The question of funding is an age-old nodus for filmmakers; most of us start off with micro-budgets and anxiously watch as most productions seemingly haemorrhage money. Personal financing, as well as crowd-funding, are relevant options to secure financing for your film. Film grants are another often overlooked option because of the pre-empted stress that comes with applications. From personal experience, applications are neither stressful nor time-consuming, and furthermore they can be of great use.
Generally, producers apply for these grants, however, anyone can apply for them and applications usually take five to ten minutes, if you have your documents ready. Outlined below are a few basics on applying, a list of things you will most likely need, and a fairly exhaustive list of film grants within the UK. This article will mostly focus on UK Film Grants, however, the process is more or less the same for film grants in other countries. A few of these have been put into place specifically for productions affected by COVID-19, so your pre-production need not be delayed any longer!
Whether you are a rose-tinted recent graduate or a veteran of the industry, there is a grant out there ready to receive your application. There are film grants for short films, feature films, music videos, special-interest films and more. Film grants do not need to be paid back, and can generally be spent at the discretion of the production team. Meaning, you can spend the grant on equipment, locations, food, travel, props, paying crew, buying editing software and other items along these lines. You cannot spend the grants on flight tickets to Lamu, fancy dinner reservations or courtside tickets. I will keep repeating the following adage throughout this article; read, read, read and read! Read the guidelines again and again; nothing will get your application shot down faster than glaringly obvious discrepancies between your application and the guidelines. Also, hold on to receipts for everything; more often than not you will get asked to provide receipts or else risk having to pay the grant back.
Since this article focuses mainly on UK Film Grants, one of the prerequisites will be to have a UK Bank Account and Proof of Residency/Citizenship. Frequently you will find film grants that are specific, such as film grants for females, LGBTQ+ applicants, BAME applicants, etc. Depending on the theme of your film, you could be eligible for niche grants that are subject-based as well. If you’re a newbie filmmaker, bring out the confetti; because there are a multitude of grants to help first-time filmmakers specifically.
Applying for film grants is similar to cooking a recipe for the first time. Re-read the page at least twice, because missing something could be the difference between getting that grant or not. Remember, real human beings are reading these applications and they have to go through hundreds, if not thousands, of them. If they think somebody did not take the time to include everything they asked for, they will not think twice before chucking your application in the metaphorical bin. Harsh, but true.
The British Film Institute (BFI) is the largest public film fund in the UK. Each year they invest over £30m to support film production and developments. It is worth applying to them as they have many different branches of funding. They receive more than 300 applications a year and are only able to provide for twenty-five to thirty of them. Do not get disgruntled if you did not succeed the first time around; try and try again!
More often than not, you will need the following for your applications:
This will be an introduction of yourself, your crew, any achievements or previous work, and a clear plan of how the funds will be used. Clarity always gets bonus points.
A mood board and a film treatment can be in the same document. A treatment outlines the general plot of the film, so sell it as best you can! It must include a logline, character descriptions, a synopsis and perhaps a working title. Keep it to about the length of one page, but the application guidelines of the grant will generally specify the word count. A mood board is a series of images you’ve either sourced or taken (drawn/photographed/painted) yourself, which aims to give the viewer a clearer idea of your mind’s eye. Get creative!
You will need to draw up a realistic outline of your expenses. Don’t fantasise, but don’t be cheap at your own expense either. The grants are given out to ensure that you’re getting what you need, but no more. Have a think about what you can get for free for your film, such as locations, crew, props, etc. Then draw up an excel spreadsheet where you look at the costs per diem. Transport for crew/actors, food/drinks, costumes, equipment hire and post-production costs are things that generally gulp up a lot of money on a shoot. Don’t forget to have a separate contingency column of 5-10% of your total budget. This is money you can use if you have any unforeseen circumstances.
Use a proper film budget template for this part. Make it look as professional as possible.
This is not a necessity for each grant, but it is for a few. Generally, they ask for one letter from a professional in the industry, and the other recommendation can be your choice. This can be a teacher, a volunteer manager, or generally somebody of merit that can put in a good word for you.
West Midlands Production Fund (WMPF) – For productions based in the West Midlands.
Ffilm Cyru – For filmmakers born or based in Wales. Feature film grants.
Creative Scotland – A range of grants, from film development to production and distribution.
Northern Ireland Screen Funding – Funding for feature film and TV dramas.
shortFLIX – New filmmakers aged 18-25.
The Pitch Film Fund – Short film entries.
BFI Production Fund – New and established filmmakers. Films must be longer than 60 minutes to be eligible.
Made of Truth: BFI Doc Society Short Film Fund – 5-40 minute films.
Right Here Screen Scotland – 30-minute documentaries aimed at Scottish filmmakers.
International Co-Production Funding – Aimed at UK co-productions with other countries.
Wahala Post-Production Fund – Short films of up to 40 minutes. For queer, transgender and intersex people of colour filmmakers.
Pears Short Film Fund – Production and exhibition of short films that reflect British-Jewish stories.
These are merely a few links to some of the largest grant patrons for film projects and is not at all an exhaustive list. There are new grants constantly popping up on the internet so keep an eye out.
One positive factor about applying to grants is that it can often make you go back and rework your concept. Applying for grants forces you to take an abstract idea, such as the budget, and actually materialise it into a line-by-line document. Subscribe to newsletters from the BFI and Shooting People, as grants are often announced on their platforms. Also, check the website of your university if you attended one; they often have postgraduate funding available for a wide variety of sectors, including film. Lastly, make sure to thank the foundation that gave you the grant in the credits of your film. You never know if you might need some more financial help on the next one. Don’t delay your applications any longer; become a master grant-writer today!
If you are interested in the crossover between music and film, check out our article on music supervisors. With our concierge and service and extensive music library, allow us to help you find music for your film. Sign up free for Music Gateway now!