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#FunderFriday Q&A Launches with NEH Senior Program Officer, Jeff Hardwick

By Lisa Hasko

Have you ever wished for a direct line to a funder? IDA is launching a new initiative called #FunderFriday that makes your wish come true. Our members contact us everyday with questions regarding the complexity and variation of the many grants available to documentary filmmakers. #FunderFriday taps into IDA's long-standing relationships with prominent granting organizations so you can ask them the questions that are important to you.

We're excited to kick off this new initiative with NEH Senior Program Officer Jeff Hardwick. Our members asked Jeff questions via our Twitter feed using the #FunderFriday hashtag, and Jeff has generously answered those questions in this blog post. A big thanks to Jeff and to you for joining us. Stay tuned for the next #FunderFriday, and don't forget that the NEH Bridging Cultures deadline is June 11th!

Our first question came to us via email from IDA Fiscal Sponsorship Program participant Huriyyah Muhammad:

Is it necessary to have Humanities Scholars appear in the actual film, either on camera or in VO form?

No, the scholars (however photogenic they might be) do not have to appear in your film. You should rely on the scholarly advisers to provide context for a project and identify relevant humanities themes and ideas. Filmmakers usually convene a meeting of the scholarly advisers early in the process and then rely on advisers to read a script, watch rough cuts, or be available to answer questions. Additionally, you should bring together a broad group of advisers that bring different perspectives to the topic, and not rely on a single scholar’s work or opinions.

The next few came in through our #FunderFriday hashtag:


Jeff Hardwick: For our film grants (either Media or Bridging Cultures through Film), NEH does not break out a distinct “finishing funds” category. So if you have any shooting, interviews, editing, or post-production work to do, then you should apply for a Production grant. Of course, your budget would reflect the more limited scope of work to be done during the grant period. You also can decide whether or not you want to submit pieces of that rough footage as a sample for your grant application or not (sometimes it helps an application immensely).




Jeff Hardwick: At NEH, we like to see the idea as fully fleshed out as possible. We want to see the script, be able to picture what will be on the screen, and clearly see the humanities ideas. Of course, we realize that documentaries might change during the shooting or editing, but we need to be confident that what’s proposed will more or less resemble the final product.











Jeff Hardwick: Ah, let me count the ways—just kidding. That’s a tough one, but I’d have to say that perhaps the easiest resource that filmmakers overlook when applying for a grant is contacting us. Program officers in the Division are here to help you with your application, will read drafts, or answer any questions.  Taking us up on the offer can help you avoid lots of mistakes and headaches. Similarly, looking over sample applications is very helpful. These samples will give you models that can help you compose your application. Narratives from successful applications are available on the program resource pages of the Media or Bridging Cultures through Film programs.

As for the grant application, the biggest mistake would be not explaining what the takeaway humanities content will be for the viewer. Applicants should articulate clearly their concept for the project and the humanities issues that the project reflects, even when the proposal is for a development grant. Some applicants think that it is obvious what their film will teach people about humanities topics, but that content really should be detailed and explained. Indeed, making it very clear what the humanities themes will be is crucial to success here.