Tips on Winning Grants from a Grantor!

Our Roy W. Dean Grants are now in their 30th year.  I’ve reviewed thousands of submissions and know what peaks a grantors interest and what turns them off

by Carole Dean

From the Heart Productions has been awarding grants since 1993 when we created our Roy W Dean Grants for unique films that make a contribution to society ( and I’ve been awarding them since 1992 before I founded From the Heart!).  Since then, 72 very different and excellent films have won our grants.  We are proud of the work that our filmmakers have done to achieve their goals and get their film funded, distributed, and seen by millions.

Winning Grants

Roy W. Dean Grant Winner Leslie Neale for Her Documentary “Unlikely Friends” with Carole Dean

Grants are a wonderful way to fund your films as well build an audience.  For filmmakers, there are more opportunities than ever before (we now offer 4 grants each year with the recent addition of our grant exclusively for short films).  Winning a grant will give you film instant credibility with audiences, donors, and distributors.   You can use it to publicize your film in press releases and on social media.

From the Heart Productions wants to help you in winning grants by sharing important suggestions on applying for grants. Everything here applies to our Roy W. Dean Grant. I feel that you will find it also applies to the majority of grants available.

First and foremost, put some passion in your proposal

I want to get as excited about your film as you are. Let the passion for your film jump off the page.

Please, at the beginning of your grant application, put the grantors criteria of the grant in a sentence with why your film fits it… I like to see that because it means to me that you carefully read the web site.  And I want you to realize judges are usually reading a lot of grants at once so, remind them at the beginning exactly how your film fits the grantors criteria.

Use your creativity.  Make it interesting and intelligent.  Get out of the paragraph format if you can. Perhaps use bullet points, use color, use photos, use graphs, use pie charts.  Use anything to break up the monotonous written page.  Show me how artistic you are.  Do this for anyone who will allow it.  A picture is truly worth 1,000 words.

Share your outline for funding

Who else have you contacted for funding? Make a list of all grants you’ve applied for and those you intend to go after. I don’t care how long it is, the longer the better.  Include this to show that you are focused on grants and you know which ones are best for you. 

How much have you raised?  How much do you need?  Where will you get it?

List how you intend to get the money to make your film and include this information in the grant application.

If it is a $200K budget, give us an outline of where the funds will come from.

Example:

$50K from 2 crowdfunding campaigns

$100K from individuals

$50K from strategic partners.  Add how you will get them attached and how they will share our info with their mailing list.  Explain all of this.

Then we know you know you can get the funds.

If this is for a feature, tell me how you will meet the HNI (high-net-worth individuals). Where will you go to find them?

Are you offering a 5% referral fee? I would not tell other people, but I would put those people in a special list as friends of friends who have money. Put a dollar mark you think you can collect that way.

Things we want to know:

List every way you will raise money for your feature film.

Now, tell me how you will get this film sold.

Where do you think it will play?   Theatres or online? International?  What countries? Online VOD? Drive-ins?  Don’t discount this, they are very popular now.

Who do you think will buy it? How much money do you think they’ll pay you? If it is for distribution, what do you expect to get in return?

Does your film have international appeal? Have you found good international distribution? If so, you might want to mention this.

Are you going to the AFM (American Film Market)? Are you out meeting and entertaining HNI?

All of this we really need to know especially if you’re going after a grant from us for a feature. Many people think features are a risky investment and we need some security. That must come from you in how you are raising your funding.

Crow about your crew members with confidence!

One of the things we look for in grants is your crew members. How experienced are they? What have they worked on? This is a major part of decision-making. Be sure to include any awards your crew has.

We want to know in a feature or webisode that that you are fully supported. Especially if you are an emerging filmmaker or have very little experience yourself, we look to see that you are supporting yourself with highly skilled technicians.

Tons of money has been given to people who never finished films. The number one consideration we have and number one question we ask ourselves is will he or she finish this film? The experience and track record of the crew gives us some indication as to whether they can complete a film (as well as how it will turn out).  What is the number between one and 10, 10 being absolutely sure and one being not sure they will get funded?  We often asked judges to give us this number value as it is important.

