Insider Knowledge: Tips from Previous Readers


Georgiana Lee, a member of the Diné (Navajo) tribe in Arizona, has been the organization’s Assistant Director since 2009.

Insider Knowledge: Tips from Previous Readers

Date Posted: 
2014-12-16 16:05

We asked former RFP reviewers and filmmakers to give suggestions for submitting to Vision Maker Media’s Open Call.

Reviewer #1 Comments
I have had the pleasure of serving on the application review panel for VMM's Open Call. That year we reviewed 50 proposals for funding. The applications ranged from well written, concise, and coherent thoughts arranged on paper to one that had me wondering if the person forgot what they were filling out. Here are a few tips to try and help prevent some of the types of things I saw in the proposals that drew red flags from the panel, and resulted in a deduction of points often taking the applicant out of the running for funding.

  • Have your budget worked out. Be realistic. If the numbers on the paper don’t add up, try again. If you can’t put together a decent budget it will be noticed by the panel and will affect your ranking amongst the other applicants. Yes. Your time is valuable, but use caution when figuring out how much of your request for funding will end up in your pocket.

  • When including links, make sure that they work. If you are telling us how awesome your website is and we can’t even get the page to load you will not be doing yourself any favors. If we go to your site and it says that you have this great film in the works and look forward to its release in 2009, that's a problem too. Your website should be up to date if you are listing it as an example of your work.

  • Spellcheck. It is a wonderful tool, and should be used in every professional situation.

  • Don’t give me your whole life story -– When listing your qualifications hit the highlights. Remember that your application is in a large pile -– you don’t want to bore the panel to death with a listing of every piece of video you've ever shot and why.

Reviewer #2 Comments
In addition to being a reviewer for Vision Maker Media, I review proposals for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and others. I see similar mistakes in proposals to all of these organizations.

  1. If you don't understand something in the grant –- ask.  For example, if you're not familiar with "new media," you can't fake it. You won't earn full points if you ignore it. Too often reviews say "There is no mention of xxxxx in the proposal." In addition, you won't earn full points if you discuss the wrong thing.

  2. Letters of support are critical, and they need to go beyond praise of you as an individual. Are you proposing an educational component? Show the letter of support indicating these ideas have been vetted and are relevant to current state and national standards. For a national grant, a letter of support from a school is better than a teacher; a district is better than a school, and the state Department of Education is the best.

  3. If you propose it, fund it. Does your proposal indicate an extensive outreach, promotional, or educational component? Reviewers will look for the funds in the budget. If the money isn't there, they will assume it won't be done.

  4. Proposals from first time filmmakers are refreshing and exciting to read. However, it's a large leap from producing short features or even full local programs to producing for a national audience. Having an experienced professional on the team doesn't diminish your ability. It gives the reviewer confidence the project will actually get done.

Get additional information by also reading  Insider Knowledge: Tips from Funded Filmmakers

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