perfect bet for young, enthusiastic filmmakers. You can get up to $3,000 cold hard cash and $2,000 services from the WFG so it is perfect for a relatively short idea.
The Production Fund is a maximum $2,000 grant available for either production or post-production of a short film. The truth here though is that there is WAY MORE money available for post-production than production. So, if you can get your shoot done this is a perfect grant to apply for some finishing funds!
Finally, there is the Hot House Award offered by the Winnipeg Film Group. Not to be confused with the NFB animation program by the same name that far precedes this award, the Manitoba Hothouse Award offers $10,000 cash and $5,000 services to one established Manitoban Filmmaker every year.
MTS’s Stories From Home (formerly MTS On Demand)
This local documentary series is a great opportunity for those that have some credible experience in making films. The key is to get in touch with the great folks that run this program, and have your Winnipeg-related doc pitch ready to go. Generally I believe they fund projects from $5,00 to $25,000, but there have been exceptions to this rule. Check out some of these docs on the Stories From Home Youtube channel here.
BravoFACT has been changing the format of its contact pretty drastically and often lately, so be sure to check out their website for details.
Right now they are looking for 7.5 minute “creative, narrative proposals” and they are offering up to $50,000 for it. Not bad bang for your buck!
The National Screen Institute
NSI doesn’t really provide film funding, it offers education programs through which you MAY be able to create your film. The successful applicants undergo rigorous training, jumping through hoops to the finish line that may or may not contain the funding for their film. I’ve never applied to NSI so it’s probably best for you to just check out their website.
Manitoba Film & Music
Manitoba Film & Music (MF&M) has two funding programs that can be of varying use to local, independent filmmakers, depending on your situation.
Most useful is the Emerging Talent Grant Program, which is for projects that have “received production funding awards through a competitive, juried process from a recognized industry organization.” In simpler words, if you have received a grant from MAC, WFG, WAC, CCA, or another juried application process, Manitoba Film & Music will match that amount up to $10,000. This is a really great way to beef up your budget, but beware! There is a TONNE of paperwork required by MF&M, and you must have a registered business and bank account for said business to even apply. That being said, don’t shy away from this grant, just be sure to keep very good track of every penny you spend, and perhaps seek out someone that has gone through this process before and get their advice.
There is also the Micro-budget Grant Program, which allows productions of less than $100,000 to get a 10% increase care of MF&M. In nearly every case this grant is useless, especially considering that receiving this grant will grind your Film Tax Credit.
Manitoban Film Tax Credit
For larger-budget productions it is wise to take advantage of the Manitoban Film Tax Credit which will allow you to get back up to 65% of your labour costs on the project, which can often be a LOT of cash. However, there is a lot of paperwork, dealing with the government, and business skills needed to do this on your own. You also have to have an incorporated production company with a Canadian Revenue Agency registered payroll. Just to incorporate costs $450, plus the costs of hiring an accountant to do your corporate year end taxes ($1000 ballpark). So I would say you’d want to have a budget of around $20,000 before taking advantage of this tax break.
If anyone is interested in this, feel free to message me and I can hook you up with my Film Tax Credit accountant and Corporate accountant!
Please consider this article a work in progress! If you have comments, additions, please leave a comment and I will add them, or email them to cineflyer at gmail.com