How to get funding for a documentary

Written by cj callen
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So, you have a vision--you want to produce a documentary film--but lack of funding could keep your vision from ever seeing the light of day. Where do you turn to get the wheels of production spinning? Well, even for the most dedicated and talented filmmakers, the search for funding is an ongoing task, usually throughout the entire production. There are unlimited opportunities to secure funding if you are organised, professional, determined and passionate about bringing your documentary to life.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Documentary treatment (detailed outline and description)
  • Abstract
  • Business plan
  • Budget
  • Grant proposal(s)

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  1. 1

    Write a detailed description about your documentary, called a "treatment." A treatment is a condensed, detailed description of the subject matter, leading the reader through the project to what the final product will be. It is a short visionary story--it is your sales tool and should leave the reader intrigued and wanting to know more. A treatment should be one to five pages in length.

  2. 2

    Draw up a budget for your film. Examine every aspect of production and what the necessary expenses will be. Your documentary could fall short if extreme attention to detail is not taken in the budget-planning process. You might consider consulting a professional if you have no prior film-budgeting experience.

  3. 3

    Write a professional grant proposal. An impressive proposal will show commitment and desire to fulfil your project. A proposal is composed of the following elements: a cover letter, an introduction, a statement of need, production procedures, a statement about future funding for the project and a budget. You should also include an abstract after the cover letter summarising what is contained within the proposal.

    The Search Is On

  1. 1

    Contact your state's "Department of Humanities" either by phone, in person or through your state's website. Inquire about funding, grants and procedures for applications. Applying within your own state is often less time consuming that applications submitted federally or nationally.

  2. 2

    Submit applications for independent film documentary grants. Dozens of organisations grant funding for independent film documentaries, each having their own criteria and deadlines for consideration of granting funds for a film or documentary. The "International Documentary Association" has a list of organisations on their website with the details and requirements for each organisation.

  3. 3

    Find your demographic and spread the word to your target audience. This is where good, solid research plays a major role. Consider the subject matter, and approach those individuals and companies that fit the mould. A professional business plan and detailed budget along with the documentary treatment will draw investors in, especially if they can see exactly where their money is going to be spent.

  4. 4

    Use the Internet to promote your documentary. Once again, target the specific demographic that would show interest in the project. Create a website dedicated to funding its production.

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