Financing Independent Films: Thoughts on Grants.

To apply for grants OR not to apply for grants? – that’s the question. In the previous Financing Part I episode Bill Plympton clearly stated he doesn’t apply for grants because they are too much hassle. He finances his films from the income his previous work generates. And commercials. But what if you make different kind of films – the ones that don’t win popularity contests (popular= money)? It doesn’t mean they are unnecessary, those films. Different sometimes is good, maybe as a test ground for new visual ideas, new ways of telling a story. It is not a sin to excite just 23 sophisticated minds instead of 23 000. What validates the existence of a film? Could it really be how much money it makes?
Some of my films would not come into existence without support of grants and donations. Here’s my somewhat incoherent thought process on financing films and on grants:

I know I didn’t cover all the ground. Please send me your questions on the subject and I’ll write explicit answers.

About rocksinmypocketsthemovie

I was born in Latvia, educated in Moscow, live in New York. I have made about 14 animated shorts so far.
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22 Responses to Financing Independent Films: Thoughts on Grants.

  1. Hi Signe,

    It sounds like you’re saying your film is “non-profit”. I’m guessing you just have a fiscal sponsor who is non-profit so you can get through them. That way you’re not as constricted with how you raise other money.

    • Richard, YES we were going to talk about this ‘non-profit” setup, but the episode turned out to be longer than anticipated, we had to leave some themes out. Women Make Movies is “Rocks In My Pockets” fiscal sponsor, so every donation to the film is tax deductible. If we get an investor, we’d lose the non-profit status.

  2. srsegal says:

    I went through a round of trying for grants, filling out forms, submitting required materials, , following directions. It was much more work than I had imagined…and I didn’t get any money, I could have spent that time working on my film and would have had much more fun.

    • It is great if you can afford to work on your film without the help of a grant. Then, indeed, you don’t need to waste your time on applying – grants are hard to get – so many applications, so little money! and it can be a waste if you don’t get the grant (I have made 7 short films without any grants and you’re right – it is more fun). But there is one more reason why we are so keen on applying – getting a grant adds validity to our projects.

  3. Francesco says:

    Dear Signe,
    you are a brave woman. I really admire your spirit more than anything else.
    You are doing very well. I have something for you, let’s say a hope more than a suggestion, that someday soon “Rocks in my pockets” will become “Rockets in my pockets”, and that you will head for the stars riding those rockets! ( ^_-) F*ck the world, f*ck the money, no matter what, you are an artist, and that’s what counts most, to fully express yourself! I wish you the best!

    • Thank you, Francesco, for your kind and encouraging words! There are days when I really need them…
      I am more naive than brave, and overly optimistic for entering this huge undertaking without a proper financial plan.
      Sometimes (only sometimes) I look Reality in the eye and shiver. What will happen if I fail? Ah… but you don’t really want to know my thought process – it is quite dark and self destructive. : )
      Thank you for your support.

  4. isac galvao says:

    Hi all. This is a very useful topic.Thx Signe, to share your experiences and thougts with us. I used to be naive, but long ago I discovered that not only talent is required to achieve some things.But this is off topic.
    It is difficult to every artist to live from its works. What Francesco said is true. Our reward is be doing what we like. Go ahead, I never had the courage to do what you do.

    • I wonder what would happen if I invested this much time, thought and effort in saving the World instead? : ) I sometimes wonder if being an artist is not the most selfish occupation. We do what we love to do at the expense of everything else. And you can’t do it unless you are filled with the sense of self-importance.

      • isac galvao says:

        Yes, I agree with you..almost.
        But I guess it is not that simple.What “save the world” means, after all? We(people in general) are not machines. Most artists do things for other people pleasure, but can not have a decent life from it.

  5. Romo U says:

    Whoa, is this another “comment quot” contest? Lol If so. . . “Money is the root of all evil, but it depends what roots you have and how deep you choose it to be. Regardless, you are you’re own tree, you will sprout leaves or don’t. You are still wether you like it or not a source of wood and air, wich is vital to all living beings.” ^_-

    • Romo U, quite often when you see shit in your dreams it means money. Money is that wonderful, smelly fertilizer. But we don’t put the fertilizer on the table to eat.
      But now we are in the territory of allegories and metaphors (you say money is a root, I say money is shit) and I was taught in school never to use metaphors in an argument.
      Lets go back to talking about money and making films…
      : )

  6. nyparrot says:

    Some great tips! I am intrigued, and would like to see ‘Birth’! Thanks.

  7. Elliot Cowan says:

    I read this weeks ago and this line “It is not a sin to excite just 23 sophisticated minds instead of 23,000”, has really stuck with me.
    I’ve thought about this a lot and it’s very encouraging.

    • Maybe it’s encouraging, Elliot, but it doesnt bring $$$…
      : )
      But YES it is not a sin. I am married to that concept.

    • Yes, but they do always ask “who is your audience” and if you don’t have an answer you look like an unprofessional fool. Sigh. The one thing that I truly hate (the thing that everybody expects a filmmaker to come up with) is to describe your project in terms of already existing films, ex.: “One Flew Over Cuckoos Nest” meets “Harold and Maude” with the flavor of “Inception”. WTF?

  8. cherrycow says:

    Hi Signe,
    Your subject matter is very interesting, I myself am a artist & animator who suffer from mini battles of depression along side procrastination (lol) your blogs i find to be very encouraging.I wish you all the best. btw have your film “birth” been shown in any of the NYC animation feast? i live in NY and I’ve attended many thought out the years and it looks like i might have seen it?

    • YES “Birth” was in many festivals in 2009-2011. If you are in NY – are you going to ASIFA-East Open screening on Tuesday Sept 18th? anybody can bring anything animated no longer than 5 min. I’ll bring an excerpt from “Rocks”, you should bring some of your work. Hope to see you there!

      • cherrycow says:

        Hi Signe would love to be there but i teach art and although there’s no school i have a staff training that afternoon. I live in Rockland county . that’s like 25mins from the GW bridge , but i will keep my eyes open on upcoming events in NY. Have fun tomorrow

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