Film Arts Foundation

What is Film Arts Foundation?
FAF supports the creation, exhibition and distribution of independent film and video, by providing resources, education, and exhibition opportunities.

When and why did FAF come into being?
FAF was founded in 1976 by a handful of filmmakers who felt a void and filled it by creating an organization that now services 3,400 members working in film, video, and multimedia. FAF’s membership spans a broad range from students to Academy Award-winning filmmakers. Our magazine, Release Print, is the link to all our members.

Who makes up the foundation?
Staff is 12 full time with five part-time positions and extra staff when needed throughout the year. Over half of the staff are film- and videomakers.

The driving philosophy behind FAF is . . .
That all independent film- and videomakers should have the tools they need to create, exhibit, and distribute their projects, and that independent film is seen within the society at large as an important artistic and cultural contribution that should be supported and embraced.

What distinguishes FAF from other media arts organizations?
FAF offers education and training, funding and exhibition. In a time of shrinking resources, we continue to offer low cost access to production and postproduction equipment (super 8, 16mm, video, and digital) and present workshops and seminars on high-end and low-end technology (film handprocessing, traditional animation, optical printing). In San Francisco, FAF is seen as the institution that makes things happen.

When and why did you decide to act as a funder?
Established as a postproduction center and a fiscal sponsor, FAF grew over time, adding services, and funding seemed the next logical step. In 1984, when the program was initiated, the NEA was still providing grants to individuals and supporting the NEA Regional Fellowships Program. At the time, the NEA western region was 13 states and territories, too big an area with too many gifted artists and producers. Northern California (along with the AFI) provided at least 50% of the applications annually, which constituted most of the awards to West Coast artists. Obviously this was not enough!

How has the funding climate for non-commercial independent media changed since the FAF initiated its grant program?
Other small funds now exist and after a 12 year battle, the Independent Television Service (ITVS) came into being to fund television documentaries and narratives. ITVS brought more money into funding media for TV, and at the same time, smaller funders saw media being funded and decided to re-direct their resources to other issues. Many of the projects FAF funds in development end up getting completion funding from ITVS.

What percentage of the FAF’s overall budget goes towards individual film or video projects?
All proceeds are from a separate Endowment which is strictly in existence to fund FAF grants. The Endowment fund for indie media provided about $35,000 of the $68,000 we granted in 2000. The Endowment principle now totals $600,000.

How many awards are given out per year for each grant? What is the total dollar amount awarded annually?
In 2000, we gave 16 cash awards valued at $68,500 and 12 awards in materials and access valued at over $52,000. (Development grants: $2,500; Completion/Distribution: $8,000.) The amount varies annually based on how much we earn and raise from other sources.

What are the average sizes of these grants?
Cash awards can range from $2,500 to $10,000; Materials and Access awards from $1,500 (per grant) to $48,000 (awarded to one feature filmmaker as the Eickman Award). Cash awards amounts depend on our earnings and what we raise from outside funders.

How many applications do you get on average per year?
We receive an average of 350, with most in the Personal Works and Completion/Distribution categories.

What are the restrictions on applicants’ qualifications (e.g., ethnicity, geography, medium)?
Grants are awarded only to individuals who currently reside, and have resided for at least one year prior to the deadline, in the 10 Bay Area counties: San Francisco, Marin, Sonoma, Napa, Solano, Alameda, Contra Costa, San Mateo, Santa Clara, and Santa Cruz.

What types of projects does FAF seek?
We look for innovations in form, projects that “push the envelope.” Our awards are targeted for film and videomakers in categories that are among the most difficult areas to raise funds: i.e., experimental or personal shorts.

Your Cash Awards program funds projects at various stages of production. Can individuals funded in the development stage come back to you for distribution funds?
Yes, we encourage this sort of thing. When a project returns for completion/distribution funds we already have a stake in seeing it through to completion.

What types of projects does the Personal Works grant fund?
Priority is given to artistic concepts that challenge and expand the film/video art form. Also, the project must begin and be completed within the ($4,000) grant amount.

How do the completion/distribution grants differ?
The Completion/Distribution grant awards the final amount needed to complete or distribute the project—no more, no less. Generally, these awards go to more established filmmakers.

How long have you offered STAND, and what was the motivation to establish this program?
Because we always received grant applications from first-timers, we thought, “How can we best help them get skills?” STAND (Support, Training & Access for New Directors) was established in 1996 to assist individuals who see themselves as an under-represented community and have no prior production in their name. The award’s value is $1,500 in services—including training and access to production and postproduction equipment, 25 hours of project mentoring by a professional filmmaker, and exhibition of completed works—with no actual cash given.

