Posted 12 August 2022

How to fund your first film: 20 funding schemes for emerging filmmakers

There are lots of practicalities to consider when it comes to making your first film. From your script and storyboard to curating your ultimate cast, you might already have made lots of decisions – but working out how you’re going to fund your film can be one of the most important. The good news is that help is available. Here we share some tips to get you started, along with a selection of funding opportunities available to emerging filmmakers in the UK.

While it’s totally possible to make a film on a shoestring, turning your idea into a watchable reality often requires some level of funding. Luckily, there’s lots of ways that people approach this for their early productions:

🏦 Self-fund your project

If you’re shooting a lo-fi production on an iPhone or using DSLR cameras, you might consider creating a micro-budget film with independent resources. This might mean using your savings or taking out a loan.

Even if you’re shooting on an iPhone, fIlmmaking can be an expensive business! Depending on the scale of your project, you might find that you need to invest in everything from basic equipment and editing software – and if your production grows – factoring in larger costs like catering and insurance to ensure a functional and safe set.

Either way, you’ll need to consider what is fair and reasonable for your project, but you may want to consider expenses for things like:

  • Location hire or permits
  • Camera, lighting and sound equipment
  • Insurance
  • Catering for the set
  • Props, travel and transport
  • Contingency (basically, money to cover any unforeseen costs)

🤝 Collaborate to share skills

Take a look around at your network; do you know anyone with complementary skills who might be up for collaborating? Search for likeminded creatives with a similar level of experience, and who would also benefit from building their showreel.

If you’re a director, why not reach out to a fellow editor or cinematographer? The idea here is to get as close to a no-budget production as possible, framing the film as a passion project in which many enthusiastic hands come together in a jointly unpaid effort. Of course, it is always great practice for everyone to get paid whenever possible on set, but when starting out, it can be mutually beneficial to help each other out.

💻 Consider crowdfunding

Crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter help you to set a clear initial target for funding, and can also be a great opportunity to practise your pitch and spread the word about your project. Crowdfunding is particularly useful for raising money for films that can connect with an audience, something they feel strongly enough about to want to support. This could be because of an intended social impact, or an underrepresented subject matter that other people will recognise as a story that needs highlighting.

👀 Explore official funding sources

Last but not least, you can of course apply for official funding. There are plenty of opportunities out there, so it’s worth doing your research to find the right ones to apply to. Keep an eye on any schemes focused on emerging talent, such as BBC New Creatives and Channel 4’s Random Acts for short experimental films.

While applying for grants and funding can be competitive, it’s always worth giving it a go. Rejection is an inevitable part of all creative careers, so try not to feel too disheartened if things don’t go your way. Know that many seasoned pros have gone through the very same thing; use it as fuel for future films, and a chance to refine your offer the next time around.

20 funding schemes for emerging filmmakers

With so many options out there, below, we’ve put together a list of resources to give you a starting point, and a sense of what might be right for you.

It’s good to note that many grants and awards only open once a year for applications. It’s worth reading their websites to get a sense of whether they might be right for you, or following their social channels to stay up to date on any future funding announcements and application deadlines.

1. BFI Network

Good for: Short film and early feature funding
Location: UK with local hubs (North, Midlands, London, South East, South West)
Applications open: Dates to be announced in autumn 2022, with funds set to launch from April 2023 onwards

BFI Network exists to support, develop and champion new filmmakers looking to kick-start their careers. Using National Lottery funding, they collaborate with film organisations and leading cultural venues across the UK to provide short film and early feature development funding, industry-backed professional development and networking support to producers, writers and directors of all ages.

If you’re an emerging UK-based writer, director or producer, you can also use their regularly updated Funding Finder tool to find opportunities.

Visit BFI Network here
Find out more about short film funding here
Find out more about early development funding here

2. Doc Society

Good for: Documentary filmmakers
Location: Worldwide
: There are two calls a year for feature documentaries, and one for shorts. Sign up to their newsletter here to stay updated on latest funds and deadlines

Based in London and New York, non-profit Doc Society works with filmmakers and partners all over the world to enable great documentary films and connect them to audiences globally.

