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A nod to nonfiction

IFP/New York sets fund to back feature docs

For the first time in its 25-year history, Independent Feature Project New York will extend its reach beyond logistical support of independent feature production into active financing with the establishment of the Anthony Radziwill Documentary Fund, a move that reflects the increased prominence of nonfiction in the indie spectrum.

Starting in June, the fund will award six to 10 development grants of $10,000 annually to feature-length nonfiction projects at proposal stage by U.S. filmmakers.

The new initiative makes IFP/New York one of a limited number of orgs supplying seed money to U.S. docs, without restrictions based on subject matter or the regional base of the filmmaker. The fund will encourage proposals across a broad range of topics from filmmakers at all levels of professional experience.

Nonfiction features have experienced an increased theatrical profile in the past year with such titles as “Capturing the Friedmans,” “Spellbound,” “Winged Migration” and “My Architect.”

This is reflected also in the choice by the Sundance fest, indiedom’s barometer, to open for the first time with a documentary, Stacy Peralta’s slice of surfing life, “Riding Giants.”

However, despite the boost, docu funding remains an arduous business.

Tough road

“All independent film financing is difficult, and documentary funding is generally acknowledged to be the most difficult,” said IFP/New York exec director Michelle Byrd.

“For documentarians seeking funding for a project, it is generally the early stages of development — for research, preliminary interviews, treatment development, building sample reel material and to secure further funding — for which it is most difficult to find money from outside sources,” she continued. “It is at this stage that modest amounts of funding can go a long way.”

Deadline for the initial Radziwill grant cycle is March 1, with a first batch of three to five projects to be seeded in June. The scheme then will follow a six-month grant cycle, with funding awarded each January and June.

Fund is named in memory of the late Emmy-winning docu producer Anthony Radziwill and was originally established in 2000 as a prize for completed nonfiction features as part of the IFP Gotham Awards. The first three recipients were Aiyana Elliott’s “The Ballad of Ramblin’ Jack,” Edet Belzberg’s “Children Underground” and Whitney Dow and Marco Williams’ “Two Towns of Jasper.”

The decision was made last year to rework the award as a funding grant. Further information and applications can be found at www.ifp.org/docfund.

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