Of nearly 600 film organizations that applied for a Covid-19 relief grant, less than 6% were successful

Of the nearly 600 film organizations that have applied for grants from the federal government’s Covid-19 stimulus program, 35 have received funding totaling $3.9 million. When they received a notification, they were asked to maintain their embargoed status. Last week, the National Endowment for the Arts revealed the full list of recipients.

About 5.8% of film organization applicants received a grant. In total, the NEA’s share of the stimulus funding amounted to $57,750,000; of this amount, funding for film organizations accounted for just under seven percent.

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The result doesn’t tell the whole story of small-scale film organizations in the United States, but it does provide insight into film institutions currently supported by government funding. In some cases, it also clarifies the fragility of their operations.

Overall, 567 arts organizations have received funding under the $1.9 trillion economic stimulus bill known as America’s Bailout, split into tranches of $50,000, $100,000 and $150,000. All 35 selected organizations listed ‘media arts’ as a discipline in their applications, and most of the organizations operate primarily in the film field.

“Our country’s arts sector has been among the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Funding from the U.S. National Endowment for the Arts bailout will help arts organizations rebuild and reopen,” NEA President Dr. Maria Rosario Jackson said in a statement. “The arts are essential to helping American communities heal, unite, and inspire, as well as essential to our nation’s economic recovery.”

An advisory committee allocated the funds. Recipients ranged from national organizations such as the Sundance Institute to distinctly local operations such as Cinema St. Louis, Points North Institute in Camden, Maine, and Parallel Studios in Santa Fe.

Some organizations have shared their plans with IndieWire. The Film Festival Alliance, which received $50,000, plans to focus on website redesign and accessibility, membership development and experience improvements, in addition to the leadership lab meeting in anybody. The New Orleans Film Society, which received $150,000, is using it to prepare for its festival in November. Stowe Story Labs in Vermont will advance its $100,000 to labs and retreats.

The O Cinema, home to a 304-seat theater in Miami Beach, plans to use its $100,000 grant to fund a project manager position and a part-time employee over two years. “Our goals and objectives, stemming from ‘The Great Pause,’ are to return to our roots as a community-based, mission-driven art house,” co-director Vivian Marthell said via email. “For us, that means investing in engaging activities and events that add value and celebrate the cinematic arts.”

Film organizations that have been denied grants are now considering alternative fundraising strategies. Melanie Addington, executive director of the Tallgrass Film Association in Kansas, said the organization cut its program budget by 15% to help support its staff. “Without 2022 support as COVID continues to surge, it will be a challenge to look at opportunities this year,” she said.

Kent Lee, executive director of the Pacific Arts Movement, said the organization received emergency funding from the NEA in 2020 but was turned down this year. “As you can imagine, small cultural organizations like ours face significant challenges as we try to return to in-person programming, weighing the risks of resuming programs while still facing significant funding shortfalls, both from government sources and sponsorship funds,” he said. However, the organization has received an arts project grant for the 23rd San Diego Asian Film Festival due to take place this fall.

See the full list of media arts organizations below, along with the specific funds the NEA has recommended they receive. The criteria for the grants can be found here.

Asociacion de Documentalistas de Puerto Rico INC (Adoc PR, San Juan, $150,000)
Aurora Picture Show (Houston, $50,000)
Austin Film Society (Austin, $150,000)
Bay Area Video Coalition, Inc. (BAVC Media, $150,000)
Buffalo Media Resources, Inc. (Buffalo Media Resources, Inc., $50,000)
Chicago Filmmakers (Chicago, $100,000)
Cine Las Americas (Austin, $100,000)
St. Louis Cinema (St. Louis, $100,000)
Cleveland, Inc. International Film Festival (Cleveland, $150,000)
Coaxial Arts Foundation (Los Angeles, $50,000)
Cucalorus Film Foundation (Wilmington, $100,000)
CultureWorks, Ltd. (Seattle, $100,000)
Film Festival Alliance (Washington, $50,000)
FilmScene ($100,000, Iowa City)
Free Spirit Media, NFP (Chicago, $150,000)
Gateway Film Foundation (Columbus, $150,000)
Hawaii International Film Festival (Honolulu, $100,000)
Heartland Film, Inc. (Indianapolis, $150,000)
GA Independent Media Artists, Etc. Inc. (Atlanta Film Society, $150,000)
International Documentary Association (IDA, Los Angeles, $150,000)
Living Arts Trust, Inc. (O Cinema, $100,000)
Mamafilm Inc. (Mama.film, Wichita, $50,000)
Milwaukee Film, Inc. (Milwaukee Film, $100,000)
New Orleans Film and Video Festival, Inc. (New Orleans Film Society, $150,000)
Parallel Studios Inc. (Currents New Media, Santa Fe, $50,000)
Points North Institute (Camden, $150,000)
Portland Museum of Art (NW Film Center, Portland, $100,000)
POWRPLNT INC (PWRPLNT, Brooklyn, $50,000)
PRX, Inc. (Boston, $150,000)
Red Nation Celebration (RNCI, Woodland Hills, $150,000)
Stowe Story Labs, Inc. (Stowe, $100,000)
Sundance Institute (Park City, $150,000)
The Black Lily, Inc. (BlackStar, Philadelphia, $150,000)
Three Dollar Bill Cinema (Seattle, $100,000)
UnionDocs, Inc. (UnionDocs, Brooklyn, $100,000)

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