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Lightbox: Illuminating Opportunity — July 2023

Original publish date: July 11, 2023

Dump the charcoal and light the grill, it’s July and we’re hungry. Hungry for opportunity, that is. If your independent project needs to cook up some financial treats, we’ve got great news: there are many national programs available to help projects like yours get off the ground. This month, we’re homing in on a few of the best initiatives around the industry.

1. Sundance Film Festival

The festival is currently accepting a wide range of projects across various categories, encompassing domestic and international features, shorts, documentaries, episodic content, and new media formats such as virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), mixed reality (MR), and extended reality (XR).

However, it is important to note that completed projects, except for shorts, should not have been publicly exhibited before the festival’s end on January 29, 2024. All submissions must have been finalized after January 1, 2022. The festival organizers are particularly interested in captivating, diverse, and original storytelling that breaks free from any single aesthetic or genre.

Having been established in 1978, this festival has grown to become the largest and most esteemed event of its kind in the United States. Each January, it draws in over 100,000 attendees to Park City, Utah. Filmmakers who have their work screened here often secure distribution deals, making it an enticing opportunity for aspiring and established talents alike.

2. National Endowment for the Humanities: Media Projects

This program offers generous award amounts to support the creation of impactful films and series. Development grants amount to $75,000, while production grants provide $700,000 in funding. Additionally, the program offers prestigious Chair’s Special Awards worth $1 million.

Currently, the program is accepting applications specifically for documentary films and series. The submitted projects should be captivating and accessible to a wide audience. Moreover, they should have a strong foundation in humanities scholarship and demonstrate a thoughtful, balanced, and analytical approach. For more detailed information about the program and guidance on preparing a successful application, a webinar is available here

3. ITVS: Open Call

Independent producers who are U.S. citizens or legal residents can secure production funds of up to $350,000 through a co-production agreement with ITVS (Independent Television Service). In exchange for these funds, ITVS will be granted specific broadcast and streaming rights to the project for the duration of the contract.

This funding opportunity is specifically aimed at broadcast-length documentaries intended for public television airing. If chosen, ITVS offers valuable support in creative development, marketing, publicity, and audience engagement services.

It is worth noting that ITVS-funded programs often find their way onto prestigious PBS series, including Independent Lens, POV, American Masters, FRONTLINE, and America ReFramed.

4. True/False Film Festival

The festival showcases a diverse range of films that fall under the categories of creative nonfiction, docu-fiction, and hybrids. The festival organizers are particularly interested in works that explore dynamic subjects and defy simple categorization. However, films that perpetuate traditional power structures or portray hateful and hurtful stereotypes will not be considered. The festival welcomes both short films and feature-length submissions.

With dozens of films being screened and a vibrant atmosphere of parties and events, this festival attracts thousands of attendees and sells tens of thousands of tickets, making it a vibrant and lively celebration of documentary filmmaking. Submissions for this bustling documentary film festival, located in Columbia, Missouri, will open in mid-July

5. Indie Grants

South Carolina filmmakers are invited to participate in this exciting opportunity specifically designed for creating short films or proof-of-concept projects. The funding provided for selected projects falls within the range of $20,000 to $35,000.

This initiative is sponsored by the South Carolina Film Commission in collaboration with Trident Technical College.

In the past, projects supported by this program have achieved acclaim and recognition, with screenings at prestigious festivals such as Sundance, Tribeca, Palm Springs, Austin Film Festival, Slamdance, and many more. Notably, collaborators involved in the program have impressive credits on renowned films like Avatar: The Way of Water, Pitch Perfect, Glass Onion, and Tree of Life.

Interested filmmakers are required to submit comprehensive proposals, including a lookbook, production strategy, budget, crew details, and other relevant information to be considered for this opportunity.

Please note that film festivals and markets are chosen based on Dear Producer’s annual study, which asks distributors from where they acquire films, how many films they distribute in a year, and other factors. 

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