August 1, 2023
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Best Documentary Film Grant Opportunities for Women

Chris Cullari
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A great documentary can take years to make, but because of their niche appeal, their budgets can be difficult to put together. For female filmmakers, the journey can be even tougher. That’s why documentary film grants for women are so important.

These financial gifts offer female documentary filmmakers the chance to pursue their vision by awarding cash that financiers aren’t going to demand to see back.

Some of these documentary film grants for women offer support for a wide variety of films and female filmmakers, while other documentary film grants for women cater to more specific filmmakers and subject matter.

In fact, there are so many grants for female documentary filmmakers that we’ve put together a list to help you sort through them.

Exclusive grants for female documentary filmmakers

We’ve broken up this list into two sections. First, you’ll find grants exclusively for female documentary filmmakers, meaning you must be a woman to apply. These grants include:

Chicken & Egg Pictures

The documentary film grants for women bestowed by Chicken & Egg Pictures support female and non-binary filmmakers.

They seek to empower filmmakers who are as passionate about the craft of storytelling as they are about the social justice, environmental, and human rights issues they explore on film.

Best Doc Grant Opportunities for Women - Wrapbook - American Factory
The production of American Factory was supported through Julia Reichert’s 2016 Chicken & Egg Award. SOURCE

Their Chicken & Egg grant recipients in 2023 went to established filmmakers like Sabaah Folayan, Farida Pacha, Jeanie Finlay, and Nico Opper. However, C&E also offers grants for newer filmmakers as well, such as their “Egg-celerator Lab.” 

The Future of Film is Female

Though their founding in 2018 makes them one of the newer grant programs on this list,“The Future of Film is Female” project has already made an outsized impact. Their mission is to support female filmmakers with short films at any stage of production, from pre-production to post-production

This makes it an excellent opportunity for anyone who needs grants for female documentary filmmakers.

TFFF is also committed to the exhibition and promotion of women in film at their screenings at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

They award grants three times a year and have partnered with companies Heard City and Nice Shoes to offer post-production grants. To date, they’ve given funds to 21 filmmakers. 

New York Women in Film and Television

NYWIFT is the preeminent entertainment industry association for women in New York. They energize women by illuminating their achievements, presenting training and professional development programs, and awarding scholarships and grants.

Best Doc Grant Opportunities for Women - Wrapbook - Wendy Williams
Wendy Williams walks the red carpet at an NYWIFT event. SOURCE

They currently award three different grants specifically for female documentary filmmakers.

The Loreen Arbus Disability Awareness Grant 

This film completion grant for $6,500 is awarded to a woman filmmaker for a film on physical or developmental disability issues. Directors and producers are eligible to apply.

In-Kind Post-Production Grants

These grants pay for an online session and/or a sound mix for documentary films by women directors.

The Nancy Malone Marketing & Promotion Grant 

While many grants focus on pre-production through post, this $5,000 grant provides resources to help an emerging woman director get her film recognized and ready for distribution. 

Funds may be used for festival entry fees, marketing materials, video duplication, publicists, promotion at the film’s opening, or other approved marketing and promotional expenses. 

Women in Film & Video

Based out of Washington, DC, the WIFV Board of Directors is pleased to offer a Seed Fund for Documentary Filmmakers to support the work of its members. 

In addition to a grant of $2,500, WIFV offers their services as mentors, giving grantees access to accomplished WIFV members and their Executive Director.

WFIV distributes their grants in two parts – 50% upon notice of award and 50% after receipt of progress report. This report can can be submitted at any time after 30 days of the initial grant.

These grants for female documentary filmmakers are specifically for films that are still in their development phase, and the grant must be spent within 12 months of notice of the award.  

General grants for female documentary filmmakers

This section highlights grants that support female filmmakers and socially relevant documentaries but don’t require the filmmakers to be female to apply. 

Center for Cultural Innovation

The Center for Cultural Innovation is a California based non-profit founded in 2001 to:

 “Support individuals in the arts—artists, culture bearers, and creative entrepreneurs—to realize greater self-determination so as to unfetter their productivity, free expression, and social impact, which contributes to shaping our collective national identity in ways that reflect the diversity of society.”

They have a number of grant programs available to residents of California, including the “Investing In Artists” fund, which supports artists in various regions of California. 

This year, these IIA grants will service diverse artists who reside in Marin, Napa, Solano, or Sonoma County. 

Cinereach

Cinereach supports feature-length nonfiction and fiction films positioned at the intersection of engaging storytelling, visual artistry, and vital subject matter. They are dedicated to the creation of engaging entertainment projects and new methods of content development. Specifically, they seek to advance the values of pluralism, sustainability, and justice in popular media. 

Including documentary film grants for women.

This has proven to be a winning combination that has resulted in over 200 films funded, seven Academy Award nominations, and more than 25 Independent Spirit Award nominations. 

Creative Work Fund

Creative Work Fund projects feature one or more artists collaborating with 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations. They exist to celebrate the role of artists as problem solvers and the making of art as a profound contribution to intellectual inquiry.

In October 2023, the Fund will award approximately $650,000 in grants to nonprofit organizations and collaborating artists. 

Grants will range from $20,000 to $50,000. Projects are expected to be completed within two or three years, but those of longer duration will be considered.

This fund is especially helpful for female documentary filmmakers who are already working within the non-profit community!

Ford Foundation

The Ford Foundation is a long-running social justice organization that provides grants to a variety of communities and activities. 

Their filmmaking branch, JustFilms, has granted millions of dollars to hundreds of short and feature-length films since 1981. This includes grants for female documentary filmmakers. 

