Friday, August 27, 2010

Ask-an-Expert: Reva Goldberg of Cinereach on Documentary Funding

Each time I attend an event about grant-making for films, I watch the room overflow. There is huge demand for concrete, insider information on how filmmakers can start, sustain or complete their films by applying for grants.

Each time I have the same thought, but have never really voiced it before:

There are way more filmmakers in the audience at one of these events than there are grants to go around, in a given year, from all the existing film foundations.

Am I sharing this thought to dissuade filmmakers from applying for grants (perhaps out of a selfish desire to lesson my own reviewing load)? Hells no!

I encourage you to stay positive. I encourage you to continue to put time, thought and heart into your applications. My colleagues at Cinereach and I love to read and screen them. We’re thrilled and honored that we get to discover your projects and approaches. They surprise, engage, unsettle, transport and transform us in a seemingly infinite number of ways.

On the other hand, your projects have a better chance of survival if you can take a realistic approach to your fundraising strategies. Don’t be in denial about the funding landscape you’re entering each time you embark on a new project.

It is critical that filmmakers not view grants as:

a) a guarantee
b) plentiful
c) large in size
d) the primary way to get a film funded

It is critical that filmmakers do view grant-seeking as:

an art in itself, usually mastered only through practice
highly competitive
slow (in most cases)
only one sliver of the fundraising ‘pie‘

In the panel I’ll moderate at this year’s IFP Filmmaker Conference (Tuesday, Sept. 21 at 12pm) we’ll tackle that ever-popular topic: fundraising for socially relevant documentaries. We’ll definitely discuss the grant-seeking portion of the funding pie, but ideally, we’ll also adapt a more holistic and, I believe, productive approach to the conversation.

I also want to discuss some of the pie pieces that exist in addition to grants—in case they are not on your radar. And, more importantly, I hope our panel will help you gauge which combination of potential pieces and flavors might be right for your pie, based on where you are in your filmmaking career, and where your project is in its own life cycle.

I look forward to our upcoming conversation and invite you to please share your ideas on what we can cover. What have you found lacking in previous funding panels you’ve attended? What roadblocks have you hit in your own work?

Reva Goldberg is Communications & Fellowships Manager at Cinereach (, an NYC not-for-profit film foundation and production company that champions vital stories, artfully told. There she heads up the Reach Film Fellowship program which provides a grant and seven months of mentorship to emerging filmmakers producing socially conscious short films. She also handles all public communications, as well as serving on the grants selection committee. Reva has an extensive background in film production, fundraising and audience building. Before joining Cinereach, she was a producer at Pureland Pictures where she produced the documentary All of Us (which aired on Showtime in 2008) and co-produced Pureland’s Toe to Toe, a narrative feature that premiered at Sundance ‘09. In 2004, Reva was Associate Producer of an Emmy-nominated History Channel documentary on the 9/11 Commission (produced by CBS). She has worked with TLC, UPN, Discovery, The Travel Channel, Washington Square Films/Arts and Cronkite
Productions. Reva likes to tweet about opportunities for independent filmmakers via @RevaGoldberg and @Cinereach.

1 comment:

  1. What are some tips about getting really creative in fundraising? Can you share examples or proposals, teasers, games, pitches that were really awesome? If we're talking about holistic - what are some funding strategies that can happen at the beginning of pre-production - through the outreach?