Cozy Up With Nonprofits!
If you have been wondering whether building friendships with nonprofit organizations might enhance your chances for success with you film, let me help you decide. Get on it now! Forming partnerships with nonprofits is one of the smartest things an indie filmmaker can do right now to get a leg up on funding, finding good interview subjects, creating innovative screening opportunities, and much, much more.
Let me tell you about a partnership I have formed with the East Meets West Foundation in Oakland, CA. Contrary to what the name suggest, East Meets West (EMW) is not a grant-making institution. Instead, EMW is a nonprofit that provides access to healthcare, clean water, and education for people in Southeast Asia, specifically Viet Nam. As I was plotting my course for my film, A Permanent Mark: Agent Orange in America and Viet Nam, earlier this year, I did some research and compiled a list of nonprofits that work in Viet Nam. My goal was to secure letters of support, suggestions on Agent Orange experts to interview in Viet Nam, and also to score a real partner with whom I could apply for grants, including the Creative Work Fund. I wrote letters and made follow-up calls to over a dozen nonprofits, but it was EMW, located right in my backyard, that welcomed me with open arms. After meeting the staff, getting to know them, discussing their own video projects, having lunch with them, asking them for advice on Vietnamese restaurants in the area, and taking them shopping at my favorite second-hand store, I now can safely say that I not only have a nonprofit partner, I have some friends.
In October, I traveled to Viet Nam and spent one full day working exclusively with EMW’s Viet Nam staff. They set up two interviews with children who are affected with cerebral palsy connected with Agent Orange exposure. We traveled together to both homes in two separate remote villages in Quang Ngai province. Their staff helped with translation, preparation, securing permits, and interfacing with local officials. The footage I secured at these interviews was beyond my expectations, and some of the most important to tell the story I envision for my film.
My original intent was fundraising-based, however, and that’s where I have more news to share. I am completing a letter of intent to the Creative Work Fund, a joint initiative of several foundations based in San Francisco that fund the arts. Every four years, the fund gives grants for film. I helped secure a $35,000 grant for a friend’s film, It Came From Kuchar, in 2006. Now, with the help of EMW, I am now applying for A Permanent Mark.
Finding the right nonprofit, forging a relationship with them, and nurturing that relationship have taken time and effort. Was it worth it? Yes, it sure was! And one key was that I thought not just about what I would get out of it, but I seriously considered what EMW would need and how I could help them. Giving and receiving. It is the key. I urge you to reach out and touch someone today at a nonprofit that shares the same goals and mission as your own film. MMMMMmmmm, cozy!