Their work focuses on nonfiction film, video and digital works that show courageous people pursuing a more just and sustainable world. 

The projects and people they support “inspire imaginations, disrupt stereotypes, and help transform the conditions that perpetuate injustice and inequality,” making it a great source of documentary film grants for women who want to create a boundary pushing doc that questions the status quo.

Fork Films

If you’re looking for documentary film grants for women, Fork Films might make the perfect partner. Founded in 2007 by Abigail E. Disney and Gini Reticker, they “produce and support change-driven nonfiction media that make an important social contribution, often with women at the center.”

Best Doc Grant Opportunities for Women - Wrapbook - Abigail Disney
Abigail E. Disney, one of Fork Films’ founding partners. SOURCE

It’s important to note that while committed to supporting female filmmakers, Fork Films no longer holds an open call for grant applications. They do not accept pitches or unsolicited LOI’s (letters of inquiry) via email or snail mail.

Hot Docs

Hot Docs’ production funds provide documentary filmmakers around the world with much-needed development, production, and completion grants. They also provide valuable professional development opportunities.

Best Doc Grant Opportunities for Women - Wrapbook - Hot Docs
Hot Docs is one of the world’s leading documentary-focused film funds. SOURCE

Hot Docs holds $13 million portfolio of production funds and a variety of highly specialized programs. They do everything from providing documentary film grants for women to supporting the next generation of African documentary filmmakers. 

International Documentary Association

The IDA Enterprise Documentary Fund supports “in-depth explorations of original, contemporary stories that integrate journalistic practice into the filmmaking process.” 

Their documentary film grants for women support a wide variety of projects, but be aware that this grant is not for first timers. 

To be considered, one of the film’s directors or producers must have directed and/or produced a minimum of two feature-length films (40 minutes or longer). 

If selected, grantees will receive production grants up to $100K, as well as additional resources and expertise tailored to the needs of their project.

ITVS

Independent Television Service (or ITV) prides itself on being public media’s leading incubator of independent film. They believe that bold storytelling creates a more just society, and they put their money where their mouth is to create that justice. 

If you’re looking for a documentary film grant for women that encourages you to take “creative risks, tackle complex issues, and express points of view seldom explored in the mass media,” this is the grant for you. 

Mountainfilm

Mountainfilm is committed to helping creative individuals tell non-fiction stories that support their mission of celebrating adventure, activism, social justice, culture, the environment, and the indomitable human spirit. 

Even better for female documentary filmmakers, Mountainfilm promotes and encourages diversity behind the camera. 

Grantees will be typically rewarded with grants ranging from one to five thousand dollars. Mountainfilm only considers projects already in production or post, so make sure you’re off to a strong start before applying. 

National Endowment for the Arts

The NEA is the independent federal agency whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities. 

While the NEA isn’t specifically focused on documentary film grants for women, they cast a wide net that often includes them. 

Applicants may request cost share/matching grants ranging from $10,000 to $100,000.

National Endowment for the Humanities

Since its creation in 1965, NEH has awarded more than $5.6 billion for humanities projects through more than 64,000 grants, including grants for female documentary filmmakers. In the media space, they fund innovative nonfiction storytelling that presents multiple points of view addressing international and transnational topics and themes.

Projects must be “grounded in humanities scholarship and demonstrate an approach that is thoughtful, balanced, and analytical.”

The maximum award amounts are $75,000 for Development, $700,000 for Production and $1,000,000 for the Chair’s Special Awards. The deadline for this year is August 9th.

Puffin Foundation

The Puffin Foundation Ltd. awards grants that encourage emerging artists whose works might have difficulty being aired due to their genre and/or social philosophy.

Best Doc Grant Opportunities for Women - Wrapbook - End of the Line
Promotional image for End of the Line, one of the Puffin Foundation’s 2021 grant recipients. SOURCE

Their work generally focuses on smaller films and projects. Average grants are approximately $1,250, with the maximum grant size being $2,500. Any project whose total budget exceeds $250,000 are not eligible for funding 

This grant is perfect for female filmmakers starting out on their first low budget documentaries.

Sundance

The biggest name in independent film, Sundance’s documentary grant was founded in 2002 and offers “support for nonfiction projects that continue to elevate and advance cultural dialogue and break new ground in creativity and innovation.”

Grants for female documentary filmmakers are an important part of this support.

Best Doc Grant Opportunities for Women - Wrapbook - Robert Redford
Sundance’s founding father, Robert Redford. SOURCE

According to Sundance’s founder, Robert Redford:

“Documentaries from around the globe that bear witness to issues of human rights, social justice, civil liberties, and freedom of expression bring forth truth in ways which can have a profound effect on societies and lives. Bringing these truths forward is critical, now more than ever.”

Wrapping up

Whichever documentary film grants for women you choose to apply for, Wrapbook is here to help with the next steps. 

Whether it’s information on how to make a documentary, a docuseries, or more ways to fund your film, help is just a click away!

Disclaimer

At Wrapbook, we pride ourselves on providing outstanding free resources to producers and their crews, but this post is for informational purposes only as of the date above. The content on our website is not intended to provide and should not be relied on for legal, accounting, or tax advice.  You should consult with your own legal, accounting, or tax advisors to determine how this general information may apply to your specific circumstances.

About the author
Chris Cullari

Chris Cullari is a writer/director based out of Los Angeles. His most recent film, THE AVIARY, is available for streaming on Paramount Plus and Showtime. You can find him tweeting about monsters, pro-wrestling, and horror movies.

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