In the UK, the BFI and Doc Society Fund supports creative and hybrid feature documentaries and short films by diverse creative voices.

Visit Doc Society here

3. 4Stories

Good for: Emerging, diverse writers and directors
Location: UK

4Stories is aimed at finding genuinely diverse voices, exploring contemporary stories of and by communities that are rarely seen on mainstream television. They encourage applications from talent currently underrepresented in TV drama – including women, deaf and/or disabled people; ethnically diverse people and people from lower socio-economic groups.

Visit 4Stories here

4. The Whickers Awards

Good for: Emerging film and audio documentary-makers
Location: Worldwide

The Whickers fund and recognise original and innovative documentaries, with up to £130,000 available annually. Their Film and TV Funding Award is awarded to an emerging filmmaker from anywhere in the world with the most promising pitch for a director-led documentary.

Visit The Whickers Awards here
Follow The Whickers on Instagram here

5. Random Acts

Good for: Diverse voices, short and experimental art films
Location: UK and beyond

Channel 4’s Random Acts Brief operates on the premise that “the world is full of TV about artists; Random Acts should instead be TV by artists.” An initiative to champion innovative short art films that experiment with form and style, and provoke thought, Random Acts aims to showcase work from as diverse a range of creative people as possible. The 2022 brief encouraged submissions from disabled filmmakers.

Visit Random Acts here

6. Grey Moth Originals

Good for: Practical tools and support across all roles
Location: UK

Based in South East London, Grey Moth is a film studio bridging the gap between grassroots filmmaking and commercial production. Their Grey Moth Originals initiative aims to actively springboard emerging filmmakers into the industry. They donate funding, facilities, equipment, mentoring and training workshops to promising grassroots talent – from camera operators and editors to producers and directors.

Visit Grey Moth Originals here
Follow Grey Moth on Instagram here

7. Short Circuit

Good for: Emerging filmmakers including writers, directors and producers
Location: Scotland
: First Features scheme closes on Sunday 28th August 2022, 11.59pm

Short Circuit is Scotland’s hub for creative talent, aiming to support the creative and professional development of new and emerging writers, directors and producers. Their First Features fund looks to help Scotland-based filmmakers make their debut feature, with applications closing on Sunday 28th August 2022 at 11.59pm.

​​Visit Short Circuit here

8. The Flamin Fellowship

Good for: Emerging filmmakers
Location: England
Applications: Sign up to the Flamin newsletter and keep up to date on their Twitter and Instagram accounts for announcements on future opportunities

Created by Film London, Arts Council England and The Fenton Arts Trust, the Flamin Fellowship is a scheme for early-career artist filmmakers living in England. Part of Film London Artists’ Moving Image Network (Flamin), the fellowship aims to support the most exciting, innovative and challenging moving image practices from filmmakers at the early stages of their careers, with development and funding for new work.

Visit The Flamin Fellowship here

9. Creative Debuts

Good for: Black artists of any age
Location: UK
s: As this is a monthly rolling grant with no age limit, there is no deadline to apply, and the grant does not expect any outcomes or reporting

Set up to counter the fact that Black artists are systematically under-supported by the art world, the Black Artists Grant (BAG) by Creative Debuts offers no-strings attached financial support to help Black artists. They can spend the grant on whatever they want – be that making new work, buying equipment or materials, travel, research, exhibitions or conferences, or to even just cover some life expenses.

Visit Creative Debuts here

10. The Uncertain Kingdom

Good for: Funding for feature-length projects
Location: UK

The Uncertain Kingdom supports filmmakers whose work interrogates British culture; asking who we are, how we got here and where we are going. You can watch previous films made as part of the initiative here.