People who give us proposals and letters that use a qualifier about raising funds like “hope too” or about getting the film made say “I have always wanted to make a film” or “I really would like to make a film” are the ones who go to the “absolutely no” pile.

We want to hear your confidence in your paperwork, I’m making this film with or without you. If you want to join me terrific but if not, I’ll see you at the Oscars. I want you to be that positive.

Tell us why you are making this film

One of the most important things that people often leave out is the answer to the most important question, why are you making this film? What is your connection to this film? Are you making a cancer film because your mother or loved one died of cancer?  If so, tell us, because that means to us that you are totally committed and your chances of finishing the film are high because you are personally connected to it.

If you are making this film to get into the film industry because that’s where you belong, bravo!  Tell us. We want to know and that’s a great valid reason to make a film.  We love and respect your tenacity and your dedication.

Are you making this film to send a message?   We like that too.  If that is reason, why are you so passionate about this information?  How has this information touched your own life and why do you want to devote five years to making the film?

Remember, we know that on average, documentaries take six years to make and two years to distribute. Think then of what the judges will say when you send us your proposal and you haven’t raised a penny.  Or you are not forthcoming with how you will raise the money or that you even know how to raise the money.  This proposal would not get far up the ladder for a grant.

Show your commitment and connection to material

Grants are highly competitive today. Remember people giving grants are mostly not filmmakers.  We highly respect you and we want to support you and we think you are the most creative people on earth. So, recognize the fact that we want to give you money.  It’s up to you to give us the right information in the strongest most self-confident assured way possible so that we can give you the grant.

Most grants have filmmakers for judges.  We do as well, but there are many people who read your material before it reaches the final judges.  Those people need to be totally impressed with your dedication, commitment, and your connection to the material.  This is a key for us.  What is your connection to the material?

I know this is a lot of information but judging grants is a very hard job. And I want to cover everything we are thinking and using to judge your film, so you know what’s it is like from the judge’s perspective.

Who is your audience?

My grant has marketing and I put a large percentage of decision-making on the marketing you state in the application. I want to know if you know who your audience is and to tell me succinctly.

Please, don’t say everyone, that’s ridiculous. Give me a composite of your audience. I want to know who they are, where they get their news, where they hang out online, what they want to see in your film and why. When I know that you know your audience, then you go to the top of the pile.

Use www.FromTheHeartProductions.com as a source of education on funding.

More resources for finding and winning grants

In my online class “How to Fund Your Film” and ebook, I explain how to find your audience, create a believable budget, and to to find as well as capture those High Net Worth investors or donors. 

My book,The Art of Film Funding, 2nd edition: Alternative Financing Concepts” was written for documentaries, shorts, and feature producers for funding via grants, individual investments/donations, online crowdfunding, and distribution through streaming video.

We’ve got lots of free information on our website. See the resource tab that’s a good place to start for information, look under the resource tab and research each of those links below as they are full of funding advice.  

Under the Resource tab, you will find a comprehensive list of film grants

Under my blogs you will tips on “How to Find Strategic Partners for Your Films”

And on our page “How to Apply for the Roy W. Dean Grant”, you will even find of video of me with advice on creating grant submissions for our grant

Guardian Angel Program

I find that the people that hire me to mentor them through my Guardian Angel Program and work with me on a weekly basis are the ones who have a clear concept of what they want to achieve and are most successful.

Normally at the beginning of the mentoring, we pick one thing that they want to achieve.  That could be a film or that could be a book or that could be becoming the chair of the film Department or whatever you want to achieve.  

We then create a plan on how to get there, we list what you need to do and create a to do list.  You then make a commitment for what you want to achieve over that coming week, and we meet again and keep moving forward.  If you don’t have the funds to pay someone to do this, do you have a friend who might do this for you?  Working with a mentor weekly will pay off for you.

