Sundance Film Festival is one of the world’s most well-known and popular events for indie and artistically-driven films. Recognition at Sundance can mean a true launch in your filmmaking career, moving beyond small-scale productions. It plays a similar role in regards to documentary filmmaking.
Sundance also features a documentary fund, dedicated to helping filmmakers fund their projects via grants. These grants cover the costs of making a movie, as well as post-production.
There is a required process for grant applications, described in detail by the Sundance Festival. You will need to submit a written proposal, consisting of a line item budget in PDF form. The budget can be a sample, since costs of the actual project will be likely to change over time. You will also need a visual sample, consisting of completed previous directing, or a current rough cut of the proposed project.
Once you’ve submitted your proposal, it will undergo a review process from Sundance. Staff will check applications to ensure their compliance to the rules listed above, with no mistakes or missing/broken links. Proposals that do not follow the rules will not be accepted for consideration. The review process is multistage, for applications that are accepted. A committee is chosen by the Festival, which meets to decide which project should receive the funding, and why. This process is neither simple or short, usually taking between 3-5 months. Once you are chosen or rejected, you’ll be notified via the email provided on your application.
Questions and Updates
Should you have any questions, you can contact the festival via email. The two main contacts are:
When to Apply
An open call for applications is posted throughout the year, and the grant is awarded quarterly. Above all else, the committee often looks for noteworthy storytelling. Your intent should be easy to explain and present. The grant you receive will be largely based on the quality of the story you wish to tell.
Types of Films
There are no clear rules as to what kinds of films are most likely to win grants. The festival merely states they are looking for films that: “Display artful film language, effective storytelling, originality and feasibility, contemporary cultural relevance, and the potential to reach and connect with its intended audience.”
It is helpful to consider films which received the grant in past years. These include Always in Season, American Factory, The Edge of Democracy, Hale County This Morning, This Evening, Minding the Gap, Of Fathers and Sons, and One Child Nation.
Sundance Film Festival is of pivotal importance for indie filmmakers. Their grants can make careers, and the process for application is clearly set.