NEH overview

NEH Website


So....many....papers.... The key word is PAPERWORK. NEH demands an extraordinary amount of paperwork for their grants. No matter how serious you are about your idea or how well you can create formal proposals, the NEH proposal is a challenge.

Instead of constantly receiving proposals for films and other projects, the NEH sets out specific grants with specific criteria. For example, NEH will post a grant for $50,000 for projects relating to elementary school education. As a filmmaker interested in this money, it is your job to keep on top of the postings and apply when a grant comes up for something in your genre or area of focus. Its a rather hit-and-miss procedure.

As there is no one proposal for NEH, its best to look at averages. The average application for a grant is 6-8 pages long. This is just the application, and it has nothing to do with your research yet. After its completed, a narrative statement encompassing the major ideas, goals, and display of the project follows. This is 5 pages long. Following this, a detailed budget is required, stating both what the film will cost and how much is needed of the Endowment. The final section includes resumes of all personnel involved, including talent. Also included are letters from consultants, PBS stations, scholars, etc... giving their support to the project. Ten copies of all of this needs to be sent to the NEH.

The key with NEH is consultants. Like anything else the funding process is a political game, and getting scholars and consultants that are well known and established will help your chances greatly. Many, many films have been given a substantial boost by the NEH, and there's no reason that your film can't be boosted too.

The conclusion with NEH is that it's a good source for funding-- but the application process truly tests your mettle. It requires a lot of background work to be done before applications are even begun. The scope is broad, and the interests of the Endowment are far-reaching, but if you're not ready to make a full-blown film or don't have the resources to get started, you're better off looking at ITVS or PBS.

Don't give up! So what's the bottom line? Focus. The more focused you are about your project, the clearer your ideas will be when you present them, and the more likely you are to get funded. Accordingly, the more focused the funding endeavor, the more it reflects that the film is a labor of love, of passion. This is a quality that foundations have a hard time turning down when its apparent.

If you're not completely focused yet, don't worry. There's still funding out there. These are simply examples of institutions whose very purpose is to fund projects. For prospective films or works-in-progress, your best bet is probably the private sector. For any film, though, going through every proposal process imaginable isn't a bad idea. Its not like you're not allowed to give it a try.


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