Asking foundations or other grant-making organizations to help fund your movie can be an intimidating, mystifying process. The criteria tends to be slippery, and feedback about why you got rejected is rare. The Texas Filmmakers’ Production Fund is a refreshing exception.
The Austin-based program, which has awarded $800,000 since 1996, sends artist services director Bryan Poyser all over the state to teach filmmakers how to apply and then provides one-on-one advice in person or by phone before the June 2 application deadline. It also shares notes from the selection committee with unsuccessful applicants. The road show came to KERA last night.
Poyser walked the audience through the application, giving practical tips. If you’re submitting a letter of recommendation, for instance, “don’t make it from your mom unless she’s the head of Sony.” Sample proposals, including budgets, are available on the home page linked above.
A little background: Run by the Austin Film Society, the fund was started by director Richard Linklater in reaction to the drying up of regional grants from National Endowment for the Arts, according to Bart Weiss, who introduced Poyser and two-time grant-winner David Lowery at the workshop. Last year, the fund awarded $150,000 to 21 projects. The maximum is $25,000 per film.
To be eligible, filmmakers have to be residents of Texas for a year. That’s it. There’s no requirement to shoot in the state or to tell a Texas story. Short and feature-length narratives, documentaries, animation and experimental works are all welcome. The winning entries are announced in August on the fund’s website.
Another film grant program got a little airtime at the KERA workshop: the Texas Film and Video Grants from Texas Filmmakers, a Denton nonprofit that awards $3,000 annually (deadline is May 30) and puts on the Thin Line Film Fest. Other major grant-making organizations for indie films include ITVS (the Independent Television Service), the Sundance Institute and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.