Pare Lorentz Documentary Fund 2016, USA

Publish Date: Apr 21, 2016

Deadline: Jul 31, 2016

Mission and Objective

The Pare Lorentz Documentary Fund will provide production grants totaling $195,000 to be used in the creation of original, independent documentary films that illuminate pressing issues in the United States. Grants will be made to up to 12 projects that tell a compelling story and focus on one of Pare Lorentz's central concerns—the appropriate use of the natural environment, justice for all or the illumination of pressing social problems.

The fund supports full-length documentary films that reflect the spirit and nature of Pare Lorentz's work, exhibiting objective research, artful storytelling, strong visual style, high production values, artistic writing, and outstanding music composition, as well as skillful direction, camerawork and editing. A program of the International Documentary Association, the Pare Lorentz Documentary Fund is made possible by The New York Community Trust.

Supported Activities

Eligible projects will be in production, having completed the bulk of research and development but still having substantial production or post-production related work and expenses remaining. Grant funds may be used for production and post-production related expenses incurred during the period of support.

Expenses may include line items such as principal photography, travel, equipment purchase or rental, insurance, rights and clearances, editing and filmmaker salaries. The fund does not support expenses related to fundraising, distribution, publicity, marketing or outreach.


We will be accepting applications on a rolling basis until July 31, 2017. Applications will be reviewed throughout this time period, with grants being awarded quarterly. We strive to review submissions and make notifications within eight weeks.  If you haven't heard from us after that period has passed, please feel free to contact


Period of Support

The grant period of support is one year from the date of the grant award. Grant funds will be used to advance or reimburse production and post-production related expenses incurred during that period. 

Grant Range

Grants made will range from approximately $15,000-25,000.


  • The applicant (Project Director) must be 18 years of age or older.

  • The applicant must be a producer and/or director of the submitted work.

  • The applicant must be an independent filmmaker working on an original project. For the purposes of this grant, IDA defines an independent filmmaker as a content creator who both owns the copyright of his or her work and has full artistic, budgetary, and editorial control of the documentary project. Documentaries being produced for or under the direction of a third party, such as a broadcast entity, university, foundation or nonprofit organization are ineligible.

  • The project must addresses a critical issue in the United States and focuses on one of Pare Lorentz's central concerns—the appropriate use of the natural environment, justice for all or the illumination of pressing social problems.

  • The project must be in production, having completed the bulk of research and development but still having substantial production and post-production related work and expenses remaining.

  • The applicant should be an experienced filmmaker with at least one key above-the-line (producer, director, co-director, co-producer) or other principal creative (director of photography, editor) credit on a previously completed documentary. Applicants with limited experience or who lack a previous credit as either a producer or director of a completed documentary should have a production team that includes other highly experienced key production personnel and advisors. Key team members and advisors may be contacted during the review process to assess their level of involvement and commitment to the project.

  • The applicant does not need to be a US citizen or US resident. However grants to non US citizens or non US residents may be subject to mandatory US government withholding of up to 30% and the recipient may be required to file a US tax return.

  • The applicant is not required to be a member of IDA to be eligible to apply.

  • The applicant is not required to have nonprofit status or fiscal sponsorship.

  • Student films are ineligible.

  • Completed films are ineligible.

  • Short documentaries (under 40 minutes finished run time) are ineligible.

What you will need to apply:

  1. Once you click on the application you will be asked to register with Submittable, which involves entering contact information and choosing a user name and password.

  2. Fill out our brief online application. You can save it and return to it as often as needed until you are ready to submit.

  3. A narrative proposal, line item budget and statement of interest. See our Proposal checklist below for details.

  4. A link to a streaming version of your visual work sample for the current project you are applying with.

Proposal checklist
Your proposal must contain the following elements:

1. Narrative

  • Logline (2-3 Sentences)
    Provide a brief, catchy summary of your story.

  • Story Summary / Synopsis (Approximately 1-2 pages)
    What is your story and story structure? Give an overview of your story, introducing the main characters and potential plot points. Describe the anticipated story structure and narrative trajectory, or potential character arcs for your project. Discuss your access to the story and characters.

  • Topic Summary (Approximately 1-2 pages)
    Why is this topic important, timely, or relevant? Why are you the best person to make a film about this? Explain the cultural or social relevance and context for the topic, and why this project is timely or urgent. Detail the topics, issues, themes, challenges, stakes, or questions that your project will cover.

  • Artistic Approach (Approximately 1/2 page)
    How are you going to tell this story? Describe your creative vision for the finished project – its visual look and feel. Explain your intended use of cinematic language or any particular artistic approach that informs the storytelling. If applicable, mention any creative elements and assets, interactive elements, new technologies or non-traditional mediums that you intend to utilize. Explain how these elements will enhance the experience and interaction between viewers and the world of the story.

  • Project Stage (Approximately 1 paragraph)
    Explain the current status of the project. Outline the projected production timeline from the project’s current state to the anticipated completion date. Your timeline should cover both the creative and production processes and should detail major project activities, production schedules, and anticipated post production and release dates. If you have applied before, please share how your project has progressed since the last time you applied.

  • Key Creative Personnel (Approximately 1 paragraph/bio)
    Provide brief biographies (50-150 words) for the director(s), and if attached, the producer(s), cinematographer, or editor. Include notable credits and/or major recognition or award information. For each key creative, include information about relevant expertise and the individual’s role in the project. Do not send resumes, CVs or extensive filmographies. Bullet list any other advisors or consultants, if applicable.

