4 Keys to Writing Winning Film Proposals

By Carole Dean

Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart… Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.
Carl Jung

Reading film proposals for indie features, documentaries, and short films is a passion of mine.  That’s a good thing since I read over five hundred proposals and view over a thousand trailers a year for my Roy W. Dean Film Grants.  Filmmakers frequently ask me how they can improve their applications.

Film Grantors or investors are usually under a deadline to read and make a decision on something that should never be judged: your art. Your potential funder is probably reviewing hundreds of proposals, one right after the other, so you need to find a way to make your proposal unique.

The Right Introduction

The introduction or synopsis is the most critical element in the proposal.   It is the first thing I read when I pick up a new film proposal.  It tells me how compelling the project is and reveals how passionate the filmmaker is about it.

It should tell me a visual story of the film.  Sponsors use the synopsis during the selection process as a way of categorizing and separating one type of film from another. If your synopsis is dynamic and is strategically placed on your application, it will remain active in the sponsor’s mind.

This is where your sticky story works for you.  It’s important to have a concise overview of the film that gives us that visual description and tells a story with emotion, surprise, concrete information, credibility, etc.  I can pitch you films that entered my grants over 10 years ago because I can remember a sticky story.

Let a Picture Help Tell Your  Story

This is a visual industry, yet only 10% of the applications I receive include pictures.  That always amazes me.  Since the person reading your proposal is probably very visual, consider dropping a few pictures or graphics into your proposal.

Roy W. Dean Grant Winner "Mosaic of Life"

Roy W. Dean Grant Winner “Mosaic of Life”

Or, how about submitting a picture of yourself with your application? Include a photograph taken during your last film shoot –something that shows you in action, behind the camera or giving direction. Even if it’s just your student ID, put that shining smile on the page and let us see who you are! Passion, perseverance, and personalization are what you need to win grants, so don’t be afraid to put your heart on your sleeve to win that grant!

Have You Been There Before?

How many grants have you entered?  Tell us about them so we can see how determined you are to make this film. Do you really want this grant?  Are you willing to dedicate the next three years of your life to produce this film?

Make it Personal

Find a way to communicate your dedication in your proposal.  Include a personal film statement. Tell us what is driving you to make this specific film.  That tells us you are in for the long haul.  No matter if things get tough, this film is so important that you will not give up.  I must feel that in your words.


Carole Dean WIFTS

Founder of the Roy W. Dean Film Grant and author of “The Art of Film Funding: 2nd Edition”, Carole Dean has guided filmmakers to get their projects funded and completed for over 23 years.  A new session of her Intentional Filmmaking Class, which teaches filmmakers how to get funding, starts  February 2015

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