Attention Filmmakers: MacArthur Documentary Fund Opens April 1st

Yup, you read that correctly. The MacArthur Foundation 2015 Documentary Fund will open April 1, 2015. The fund seeks to "support feature documentary films and interactive digital documentaries that combine engaging storytelling with in-depth journalism." Proposals will be accepted through September 1, 2015.

To help contextualize this award, we'll first pass along some important information from MacArthur's site, then we'll provide our own take (consider it a CliffsNotes version).

MacArthur funds "independently produced documentaries that examine underreported but important social issues. These films have the potential to spark dialogue, create understanding, and contribute to social, culture, and policy change."

Winning documentaries utilize compelling personal stories to engage viewers and create empathy; they should appeal to a broad audience because they treat differing points of view with respect; and they should be led by experienced teams that have had past success in bringing a documentary or interactive project to completion and reaching broad U.S. audiences.

But let's take a closer look at the data itself, shall we? In the aftermath of a previous funding cycle, I analyzed the genres of previous winning MacArthur documentaries. The takeaway was obvious. The foundation seems to be most interested in political and environmental stories. Indeed, the winning documentaries are not for the faint of heart. They speak boldly to the collective zeitgeist of the time, which encompasses environmental ruin, rising income inequality, and rapacious capitalism.

Not to be outdone, my colleague Kristopher Monroe also studied another recent batch of winning films. He found, not surprisingly, that most of winners covered subjects "not typically on the forefront of the mainstream cultural radar, which could spell hope for those journalists and documentarians who are addressing issues that may not always make the headlines."

Winning film projects highlighted issues such as the genocide trial of former Guatemalan President General Efraín Ríos Montt, the experiences of native Hawaiian inmates sent to a private penitentiary in Arizona, and the process of reconciliation among survivors of Cambodia’s killing fields.

Here are some other relevant details:

  • All applicants will be notified of their status within 6-8 weeks of submission.
  • Grants will be made on a rolling basis as qualified proposals are selected for funding.
  • The foundation will allocate approximately $2 million in total.
  • Consistent with previous years, the foundation expects to fund no more than 20 projects this year.

For more information and to apply click here.