Chicago Digital Media Production Fund - FAQ & Helpful Tips
Here are a few answers to common questions about the guidelines and recommendations for applicants to the production fund.
1. I don’t live in Cook County but would like to apply. Can I?
No, the Fund is only open to Chicago and Cook County residents. However, you could find a producing partner who does live in Cook County and have them apply and serve as the Project Producer or Director.
2. I have more than one idea in mind for a project. Can I submit more than one application?
Yes, we will accept more than one application from individuals and organizations. Each must be complete, with separate application forms, supplementary materials, and budget.
3. I own or work for a for-profit company/business. Can we apply?
No, only individuals and individuals with non-profit organizations can apply.
4. Can I receive monies through my LLC? Would that make more sense?
We understand that many independent filmmakers are usually sole-proprietors and have either an LLC or some other legal model to protect themselves and their business. Grant monies will be paid out to individuals, and individuals may transfer the money to their own business for the production if they prefer. Grant monies will not be paid out to businesses, only to individuals and non-profit organizations.
5. I don’t see any age restrictions. Can applicants be any age?
Yes, applicants can be any age. Applications from people under the age of 18 will be accepted and will have to meet all of the requirements. Consideration will be given to the age of the applicant in the evaluation process. We recommend that youth applicants work with an adult on the application. If awarded, a parent or guardian needs to co-sign the contract with the youth, and also will need to accept funds on the youth’s behalf.
6. The guidelines say that the project should be “appropriate for a youth audience.” What does that mean? My project is not a youth-focused one.
While the projects need to be appropriate for youth, they are not required to be intended for youth. The content must not be such that it could not be shown to youth. Think of it as though you were making a PG or PG-13 rated work, not an R rated work. However, we strongly recommend that a youth audience be taken into consideration. Projects with target audiences that include youth or are primarily aimed at youth are highly desirable. (See Helpful Tips #1.)
7. The guidelines say that the project should be “aimed at advancing progressive social change.” What do you mean by that?
Ideally, the digital media works produced with these awards will raise awareness and public consciousness about an issue or problem facing society today. This is somewhat open for creative interpretation, and different projects could approach this many different ways. Projects could focus on or contain content related to any number of cultural, social or political issues (gender stereotyping; racism; bullying; poverty; homelessness; free speech; health care; HIV/AIDS prevention; drug policy; immigration; etc.) and, through documentary modes, narrative storytelling, animation or experimental allusion, webisodes, or other means, provide some exploration, analysis, interpretation, foregrounding, or other treatment of the topic, either directly or more indirectly. The viewing experience should be intended to be transformative for the audience and one that encourages progressive social change.
8. The guidelines say that projects must be available to view for free on the web. What if I want to submit to festivals or other screening situations that won’t accept work that can be viewed on the web?
This is a consideration you will have to make in applying for this grant. Free online distribution is a firm requirement, and speaks to the kind of work the grantor is looking to fund. These grants are intended to fund new, innovative works that may not fit current distribution models (such as film festivals, theatrical runs, etc.) and are geared more toward new modes of distribution (web, mobile, interactive). That said, artists will own the rights to funded work, and are free to submit to festivals as well. The goal of the fund is to have work as widely seen as possible, so festivals and other screenings are fine, and that could come before or after the online date requirement.
9. What amount should I request for funding?
Grants will range between $500 – $10,000. The panel will be looking to fund projects with budget levels that are appropriate for a particular project. The panel will consider proposals up to $10,000 as well as projects with ultra low budgets. Artists with great ideas and low budgets are encouraged to apply at lower funding levels (i.e.- $500 – $1,000), and may have an advantage by doing so. Some experimental found footage or remix projects that don’t require high production costs, for example, should consider applying at these lower levels. All applicants need to show how funds will be spent for their particular project. Please see the sample budget templates available for download under ‘Forms’.
10. The budget template provided doesn’t fit my project.
Applicants are welcome to submit a budget that fits their project and are not required to use the budget templates provided. The templates are available to use as a reference, and can be changed to the extent necessary. In any case, the panel will be looking for detail that breaks down the expenditure of funds needed to complete the project.
11. What if my budget changes after receiving an award?
The submitted budget is recognized as the “best guess” for the project. If the budget changes after the grant is given, CF will work with the grantee on those changes. However, once awarded a grant, no further funds are available from the Production Fund. If a project goes over budget, the grantee is expected to raise or cover all additional costs in order to complete the project.
