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Of Nearly 600 Arts Organizations Recommended for a Covid-19 Relief Grant, Only 6 Percent Support Film

Recipients ranged from national institutes such as Sundance to local organizations like the New Orleans Film Society.

New Orleans Film Festival

Opening night at the 2021 New Orleans Film Festival

Katie Sikora

Of the nearly 7,500 arts organizations that applied for grants from the federal government’s Covid-19 Stimulus Package, 35 film organizations received funding totaling $3.9 million. When they received notification, they were asked to keep their status under embargo. Last week, the National Endowment for the Arts revealed the full list of recipients.

In total, the NEA’s share of the stimulus funding totaled $57,750,000; of that, funding for film organizations represented a little less than seven percent.

The outcome doesn’t tell the full story of small-scale film organizations in the U.S., but it provides a snapshot of the film institutions currently supported by government funding. In some cases, it also clarifies the fragility of their operations.

Overall, 567 arts organizations received funding under the the $1.9 trillion economic stimulus bill known as the American Rescue Plan, doled out in tiers of $50,000, $100,000, and $150,000. The 35 selected organizations listed “media arts” as the discipline in their applications, and most organizations operate primarily in the film space.

“Our nation’s arts sector has been among the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. The National Endowment for the Arts’ American Rescue Plan funding will help arts organizations rebuild and reopen,” said Dr. Maria Rosario Jackson, chair of the NEA, in a statement. “The arts are crucial to helping America’s communities heal, unite, and inspire as well as essential to our nation’s economic recovery.”

An advisory committee allocated the funds. Recipients ranged from national organizations such as the Sundance Institute to distinctly local operations such as Cinema St. Louis, the Points North Institute in Camden, Maine, and Santa Fe’s Parallel Studios.

Some organizations shared their plans with IndieWire. The Film Festival Alliance, which received $50,000, plans to focus on a website redesign and accessibility, membership development and improved experience, in addition to in-person leadership lab gathering. The New Orleans Film Society, which received $150,000, is using it to prepare for its festival in November. Stowe Story Labs in Vermont will advance its $100,000 to labs and retreats.

The O Cinema, which houses a 304-seat theater in Miami Beach, plans to use its $100,000 grant to fund a project manager position and a part-time staffer across two years. “Our goals and objectives, coming out of ‘The Great Pause,’ are to take back our roots as a community-based, mission-driven art house,” co-director Vivian Marthell said via email. “To us, that means investing in engagement activities and events that add value and celebrate the cinematic arts.”

Film organizations that were denied grants are now considering alternative fundraising strategies. Melanie Addington, the executive director of the Tallgrass Film Association in Kansas, said that the organization cut its programs budget by 15 percent to help sustain its staff. “Without the 2022 support as COVID continues to rear its ugly head, it will be a challenge looking at the opportunities this year,” she said.

Kent Lee, executive director of the Pacific Arts Movement, said that the organization received emergency funding from the NEA in 2020 but was denied this year. “As you can imagine, small cultural organizations like ours are facing significant challenges as we try to return back to in-person programming, weighing the risks of resuming programs while still facing significant funding shortfalls both from government sources as well as sponsorship dollars,” he said. However, the organization did receive a grant for arts projects for the 23rd San Diego Asian Film Festival set to take place this fall.

Check out the full list of media arts organizations below, along with the specific funds the NEA recommended they receive. Criteria for the grants can be found here.

Asociacion de Documentalistas de Puerto Rico INC (Adoc PR, San Juan, $150,000)
Aurora Picture Show (Houston, $50,000)
Austin Film Society (Austin, $150,000)
Bay Area Video Coalition, Inc. (BAVC Media, $150,000)
Buffalo Media Resources, Inc. (Buffalo Media Resources, Inc., $50,000)
Chicago Filmmakers (Chicago, $100,000)
Cine Las Americas (Austin, $100,000)
Cinema St. Louis (St. Louis, $100,000)
Cleveland International Film Festival, Inc. (Cleveland, $150,000)
Coaxial Arts Foundation (Los Angeles, $50,000)
Cucalorus Film Foundation (Wilmington, $100,000)
CultureWorks, Ltd. (Seattle, $100,000)
Film Festival Alliance (Washington, $50,000)
FilmScene ($100,000, Iowa City)
Free Spirit Media, NFP (Chicago, $150,000)
Gateway Film Foundation (Columbus, $150,000)
Hawaii International Film Festival (Honolulu, $100,000)
Heartland Film, Inc. (Indianapolis, $150,000)
Independent Media Artists of GA, Etc. Inc. (Atlanta Film Society, $150,000)
International Documentary Association (IDA, Los Angeles, $150,000)
Living Arts Trust, Inc. (O Cinema, $100,000)
Mamafilm Inc. (Mama.film, Wichita, $50,000)
Milwaukee Film, Inc. (Milwaukee Film, $100,000)
New Orleans Film and Video Festival, Inc. (New Orleans Film Society, $150,000)
Parallel Studios Inc. (Currents New Media, Santa Fe, $50,000)
Points North Institute (Camden, $150,000)
Portland Art Museum (NW Film Center, Portland, $100,000)
POWRPLNT INC (PWRPLNT, Brooklyn, $50,000)
PRX, Inc. (Boston, $150,000)
Red Nation Celebration (RNCI, Woodland Hills, $150,000)
Stowe Story Labs, Inc. (Stowe, $100,000)
Sundance Institute (Park City, $150,000)
The Black Lily, Inc. (BlackStar, Philadelphia, $150,000)
Three Dollar Bill Cinema (Seattle, $100,000)
UnionDocs, Inc. (UnionDocs, Brooklyn, $100,000)

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