Coming out of the hole……
Well, I’ve finally done it. Sorry folks for disappearing on you. I have had one crazy month of deadlines and more deadlines. We’ve had some great trips and meetings for our project and a few heart attacks along the way. But that’s the life of a filmmaker right?! It’s one big rollercoaster ride and you just hope your buckle doesn’t break.
There were a number of large deadlines this month and we pretty much attacked them all. The biggest one was for ITVS LINCS, an opportunity to partner with PBS stations for funding to complete your film. Through this initiative, ITVS will consider providing funds for your film in return for licensing your film. As you know, $$$$ is the key to finishing your film. And so with an opportunity like that, you have to cross your fingers and hope it will move forward.
We were fortunate that for the first time ever, Maine Public Broadcasting Network (MPBN) agreed to partner with us. And shortly after, WGBH also agreed to partner with us to apply for LINCS. What that meant was that for the first time ever, two PBS stations would be applying with an independent producer on a LINCS application. We were excited about this possibility knowing that this partnership could help us get The Way We Get By out to the largest possible television audience.
We began working on this application a few months ago. We had worked hard on our work sample (20 minutes of scene selections that we showed to about 50 people). Our confidence grew after each viewing. We felt so great knowing that people were connecting with our characters and seeing the story come together.
But another part of any film application is the synopsis and treatment. And that was something we had to really work hard to figure out. Writing these components are extremely difficult. We started about a month ago on a draft treatment. We thought we were writing it as a story but really it just seemed like a long, overwritten proposal. After spending weeks on it, we decided to show it to some of our contacts at WGBH. That was about when we realized we knew NOTHING about grantwriting for films.
Writing a film treatment is like telling a funder about your story…bringing them in with a captivating soundbite, telling them about the characters, and showing them the story arc of the film…the more a treatment reads like a story, apparently, the stronger it is. For YEARS, I never did this…and thanks to one grantwriter–Paul Taylor–at WGBH, we learned the basic tools to write for a film funder. What I wonder though is without someone like Paul, how do you do this? I would like to think we are reasonably smart. I’ve written successful proposals OUTSIDE of the film world before so….where is the gap?
Paul taught us something that I think is important for filmmakers to follow. Your treatment should be like editing a film. But instead of shot by shot use your wide, medium, tight story elements together. I don’t know if I can ever do what I learned justice by trying to explain it. Perhaps what I can say is find yourself someone who does write grant proposals successfully and see what they think BEFORE you submit. It could mean the difference between getting funding and getting that rejection letter.
After a number of sleepless nights, stressful sessions at the laptop, Aron and I were able to successfully submit to ITVS. For the first time, in a long time, we felt like the synopsis and treatment really matched the story we wanted to tell. And for the first time, we could see our film on paper….and it felt GREAT to know we have come this far. We still have a lot to do in coming months but it is such a wonderful feeling to know that we are moving forward and getting one step closer to accomplishing our goal!
Good luck fellow grantwriters. The process is a ^(&)())__(@%^&&$&$$ and a %^*&)*))(!^&#&%$& but hopefully it will PAY OFF in the end.