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 partner with a producer who does live in Cook County. That individual would have to apply and serve as the Project Producer or Director with creative control of the project.

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? 
We understand that many independent filmmakers and digital media artists are 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. Any taxes associated with receipt of these funds are the responsibility of the recipient and questions should be directed to the recipient’s accountant or tax/financial advisor.

5. I don’t see any age restrictions. Can applicants be any age?
Yes, applicants can be any age and young emerging digital artists are encouraged to apply. 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 will also 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 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?

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 digital nature of the work the grantor is looking to fund. These grants are intended to fund new, innovative works that may not fit certain distribution models (such as film festivals, theatrical runs, etc.) and are geared more toward new modes of distribution (web, mobile, interactive) that promote broad reach and spectatorship. That said, artists will own the rights to funded work, and are free to submit to festivals as part of their distribution plan. The goal of the fund is to have work as widely seen as possible. Festivals and other screenings are fine, and that can be part of your distribution plan before or after the online date requirement.

9. What amount should I request for funding?
Grant awards will range between $500 – $10,000. The panel looks to fund projects with budget levels that are appropriate for their particular project. The panel will consider proposals up to $10,000 as well as projects with very low micro-budgets. Artists with great ideas and low budgets are encouraged to apply at lower funding levels (i.e.- $500 – $1,000). Some experimental found footage or projects that don’t require high production costs, for example, should consider applying at these lower levels. All applicants need to demonstrate how funds will be spent for their particular project and provide evidence of sufficient funding commitments to complete it. 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 Voqal Fund is especially interested in 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, multi-media, performance, and anything that might be considered “web video,” which is open to interpretation. Strong content, social impact, distribution plan, 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 mid-term report and meeting is completed; and 34% after the film is completed and certain fulfillment requirements are met. Additionally, for the second and third payments, Awardee must provide interim reports complete with receipts and third party invoices to Chicago Filmmakers 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. In-kind items can also incorporate 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 Chicago Filmmakers’ 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. Is there an option to submit a hard (paper) copy of the Production Fund Application and DVDs containing my previous work and current project footage?
No. In order to increase accessibility for our applicants and panelists and stay consistent with the digital nature of the fund, 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 a 2014 grant award.

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 applicants 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 Fund 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 projects should have an impact, be transformative, and illustrate a contemporary social issue in a new way. This can be done in a variety of ways, but the intention here is to get people excited: about the video, about the issue, and then take the extra step to take action and get involved.

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 absolutely 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 conventional media.

4. Distribution & Outreach PlanThe goal of the fund is to have work as widely seen as possible. A significant amount of consideration will be placed on your outreach and distribution strategy. Proposals should include outreach partners, effective ways to reach your target audience and promote online spectatorship, sharing and internet virality.

5. Study guide. Projects with target audiences that include youth or are primarily aimed at youth are highly desirable. Applicants may wish to consider including a study guide or interactive educational element 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 

Chicago Filmmakers
5243 N. Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60640

Find a printable version of the FAQ's and Helpful Tips here (pdf doc).






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