  • Audience and Distribution Strategies (approximately 1 paragraph for each)

    • Distribution and Marketing Strategy
      Characterize the intended distribution life for your film. Specify plans for festival, theatrical, and/or community screenings, as well as plans for securing national broadcast and/or distribution.

    • Intended Audience
      Describe the anticipated audience for your project, including any underserved audiences. How do you plan to reach your target audience? How have you addressed the needs and interests of this audience in your film? What is your relationship and access to this community?

    • Audience Engagement and Social Impact (if applicable)
      Audience Engagement is a strategy designed to activate audiences and constituencies toward a specific goal. Not all films are suited for social engagement, but if yours is, what actions do you hope for viewers to take after seeing your film? Potential activities could include organizational partnerships, educational guides, targeted stakeholder/community screenings, social media strategies, multi-platform activity, or social change campaigns. Do you have partnerships with organizations in your issue area already, and if so, how are these relationships informing your project development?

  • Financial Info (1 paragraph for each)

    • Fundraising Strategy
      Describe the strategy for raising the additional funds necessary to complete the project. Include all sources and amounts raised to date. Clearly distinguish between potential sources of funding and secured amounts. List the status of other sources of funding currently under consideration, whether to be applied for or pending.

      Foundation A: $X Secured
      Private Donations: $X Secured
      Foundation B: $X Applied
      Broadcast License A: $X In Negotiation
      Crowdfunding: $X In Process (Campaign end date MM/DD/YY)

    • Grant Impact
      Amount requested? If you were to receive a grant, describe how the funds would be spent. In light of your total budget, how would these funds help you move forward with your project?

2. Statement of Interest

In the online application form, you’ll be asked to briefly address the following question: How does your project build off of the tradition of Pare Lorentz’s work?

Speaking about Pare Lorentz, acclaimed director Ken Burns said, "His work is part of the heritage of all filmmakers...Lorentz showed us that documentaries need not be based solely on current events, or be filmed journalism. They could be of the heart.”

Pare Lorentz’s films were defined by a democratic sensibility, an activist spirit, and a lyrical, cinematic vision. In answering the question, place your work in this lineage. Also please explain the pressing US issue your film addresses, and describe how your project relates to one of Pare Lorentz's central concerns --the appropriate use of the natural environment, justice for all or the illumination of pressing social problems.

View more information about Pare Lorentz, including full length streaming versions of three of his films. LEARN MORE

3. Comprehensive Line Item Expense Budget

Your budget should provide a detailed breakdown of all expenses from development through release in U.S. dollars, including a grand budget total.

  • Top Sheet
    Provide a single page budget top sheet/summary.

  • Line Item Budget
    Provide a comprehensive line item budget including all documentary related expenses. We do not require any specific software or format, but the budget should be typed and broken down on a line item basis in the form of a spreadsheet. A budget cover sheet or narrative budget summary alone is not adequate. Please include detailed budget notes for any areas that may be viewed as out of the ordinary or which requires further explanation.

Download this sample budget template that will help you customize and create your own budget.

It is not necessary to fill in every line included in the sample budget. You can customize it by adding lines or leaving out line items that are not relevant to your project.

View this excellent article about writing a documentary budget, that includes a detailed sample budget.

4. Sample Work

  • Visual Sample
    A current work sample is required. Provide a link and password to a streaming version of your work sample as part of the application. There is no specific length required. Submit the sample that you feel best represents your project at its current phase of production. While samples may be any length, for longer samples we will only guarantee to consider the first 10 minutes. Reviewers may watch and consider more than 10 minutes at their discretion. We unfortunately cannot accept previous work samples. The sample provided must be for the project you are applying for.

  • Sample description (1 paragraph)
    Provide necessary background and/or context for the work-in-progress. What should reviewers be looking for in your sample? Explain what is present or absent in the sample, and how it will differ as a finished film. How is it representative of the intended story, style, subject, or other aspect of the project?

How your Application will be evaluated:

Both IDA staff and a committee of distinguished filmmakers will applications and accompanying materials. Some of the questions that staff and review committee members will use in evaluating applicants include:

  • Do the Project Director and the project presented meet the grant goals and eligibility requirements?

  • Does the project tell a compelling story and address a pressing issue in the United States?

  • Does the project exemplify the spirit and nature of Pare Lorentz's work?

  • Does the project take an innovative approach to the subject matter? Has the story been told before and if so, does this project's approach bring something new to the story?

  • Does the Project Director have the access necessary to tell the story in a compelling way?

  • What is the quality of the work sample provided? Does it have a strong visual style and does it reflect the spirit and nature of Pare Lorentz's films, such as exhibiting high production values, artistic writing, outstanding music composition and skillful direction, camerawork and editing?

  • Is the narrative well written and does it give a clear picture of the film's story and themes?

  • Does the application articulate the film's connection to the grant and its stated objectives?

  • Are the Project Director and production team assembled experienced and capable of completing the project as described?

  • Does the proposal identify an audience and a realistic plan for reaching and engaging that audience? Does the project have a realistic strategic plan for raising the remaining budget and a reasonable chance of securing public distribution in theatrical release, broadcast or cable television, or educational/ancillary distribution (to schools, museums, or other institutions)?

  • Is the budget thorough and realistic? Are line items in the budget within industry norms and standards?

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Host Countries

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