I thought it would be interesting to some, and even helpful to others, to ge an inside look at an application to the Austin Film Society's Development Grant. In this 5-part series I'll explain all of the requirements to you-- as well as share the materials I submitted. Here we go!
The application was for a $5000 development grant. They are looking for artists who have a body of work— I, of course, asked them exactly what that meant…they didn’t have a specific metric for that but two pieces of work was enough. I asked this because they are only offering four grants and I know that 100's of people will apply so I wanted to make sure that my body of work would be enough to capture their attention.
In addition to proof of residency and links to our work we were asked for an Artist’s Statement, Project Description, Letters of Support (optional) and supporting materials.
Today I will share with you the Artist’s Statement. It took me at least two hours to write this one. Why? Check out what they asked for and you may get an idea:
Approximately 1 page of background describing yourself as a filmmaker, the principles driving your artistic inquiry, what you are coming from and where you are headed creatively, and where this project fits into your artistic and/or career path. This should help the committee understand why this project is the next best step for you.
That's a lot of info for one page! In fact I had mistakenly thought this was a two-page document when I wrote up the first draft. I had been so happy with my two pages! Then discovered I had to decrease it by half- eek! But this was a great exercise because it forced me to think through the “who I am, where I am, where I am going and why I am going there” and be really concise in expressing it. That gives me a really solid place from which to launch. I can also use this statement as a measuring stick when I need to narrow down ideas. I have alot of them and it's difficult to decide which ones I should develop and which ones I should drop so now I can hold them up to this statement and see if they align or not. If they don't I have permission to let them swim away until another day.
I decided to write the statement from a place of truth and be a bit more casual than some grant writers might encourage. I think that makes some of it stronger and this is one of the only ways that they will get to hear my voice which is an essential part of my work. Here is what I wrote:
Jenni Tooley Artist’s Statement
Who is Jenni Tooley? In the third person…
Jenni is perhaps best known for her work as Annie, Ethan Hawke's second wife, in Richard Linklater's award-winning Boyhood. Additional film and television credits include The Night Shift, Walker Texas Ranger, Wishbone, Arlington Road, and Wes Anderson's first feature, Bottle Rocket. In 2007, she stepped behind the camera and wrote, directed, produced, and edited a short film called The Safety of Others. The film premiered at South By Southwest, toured 12 cities in the US, Canada, and Great Britain, and won WorldFest Houston's "Best Comedy Short." Jenni's first feature as a filmmaker, STUCK, is a fiercely independent female-driven art film that took 20 years to come to fruition. Jenni served as screenwriter, producer, director, and editor and has a lead role in the film. STUCK' s $50,000 budget was funded through crowd-funding campaigns and grassroots efforts. Two hundred fifty backers, cast, and crew supported the production with their time, talent, and resources. It premiered at the 2019 Women Texas Film Festival and has been distributed on Prime Direct and Vimeo VOD.
Who is Jenni Tooley? In the first person…
I am a storyteller. I love manifesting the intangible. Even if we don't understand the result intellectually, we may understand it emotionally or physically. My favorite films affect the viewer on a visceral level. I love film as a medium because it encompasses so many of our senses. I want people to walk away from my work having had an experience. Even better is when an audience member also walks away with a deeper understanding of themselves or the world.
My goal is this: make the films I want to make in the best way that I can with each film increasing in quality. I want to make these films with people I love to collaborate with, people who respect each other and the process. I want my work to be well-produced stories about women (and men) that ring true and are life-affirming but still edgy. I want to collaborate with, hire, and mentor as many other women as I can along the way. I will continue to use inclusivity and transparency to build my community and to get my movies made.
Why work on the second project now?
I want to strike while the iron is still hot. I plan to leverage the community and audience that I have already built around STUCK to make the second film. What I learned on STUCK regarding my strengths and weaknesses is still fresh in my mind and will be used to make the second feature better than the first.
Where does this film fit into my career path?
I started my feature career with the hardest script first. Now it's time to backpedal and produce a more manageable and commercially accessible project. I have two scripts already in the hopper. Like STUCK, they are massive undertakings. I am not in a position to ramp up so quickly. **** is a more manageable film that will allow me to further develop my skills, continue to build my audience/backer base, and produce a higher quality, more accessible calling card to use as proof of "the Jenni Tooley" brand- which will lead to higher budget productions. I also need to get over the second film hump- I sat on a panel where two notable indie producers talked about how the second film is harder to make than the first. I want to prove them wrong.
Why AFS's support is crucial
I admit it. I'm exhausted. Making a film the way I did required massive amounts of time, energy, and tenacity. I also relied heavily on the support of my backers and team, who came close to burning out. This time around, I want to change that— that is why I am asking for financial assistance.
After so many years of juggling so many administrative and producer-based tasks, I need a protected creative space where my mind can freely wander without distraction. $5000 would create a 2-month bubble in which I could work on writing and dreaming ****.
Not only would $5000 go a long way to decreasing financial stress, but receiving an AFS Grant would make raising production and post-production funds a lot easier. And it would get my community pumped up about the next feature!
Thank you for your consideration.
So there you have it! The Artist's Statement! I will share more pieces of the application with you over the next few weeks:)
Much love to you all-