Visit The Uncertain Kingdom here

11. The Pitch Film Fund

Good for: Short film funding, filmmakers of any background
Location: UK
: It’s free to apply if you get your submission in by 12pm on Monday 12 September 2022. The final submission date is 12pm on Monday 3 October 2022, but it will cost £50 to apply

The Pitch Film Fund exists to give emerging filmmakers of any background a chance. The 2023 Fund is now open, offering an array of training and support – as well as £50,000 to spend on two short films falling broadly under the categories of comedy and drama, and which this year, will be inspired by the Bible.

Visit The Pitch Film Fund here

12. Scottish Documentary Institute: Bridging the Gap

Good for: Documentary filmmakers
Location: Scotland

Bridging the Gap aims to develop new talent, find new stories to tell and highlight new voices in documentary filmmaking. Opportunities include documentary development training, a cash budget, production support and up to one year of international festival distribution.

Visit Bridging the Gap here

13. Ffilm Cymru Wales: Ffolio

Good for: Training and development
Location: Wales

FFolio offers a not-for-profit training and development programme that comes with mentoring and BBC commissioning opportunities. It is for creative talent living in Wales without professional experience in audio or film production.

Visit Ffolio here

14. Ffilm Cymru Wales: Cinematic

Good for: Emerging filmmakers
Location: Wales

The Ffilm Cymru Wales: Cinematic scheme produces films from emerging Welsh filmmakers with bold and unique voices, showcasing creative appeal, commercial potential and market focus.

Visit Cinematic here

15. The British Short Film Awards: Film Fund

Good for: Short film funding
Location: UK

Each year, applications open to British filmmakers who are seeking funding for their short films. These short films need to be in pre-production and creators need to have a good plan of how the film will be made.

Visit The British Short Film Awards here

16. Other Brother Studios Film Fund

Good for: Short film funding
Location: UK
: The deadline for short film treatments is Friday 30th September 2022

Operating from Suffolk, Other Brother Studios are granting two filmmakers a year the opportunity to make a short film. Each filmmaker receives a £1,000 production budget; free use of Other Brother Studios basic filmmaking kit with training and supervision; mentoring support throughout the process from Other Brother Studios and their creative partners; and advice on what to do with the film when it’s completed.

Visit Other Brother Studios here

17. Roundhouse Film Fund

Good for: Institutional support for new talent
Location: Greater London
: Open twice a year

The Roundhouse Film Fund exists to support the next generation of filmmakers in creating dynamic, experimental content, with the added bonus of providing screening opportunities at Roundhouse festivals and shows.

Find out more about the Roundhouse Film Fund here

18. Mountainfilm Emerging Filmmaker Fellowship

Good for: Documentary filmmakers
Location: Worldwide, however, you must be currently residing in the US

Film organisation Mountainfilm launched their Emerging Filmmaker Fellowship in 2018 to support early-career documentary filmmakers. Aimed at those already in production or post-production on their first or second documentary, the fellowship provides one filmmaker with a yearlong mentorship, including edit and story consultation, networking opportunities and a $2,000 cash award.

Find out more about the Mountainfilm Emerging Filmmaker Fellowship here

19. Together TV’s Diverse Film Fund

Good for: Documentary filmmakers
Location: UK

Together TV’s Diverse Film Fund offers five emerging filmmakers up to £20,000 each to produce a 20-minute documentary. There’s a different focus each time; the latest was on queer lives.

Find out more about Together TV’s Diverse Film Fund here

20. Northern Ireland Screen: Short Film Schemes

Good for: Short film funding, writers, directors, producers
Location: Northern Ireland
: New Shorts Focus applications close on Friday 29th July at 5pm; Creative Animation applications also close on Friday 29th July

Northern Ireland Screen runs a number of short film schemes throughout the year. These schemes are aimed at developing Northern Ireland’s resident creative talent in the form of writer, director, producer teams.

Find out more about Northern Ireland Screen’s short film schemes here


This article is part of a series produced in collaboration with Fully Focussed and Today at Apple, designed to help inspire and support emerging filmmakers navigate the industry.

Written by Creative Lives in Progress