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Bridging Cultures Through Film

Grant: Bridging Cultures through Film: International Topics
Agency: National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH)
Division: Division of Public Programs
Deadline: June 10, 2015

Description: The Bridging Cultures through Film: International Topics program supports projects that examine international and transnational themes in the humanities through documentary films. These projects are meant to spark Americans’ engagement with the broader world by exploring one or more countries and cultures outside of the United States. Proposed documentaries must be analytical and deeply grounded in humanities scholarship.

The Division of Public Programs encourages the exploration of innovative nonfiction storytelling that presents multiple points of view in creative formats. The proposed film must range in length from a standard broadcast length of 30 minutes to a feature-length documentary.

A wide range of approaches to international and transnational topics and themes will be accepted, including:

  • An examination of a critical issue in ethics, religion, or history, viewed through an international lens.
  • An exploration of a topic that transcends a single nation-state, with the topic being explored across borders.
  • A biography of a foreign leader, writer, artist, or historical figure.
  • An exploration of the history and culture(s) of a specific region, country or community outside of the United States.

Through this grant program, NEH will fund film and video projects that will be nationally distributed and will reach a large audience.

Two levels of support for documentary films are available: development and production. Filmmakers can apply for either development or production funding, but not both simultaneously.

Development funds support filmmakers for a wide range of activities that include but are not limited to collaboration with scholars to develop humanities content, research, preliminary interviews, travel and the creation of partnerships for outreach activities (public engagement with the humanities). Applicants must have obtained the commitment of humanities scholars to serve as advisers to the project prior to applying for a development grant. Development funds should culminate in a script and identify the producer, director and writer for the production phase. Funds may also be applied to the production of a trailer.

Production funds support filmmakers in various stages of production and post-production. Applicants must submit a script for a production grant. This script should demonstrate a solid command of the humanities ideas and scholarship related to the subject matter. Applicants must have consulted with appropriate humanities scholars about the project and must have obtained their commitment to advise the project.

Applicants for development grants are strongly encouraged, and applications for production grants are required, to demonstrate international collaboration by enlisting scholars based both in the United States and abroad, and/or by working with an international media team.

Fit for public broadcasting: Public media stations create and air many programs that help Americans engage with and understand countries and cultures outside of the United States. By partnering with international and domestic humanities scholars, local stations can use funding from this program to plan or produce a film that introduces viewers to an international topic or theme. Because the program allows the proposed films to be the length of a standard broadcast or of a feature-length documentary, local stations are able to create programs specifically to be aired on public TV, as long as the project is not an on-going series. In order to be eligible to receive funding, the proposed film project must not advocate a particular program of social or political action or be designed to persuade audiences of a particular point of view. This commitment to education, instead of partisanship, aligns well with the programming goals of public broadcasting.

Previous public broadcasting grantees:

  • In 2012, WNED received a $73,150 grant to support the development of a two-hour documentary entitled The Railway that Built a Nation about the creation of Canada's first transcontinental railway.
  • In 2010, WNET received a $405,710 grant to produce a one-hour documentary entitled Women, War & Peace: The Balkans, examining the impact of civil war in the Balkans on women and the first international trial for crimes of sexual violence in wartime.

Eligibility: Any U.S. nonprofit organization with IRS 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status is eligible, as are state and local governmental agencies. Independent producers who wish to apply for NEH funding must seek an eligible organization to sponsor the project and submit the application to NEH.

Anticipated funding: Awards are for one to three years and for up to $75,000 (for development) and up to $650,000 (for production). On average, NEH typically makes six awards per competition. Successful applicants will be awarded a grant in outright funds, matching funds, or a combination of the two, depending on the applicant’s preference and the availability of funds. Successful applicants may be awarded all of their requested funding, but in most cases, NEH will only be able to fund up to 50-60 percent of a project’s costs.

How to apply: Applicants are encouraged to contact NEH program officers who will answer questions about the review process, supply samples of funded applications relevant to this grant program and review preliminary drafts. NEH recommends that drafts be submitted at least six weeks before the deadline, so that staff will have adequate time to respond. Draft proposals should be sent as attachments to e-mail messages.

Final applications for this program must be submitted at Online submission requires registration, a process that usually takes three to five business days but can take as long as four weeks. Be sure to visit and begin registering well in advance of the deadline.

Program Notice
Program Website
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Frequently Asked Questions about this program
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Because of the Grant Center’s relationship with NEH, interested public television applicants can contact Program Officer Danielle Shapiro with specific questions.


This Grant Center profile is not an official federal document but a brief synopsis of a federal program. Be sure to consult the program website and material as the authoritative source for specific details about the program and application process.