12. My project doesn’t fit into the traditional narrative or documentary genres. Should I still apply?
Yes, definitely. The fund is especially interested in funding work that breaks new ground and may not fit into conventional or traditional categories. We are interested in funding a diverse range of work, and are open to considering a wide variety of formats and genres. Such genres might include animation, remix, found footage, interactive, dance, performance, and anything that might be considered “web video,” which is open to interpretation. Strong content and creativity will be the deciding factors, rather than genre.
13. If I receive a grant, how and when do I receive the money?
Grant monies will be dispersed in three roughly equal installments: 33% at the beginning, after the agreement is signed; 33% after production work is completed; and 34% after the film is completed and certain fulfillment requirements are met. Additionally, for the second and third payments, Grantee must provide interim reports complete with receipts and third party invoices to Grantor in order to demonstrate compliance with their proposed budget in order to receive funds.
14. How should I deal with in-kind items in my budget?
You should list everything that is a hard cost (things that you are spending money on) AND everything that is being donated or is otherwise free (in-kind items) in your budget. These in-kind items can be labor (production or post-production personnel), services (free editing time somewhere), equipment usages (donated use of a camera, sound equipment, etc.), catering, etc. It can also be labor, services, and equipment that you are providing. You should list estimated market rates for these items in your budget and indicate that they are being provided in-kind. You can also split the value of items between hard cost and in-kind (i.e.- you are using an editor whose fee would normally be $1000 and he’s only charging you $500. $500 would be a hard cost and $500 would be in-kind contribution). Be sure to look over the sample budget on our website.
15. Should the expense side and the income side of my budget match?
Yes. Your total income should match your total expenses. If your total expenses (including in-kind items) amount to $12,450 then you need to show $12,450 of confirmed, anticipated, or potential income (including in-kind items). Be sure to include in-kind items on both sides – these will zero out. The cash value assigned to an in-kind item is an “expense” (even though it’s being provided for free) that becomes a donation/contribution on the income side. Be sure to look over the sample budget on our website.
16. Last year I submitted a hard (paper) copy of the Production Fund Application and DVDs containing my previous work and current project footage. Is that option available again this year?
No. In order to increase accessibility for our applicants and panelists, we have made the decision to streamline the application to an entirely digital platform. If you previously submitted documents/sample works, you will need to resubmit all materials through the online platform to be considered for the 2013 grant.
17. I am applying for the grant with a non-profit organization. If my project is funded, will the money be disbursed to me or the non-profit?
If you apply for the grant with/through a non-profit organization, the funds will be dispersed to the organization to be allocated for your project. Only applicatns who are over 18 and apply as individuals will receive funds directly.
18. The guidelines say the projects have to be made available online for free within one year of disbursement of funds. How long do I have to keep my project up online for free?
According to the Voqal (Chicago Instructional Technology Foundation) guidelines, projects must stay online for free for 3 years.
How can I make my project more likely to be funded?
1. Social Change. Ideally, the work produced in these videos should wake people up and plug them in to a contemporary social issue that they might not have known or cared about before. This can be done in so many different ways, but the intention here is to get people excited: about the video, about the issue, and then take the extra step to get involved. This does not mean that projects should promote a specific organization or policy position, but if it has that effect, or if it simply heightens awareness, that’s great.
2. New Media. While the core of the proposal should be about funding an outstanding web video, the content of the video could be further explored and enhanced by using various forms of new media. These can include Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest, blogs, websites, mobile apps, games, and many others. New media could be used as a marketing strategy for the video, a platform from which to show the video, and a means to provide supplemental material. These should be articulated in the Online Distribution & Exhibition Plan section of the application.
3. Creativity. Artistic merit will count heavily toward final decisions. There should definitely be a unique style, approach, or voice to the project that illuminates the subject in a special way. Traditional storytelling is good, but we’re more interested in projects that take risks, and find new ways of storytelling that are not explored in traditional media.
4. Study guide. Projects with target audiences that include youth or are primarily aimed at youth are highly desirable. In order to make the finished product relevant to youth, proposals should consider including a study guide in the distribution section so that if the work is appropriate for students, a teacher or youth coach can help facilitate discussion of work and elaborate further on context and interpretation.
Chicago Digital Media Production Fund
5243 N. Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60640