 

Carole Dean is president and founder of From the Heart Productions; a 501(c)3 non-The Art of Film Funding Podcastprofit that offers the Roy W. Dean Film Grants and fiscal sponsorship for independent filmmakers. She hosts the weekly podcastThe Art of Film Fundinginterviewing those involved in all aspects of indie film productionHer new class “How to Fund Your Film” is available on Vimeo on Demand.  She is also the author of  The Art of Film Funding, 2nd Edition: Alternative Financing Concepts.  See IMDB for producing credits.

3 Expert Tips on How to Fund Your Film

Carole Dean, author of “The Art of Film Funding”, discusses her new class “How to Fund Your Film”.  Why you need a believable budget, a killer script, and a plan to capture HNI’s.

Carole Dean’s passion and mission is teaching film funding.  She found her love and calling after creating her revolutionary first business. Beginning buying left over film from studios in the 1970’s, she sold it to filmmakers at discount helping spur an explosion in independent films. Getting to know her clients, she saw how difficult it was for them to get funding. They were artists and dreamers and not savvy in raising money from investors.  So many great films, filled with incredible life-changing stories, from talented producers and directors, were going unmade and it made her mad.

 

Expert Tips on How to Fund Your Film

Carole Dean’s new class “How to Fund Your Film” is available now on Vimeo.  You can save $10 off the price until May 31st by using the code GetFunded. 

 

In 1993, she founded and is president of From the Heart Productions, a non-profit dedicated to helping filmmakers find money for their films.  The organization offers film grants, film funding classes, and fiscal sponsorship for filmmakers.  Since its creation, Carole has helped guide filmmakers to raise nearly $30 million for their projects.  In 2012, she authored the best-selling “The Art of Film Funding, 2nd Edition: Alternative Financing Concepts”.  

Her new video class, “How to Fund Your Film”, has just been released and is now available on Vimeo on Demand. In it, Carole has created a detailed, informative, and fun course for filmmakers that lays out a step-by-step plan for funding their film.

On The Art of Film Funding Podcast, Carole previewed her new class with host Claire Papin.  

Why Did You Create the How to Fund Your Film Class?

I give a lot of consultations to filmmakers. I am lucky, I love what I do. I have the greatest job in the whole world. I get to talk to filmmakers who want advice on film funding.

And one day I hung up the phone from a consultation where the woman was very pleased with what we created together. It’s always a two-way street. It’s bouncing ideas and my sharing the knowledge.  I began to realize that I have a lot of information. You know, sometimes you get used to it, but this filmmaker was shocked at the knowledge I shared.

And I thought, I really have got to get all this down. I have so many stories to tell about people who were successful by doing unique and unusual things. So, I decided to start taking all of the notes that I give to filmmakers and putting them together so I could create a new book. It really started out to help save me time. But then I realized, that there’s a lot to learn I ended up with a three hour class!

Which is the Blink of An Eye Compared to How it Takes to Make a Film

The sad news is, it’s an average six years for someone to make a documentary plus two more for marketing and distribution. So, if you knew going into a film as a documentary that it was going to take you eight years, you might think twice.

My job is to help you make it a lot faster.  I want you to know where the pitfalls are and where to put your focus. And that’s what I put in this book. The idea would be that you get finished faster.  Then, for features, it can take from 3 to 5 years and of course that’s all about finding the money.

I spent a lot of time on finding money in the class for feature makers as well as for documentaries or shorts or webisodes. It’s all the same thing. It’s raising money for your art.

Where is the Power Point?

It is on Vimeo and from the current sales I find what people do is they will watch about 20 minutes and then they’ll come back and do another 20 minutes. It is in sections to let them do as much as they want at a time. It’s all created for filmmakers with current filmmaker’s success stories.

How to Fund Your Film Has 14 Sections?

You may remember Johnny Depp in Alice in Wonderland said, where, where do we begin? And they said, Oh, you start at the very beginning and you’re going until the very end.

So, the very beginning of the class is when you say:  I want to make a film and it goes until the end where you have lots of information on funding, marketing and selling yourself and your film.

You Begin with Stressing the Importance of Finding the Time to Create a Film

Where will you find the time to make a film? That’s what I want you to ask yourself first.  Are you willing to put in 15 to 20 hours a week?

