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From the Field: Slay your next funding application

Posted on March 31, 2017

Learn how to prepare for your next funding application from PIC-funded producer, Christen Marquez.


As a Producer and filmmaker, I write a seemingly endless amount of proposals and grant applications. The reality of sending out all of those funding applications is that the majority of them will result in you seeing an email a few months later that says something like, “Thank you for your interest...We regret that your application was not approved…This round of applicants was very competitive…” The bottom-line being that there is no money for your project this time around.

Don’t stress! With persistence and effort, every project can find success with proposal writing. If I go through a few rounds of rejections, “Congratulations!” will be even sweeter when it finally finds its way to my inbox. The goal for this article is to help your project get a "Yes" a little quicker. 

Over the course of my career, starting in 2007, I have written around a dozen or so Pacific Islanders in Communications Media Fund applications. Whenever I have applied, the Pacific Islanders in Communications staff has been very supportive and transparent with me about their application process.  Not all funders make themselves as available to questions from filmmakers like PIC, so I highly recommend contacting them at mediafund@piccom.org before starting your application. However, remember to be mindful that they are fielding questions from many filmmakers about various projects, so give them at least two weeks of breathing room to get back to you. 


Study, and Have All the Answers

First, you should familiarize yourself with the three different funding and partnership opportunities that PIC provides. The Media Fund offers three phases of funding including Research and Development, Production or Completion Funding. There is also an acquisition call for completed films, and the newest opportunity, The Digital Shorts Fund. Once you have figured out which initiative aligns best with your project, you can delve deeper into the specifics of that application.

The approach that I always take when writing a funding application is to first read as much as I can about the funder and the initiative to get the best understanding of the criteria that a funder will be using to judge my project. Often there will be a fairly concrete scoring rubric that will be used to frame the panel discussion about your project. It is your job to understand the questions that your funder is asking and answer them thoroughly. Take notice of the bullet pointed items in the funding criteria and application materials sections online and completely answer and explain those items. 

Also, keep in mind that your treatment and your work sample are very important parts of your application and will be reviewed based on the following criteria:

•    The clarity of the treatment.
•    How well the reader was able to visualize the film by reading the treatment.
•    Originality of the subject matter.
•    How well the characters were developed.
•    Effectiveness of the stylistic approach you took toward the subject matter.

Sample Work(s)  and/or  Work-In-Progress
•    The production value of the sample.
•    How well the sample showcased your skill.
•    How well the characters were developed in the sample.
•    Your storytelling ability as demonstrated in the sample.
•    How well the story progressed (narrative arc).


Timeline and Preparing the Application

If this is your first application for Pacific Islanders in Communications (PIC), ideally you should start your application six to eight weeks before the deadline. If this is your first broadcast film project, I strongly recommend applying for Research and Development (R&D).  You can apply for additional Production and Completion funds further down the road. 

The next deadline for the R&D application is July 7th, 2017, which means this is a perfect time to contact PIC and begin your application. Fortunately, the Media Fund has four funding calls per year. There is no bad time to start an application.

The Digital Shorts Fund, which funds short documentaries and narrative films just closed its application portal. You can sign-up for the PIC email newsletter or check back on the website for the next round of funding applications. 


Plan to Submit Before the Deadline

I always aim to submit my application a week before the deadline, especially now that the process is entirely online, and there is often a last minute rush of submissions, which could potentially create complications with your submission. I like to have the peace of mind of submitting early, of course, that does not always happen, but the deadline is not flexible, and it is terrible to have to wait until the next round just because you missed the cut-off. 


Making the Most of Feedback

Feedback is a great tool to use when preparing your proposal. When you are starting your application, you should assemble a pool of two or three trusted filmmakers or advisors to help review and give feedback on your application before your final submission. Again, remember to give people time to provide you a thorough and thoughtful response to what you have prepared.

As much as you put into your application, the pool of projects is always very competitive, and only 10 – 15% percent of projects are funded each round. 

It's very possible that you will not get funded your first or even second time around. The upside of that is that PIC will provide you with both written feedback and a chance to discuss the panel's feedback. This is extremely helpful to strengthening the next iteration of your application and is a great opportunity to build your relationship with the staff at Pacific Islanders in Communications.

After you have read the programming needs, eligibility requirements, and application instructions if you still have questions you can contact Ianeta Leʻi directly at ilei@piccom.org.

Best of luck on your filmmaking journey, and congratulations in advance of your success! 



Photo: Christen Marquez and her mother in her film, E Haku Inoa: To Weave a Name.

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