Getting funding for your film can be a very frustrating process. Relying on traditional funding platforms like screenwriting contests, grant applications, and crowdfunding campaigns on websites like Kickstarter can be a time-consuming ordeal.
That’s where The Film Fund comes in. When you’re trying to get funding from The Film Fund, you don’t have to waste hours perfecting a grant application. Your submission is as simple as one sentence.
The Film Fund is remarkably inclusive. There are no barriers to entry. The material can have been written at any time, in any place, in any genre, as long as it is original and tells a good story. If you have a great idea, we want to hear it. Most submissions are in pre-production, but you can also submit a film idea for a film that’s already in production and requires additional funding to be brought to completion.
We’re an equal opportunity platform that values diversity. The Film Fund has even been featured in Sundance Institute’s Inclusion Resource Map, “a searchable storehouse of opportunities and programs available to U.S.-based artists from underrepresented communities.”
The Film Fund is currently operating two contests open to all writers and filmmakers over the age of 18: a Narrative Contest and a Documentary Contest. For the Narrative Contest, you just have to write one sentence describing your narrative short film and how you’ll use the funding. For the Documentary contest, the prompt is the same for your documentary short film. For either contest, the sentence must be under 200 characters in length. The cost of submission is only $25. For just an additional $10, you can also receive feedback on your entry.
After you submit your film pitch, we separate your name and all other information from the pitch itself, except for your entry ID. This keeps the contests as fair as possible. What matters is not the contestant, but the work. The Film Fund just wants to see great films get made.
Finalists are announced by email about one month after the final submission deadline for that respective contest period.
You can win up to $10,000 for your short film. Obviously, this can be a huge help when it comes to paying your cast and crew, paying for set design, paying for film equipment, or for anything else you need funding for. After production has wrapped on your film and you send in the completed rough cut video file of the film, expense reports, receipts, invoices, and any other necessary material, The Film Fund reimburses your expenses.
If you win, you must reserve an Executive Producer credit for one of the producers from The FIlm Fund and note that your film was produced “In association with The Film Fund.” Also, your film will be posted on The Film Fund’s website. This is nothing to worry about, though, since a clear majority of film festivals, including the biggest ones like Sundance and SXSW, don’t mind if your film plays online first. And if you win, you still keep all of the rights to your short film, and can (and should) submit your finished film to as many film festivals as you wish.
Each contest period is filled with different entries, so even if you don’t get selected one time, that doesn’t mean you can’t get selected another time. Also, if you placed in a finalist in a previous contest run by The Film Fund, we highly recommend that you submit your film again for the chance to place as a finalist again.
The Film Fund currently has a panel of six judges: Thomas Verdi (Founder and CEO of The Film Fund), Brandon Harrison, Jason Stefaniak, Avi Setton, Dawn Keetley, and Eli Hess.
Some of these judges have spoken with Verdi as part of The Film Fund Podcast, and have offered helpful information, based on their experience as filmmakers, as film reviewers, or in other lines of work.
Hess spoke about the value of making mistakes. He said, “If you’re a filmmaker, don’t be afraid to make or spend time thinking about an idea that you’re not crazy about … You’ll learn that there were good parts of it and maybe it didn’t come together. You need to make mistakes.”
He also spoke about what he looks for in his judging. “When I’m judging these sentences, really if they deliver something that’s powerful to you in one sentence, it’s worth its weight in gold and you really don’t have to sit there and scratch your head … To be accessible, art really needs to be clear and deliver its message in a concise way … I’m just there to judge based on the merit of the idea and also looking for things that I’ve never thought or seen before.”
Setton spoke about the positives and negatives of being an independent filmmaker in the streaming era. He said, “If you want to hold on to that indie spirit in today’s world, my advice is use your phone, go on YouTube, really embrace the way video content is being consumed today.”
Finally, Harrison gave some advice on how you should pitch your film. He said, “If you have a project you’re working on and feel strongly about the way it’s going … and you know your project is good: rework it. Keep figuring out the best way to explain what your work is because you know if it’s a quality product you’re going to need to be doing that constantly, constantly, constantly until somebody cares.”
The Film Fund Podcast already has over 20 episodes with judges (like Hess, Setton, and Harrison), other filmmakers, and more. You can watch all of the full episodes here.
How To Win
If you want your potential film to get selected, you’re going to want to have a stellar one-sentence pitch – that is, a logline. With a 200 character cap, you don’t have that much room to convey the necessary information about the plot of your film.
The Film Fund offers a few example one-sentence pitches, written by our judges: “A woman is haunted by a misunderstood psychological condition where she struggles to find joy in even the happiest of situations, and I need the funding for our DP and lighting rentals.” Here is another example: “When killer crabs attack a small-town hotdog bun factory, only one man can stop all hell from breaking loose, and most of our funding will go to professional crab-wranglers.”
As you can see, these pitches are brief, enticing and high-concept. They don’t go too in depth or give any character or place names, but they immediately immerse you into the main plot of the story. You can read more detailed advice about how to write a great logline on our blog.
All in all, The Film Fund is a great way to try to get funding for your film and to bring attention to your work. With just a $25 submission fee and a submission length of one sentence, The Film Fund is the simplest funding platform you can use. You can submit to our contests here.