Because most filmmakers have a job, a usually a full time or two half time jobs and then they have their family. They have to their health. They have to take care of their health and exercise, meditate. And now you have your precious film that you want to bring into that world.

You have to make some major decisions on where to find the time. In the very beginning, we cover how to schedule your time, how to find it, what to give up. I give you suggestions, but you make the decisions.  You really want to make a commitment to creating your film.

And You Need to Make Time for All Your Rewrites

That’s the most important thing about writing. My friend Jeff, who runs The Writers Bootcamp says, when you’re finished with your script, well congratulations, but you are only 7% finished because now you have the rewrites.

I helped one man with a mystery, a thriller film, and I read 52 revisions of his script. He was very successful, he raised the money, he made his film, he won awards for it. So, it takes a total amount of focus.

You have no idea how many times you’re going to have to rewrite your script. That’s for a feature for a documentary it’s such an organic piece that you’re always rewriting it because as soon as you turn on your camera, the film takes off and it often goes in a new direction.

You Mention in Your Class a Very Clever Method to Getting a Great Final Script

I want to see a script that is a dynamite script because a good script will not make a good film. It has to be a dynamite script.

So, when you finish that script, get some coverage, get people, not your friends or family. Don’t send it to anyone you know.  Send it to a professional reader for coverage.

You can find them on Craig’s list. Please, get some honest feedback and you have to continue to do that until you really have a strong, incredibly good script because your whole future depends on the power of that script.

And it is the same with the documentary. I say put some passionate in your proposal. Because when we are judging films, we’re sitting here, reading one proposal after another for the grant.  When we hit one with passion, we jump out of our seats with joy and want to share with the rest of the judges. I want passion that jumps off the page.

You Give Advice on Why Filmmakers Need a Believable Budget

Oh my gosh, yes. That’s when everybody freaks out, but the whole secret is that it must be believable. You want a believable budget.

And for the grant I get a lot of budgets that are even numbers and I know they’re guesstimates and I will accept them, but I don’t know about other grantors. I think that for your own self being and the peace of mind, you really need to know what your budget is.

And You Tell Them How to Get One

So, I have put in How to Fund Your Film Class people to call people that are donors to our Roy W. Dean Grants. I recommended David Raiklen for music,  Sam Dlugach for color, Jerry Deaton for sound and more people for the New York area.

These people are exceptionally talented, and their prices are reasonable. And they love documentary filmmakers and independent filmmakers.  Especially ones that come through From the Heart Productions.  

And that’s what you want, is you want someone who will love your film and take on the same passion you have for it.  And that I’ve seen that happen with all three of these people with sound, color, music and more. You always want to put a brilliant team together.

And, and I’ve explained to how to do that.  To get a believable budget, you really need to call people and say, here’s what I’m doing and what do you think this will cost?  Give me an estimate. And I know that,  as I get closer, I can get to the penny.

You want to get a believable number because you never know when you’re going to get in an office or at a luncheon with some person who says, well, really how much you need?

And you can say $56,000 is what I need on my budget and bring up the budget on your phone and say, here it is. And you can defend every line.

You’ve Also Mentioned the Importance of Networking for HNI, High Net Worth Individuals

Well, this is the next phase. You get your believable budget, your incredible script, your killer script and your brilliant outline impeccably done for your documentary or short or webisode. And you have the pitch, the proposal, the paperwork. Now what are you going to do?

Well, you’ve got to get out on the street and meet some wealthy people. And so how do you do that? Well, you’ve got to become part of their world.  So, you want to identify community organizations where wealthy people could belong.

And many of these organizations offer a low-priced membership that you could afford. And yes, they have some gala events, but that may be worth it at the end of the year.

But the main thing is that if you join and you really put in some time and give of yourself to that organization, let’s say that it was a for the humane society, that’s something that simple.

You might be walking dogs right alongside of someone who’s worth a couple of a billion dollars!

Carole Dean’s class “How to Fund Your Film” is now available on Vimeo on Demand.  You can save 10% if purchased by May 31st by using code GetFunded