June 10, 2014

The Mountainfilm Commitment Grant Turns 5

The Mountains of the Moon in Uganda. The Sacred Headwaters of British Columbia. Rural Southwestern Colorado. Kathmandu and the Himalaya. The town of Marmato high in the Colombian Andes. Midway Island. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault. The Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint Basin in the southeastern United States. Favelas and towering rock above Rio de Janeiro. A deadbeat damn, slated for removal but still standing, near Ojai, California.

The Mountainfilm Commitment Grant reaches its first milestone year in 2014. With four seasons of grants behind us, we’re headed toward the fifth — just old enough for kindergarten, but the program has already been around the world several times. In the first four years, we’ve helped — with $5,000 grants and Apple computers — film and photography projects in all of the places listed above and more.

Commitment Grants began as a desire to give back to the filmmakers, photographers, artists and adventurers who so generously share their creative and passionate work year after year. For some projects, the $5,000 has been a large part of the budget, a make-it-or-break-it gift that enabled the creativity to flow unhindered by the decidedly uncreative aspects of budgeting and funding. For one large project, our grant paid for just enough extra time in the editing room to finish a feature-length doc that was later short-listed for an Academy Award.

What we’ve learned through the process is that we also gain a lot. Every year, we read more than 100 letters of interest (only 15 applicants make it to the final round). Most years, we wish we had more money because all the project proposals are so darn good. Even though we can’t fund them all, the early sneak peak gives us a leg up to bring more great films to audiences down the line. And with the expanding reach of Mountainfilm on Tour and the newly relaunched Movies That Matter, the audience for Mountainfilm is growing.

It’s a pleasure to announce that we are now accepting letters of interest for the fifth year of the Mountainfilm Commitment Grant. The deadline is June 30, and the only restriction is that you have a connection to Mountainfilm, either through a referral or as a past filmmaker or presenter in the festival.

If you’d like to know more, read about the granting classes of 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013. While many of the projects have been completed and presented at Mountainfilm and elsewhere, we’re still anxiously awaiting a small handful of granted films.

We’re also looking forward to the next five years. We’ve never funded a story on Antarctica, Australia or the Pacific Isles. And while the program offers grants to projects of all kinds, we mainly receive pitches for films and photography. Maybe this is the year for our first interactive web multimedia grant—so bring on the letters of interest.

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