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#FunderFriday: Catapult Film Fund

By IDA Editorial Staff

For this month's #FunderFriday, we asked Lisa Chanoff and Bonni Cohen from Catapult Film Fund to answer some questions from our Twitter community. Below, they answer our community's questions, while also offering up answers to frequently asked questions. Don't forget: the Catapult Film Fund deadline is August 25th!


Catapult Film Fund: ​No. Catapult is all about early money. Our focus is to help launch documentary film projects near the beginning of their process. These "development grants" ​allow filmmakers to take crucial next steps in the development of their films, generally enabling a first shoot and editing pieces for production fundraising. We come in at that early stage where you know the story, you have access to your characters but you need to "show something" to successfully raise production funding. Catapult grants are designed to get you to the point where you have something to show. There are several ways to define "development." Generally, for the purpose of the Catapult grant, a project is in development if: you have not yet begun shooting, you have some footage but have not yet edited a fundraising piece, you have done some editing but what you have is not adequate for your fundraising.










Catapult: ​We often get asked if we would fund​ particular subject areas . This is always hard to answer because we are open to all stories. We don't have any issue areas that projects have to address or a subject matter mandate. It's all about how compelling the particular story is, how great the characters are, and how creative and interesting the story telling approach. That said, historical films can be tough unless there is a particularly unique approach or access to particularly fascinating archival material or characters. We don't ask applicants to outline an audience engagement plan. But contemporary relevance is one of the criteria we look at in the application review, so if your historical project has current relevance, that is good to highlight.

Unfortunately, @Adlamassoud deleted her tweet before we could answer it here. On August 5, she asked: "do u fund first time filmmakers?"

Catapult: ​Generally no, but there are exceptions. If you are a first time filmmaker you have a somewhat tougher time receiving a Catapult grant. The reason is that since we come is so early there is relatively little to go on for the current project, so we rely heavily on past work in order to get a sense of the filmmaking style. Prior work can give us a sense of whether the filmmaker can pull off what he or she is proposing in the application, both in terms of artistry and the nuts and bolts of production and fundraising. If you are a first time filmmaker, there are ways to it strengthen your application, such as partnering with a more experienced filmmaker in a key position on the production team, submitting some visuals for the project either a bit of footage or even photographs, writing an amazing application, and letting us know how your prior experience lends itself to creating the film you are proposing.





Catapult: ​Here is our criteria when reviewing an application. (This can be found on the Catapult website under "How to Apply.")



  • Creative, artful, compelling and innovative storytelling techniques
  • Strong story narrative at the core of the film
  • A unique perspective or approach; use of humor a plus
  • Contemporary relevance
  • Feasibility of the project with respect to its budget, financing, schedule and scope
  • Demonstrated ability of the creative team to have implemented previous projects
  • Grant amount should have significant impact on development stage of the project
  • Emphasis on the story not the lesson or agenda of the filmmaker
  • Filmmaker must demonstrate credible access and rapport with the proposed subject(s) of the story.
  • Originality of form, approach or content
  • Potential of the project to generate public discourse and social engagement



Catapult: While we're at it I would also want to address a couple of questions that come up a lot.


Do you accept applications from outside the US?

Catapult: Yes. We accept non-US applicants and are certainly interested in all stories, whether local, national or international. Any filmmaker, whether or not in the US, chosen for a Catapult grant needs to have a fiscal sponsor in order the receive the grant. The fiscal sponsor is a US 501(c)(3) public charity which sponsors the project for the purpose of fundraising through grants and donations. You do not, however, need to have a fiscal sponsor at the time you apply to Catapult.

How strict is the one-page limit for the Project Description and the Narrative Treatment sections of the application?

Catapult: Not that strict. We will not cut you off after one page, but are just asking the the answers in these sections are about that length.


We want to thank Bonni Cohen and Lisa Chanoff for taking time during their busy funding season to answer all your questions! Keep an eye out for our next #FunderFriday in September with Cal Humanities' John Lightfoot, who will answer all your pressing questions about their upcoming California Documentary Project grant.