In the Blazing Paradigm Award, one recipient gets use of a Final Cut Pro system to finish their project of 30 minutes or less, and development and production of two promotional pieces. How did an ad agency get involved with your to efforts to fund less conventional projects?
Blazing Paradigm wanted to connect with the Bay Area indie community in some way, and our development director at the time worked closely with them to create a program that would best suit both parties. The corporate world is always looking for new talent, as well as creative ways to give back to the community.

Does the Robin Eickman Feature Film Award fund strictly fiction features?
Yes. The only other requirements are that a project have a completed screenplay and be at least 72 minutes in length. Priority is given to projects with financing for the balance of production funds in place.

What are the Phelan Art Awards? How is this award recipient decided?
The Phelan Art Awards in Film is an artist fellowship given every other year in recognition of high artistic achievement and creativity in film. One California-born filmmaker (regardless of current residency) with an established body of work in film (not video) is awarded $7,500. These filmmakers submit work themselves; they are not nominated. Bay Area Video Coalition does the same for the Video award. A panel of jurors working in exhibition, funding, and film critics/scholars selects the recipient.

Name some of the best-known titles and/or artists you have funded.
Phelan awards: James Brougton, Yvonne Rainer, Arthur Dong, Craig Baldwin, Curtis Choy, Marv Newland, Steven Okazaki, Michael Wallin, Pat O’Neill, Chick Strand, and Kenneth Anger.
FAF Grants: Chuck Hudina (Black Heat), Susana Munoz and Lourdes Portillo (Las Madres de Plaza de Mayo), Deborah Brubaker (El Camino de los Zapatos), Rob Epstein and Peter Adair (Songs for the Living), Marlon Riggs (Tongues Untied), Barbara Hammer (X-Rays), Jay Rosenblatt (The Smell of Burning Ants), Doug Wolens (Butterfly), and Chip Lord (Awakening from the 21st Century).

You have one deadline for all your grants. Explain your funding cycle and deadlines.
All grants (except for Phelan) are awarded annually in June with the call for entries in February and an April deadline. Recipients are required to file progress and final reports upon completion of the project, and a copy of the work for FAF’s archives.

Once the applicant receives funding, are there time frame restrictions within which the funds must be used? How soon can the individual apply for funds again?
STAND recipients must complete their projects a year after funding, and can only use the award towards materials/access at FAF. If an individual receives funding in any category, they can apply for funding the year after next; i.e., 2000 recipients are re-eligible in 2002. Completion/Distribution grants must make up the remaining money needed to complete or distribute the project. Personal Works money must be solely used for the project proposed and all its phases of production.

Who are the Program Officers?
Gail Silva, Executive Director, Alicia Schmidt, Development Director, and Adriana Rosas-Walsh, Grants Coordinator.

Who makes the awards decisions?
Grants panels mainly consist of past recipients and programmers: Bruce Conner, Louise Lo, Trinh T. Minh-ha, Irina Leimbacher (San Francisco Cinematheque), Cornelius Moore (California Newsreel), Gustavo Vazquez, Nick Katsapetses, and Ellen Bruno.
Phelan panel (exhibitors/critics): Peter Scarlet (SF Int’l Film Festival), Jennifer Morris (SF Int’l Lesbian and Gay Film Festival), Linda Blackaby (SF Int’l Asian American Film Festival), and B. Ruby Rich (film critic).

Tell us about the review process.
The written applications are given to the five-person panel within days of the application deadline. Two to three weeks later, the panel meets and selects semi-finalists, who then submit sample reels. The recipients are selected from both the written application and sample reel.

What advice do you have for media artists in putting forth a strong application?
Be clear, consistent, and stay simple. Be sure to be realistic about the budget-feasibility. Stay focused on why you need the funding, and be sincere about your need.

What is the most common mistake applicants make?
Not following guidelines. Applicants must be sure that they read every section of an application. You may hurt your chances because of a simple error that could have been avoided. Remember, always double—even triple—check your application before sending it out to a funder.

What would people most be surprised to learn about the FAF and/or its founders?
That FAF was brought to life one night by a group of avant-garde and documentary filmmakers, in someone’s San Francisco living room over wine and beer. Twenty-five years later, most of them are still members.

Other foundations or grantmaking organizations you admire and why.
Pacific Pioneer Fund for their encouragement of emerging documentary filmmakers; Jerome Foundation for their artist fellowships; Paul Robeson Fund/Funding Exchange for supporting social change media and funding for development and distribution.

What distinguishes the FAF from other funders?
For funding personal works; putting past recipients on the panels; funding both emerging and established makers.

Famous last words:
FAF is one of the few places where individuals can receive funding.

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