The arts are in a crisis, and many of the benchmarks that we have to celebrate and support them—including the annual Full Frame Festival—have been cancelled because of the pandemic. Resources that felt scant before have grown more competitive, as artists and creative projects are thrust into precarious positions. 

It’s especially nice, then, to see new funding like The Southern Documentary Fund’s Emergency Research and Development Grant, which will give grants to ten filmmakers. Each grant is $5,000; the application period opened on April 28 and will close on June 7. Grants will be awarded by July 15, 2020. 

“We are extraordinarily gratified by the generosity and support of the MacArthur Foundation for the efforts of the SDF,” Peter Gilbert, President of the SDF Board, said in a press release. “The documentary film world has taken a huge hit because of the COVID19 crisis, and filmmakers are under extreme pressure with productions being cancelled or postponed. Through the Emergency Research and Development Grant Program and our ongoing efforts, we will be able to offer makers much needed support to continue their projects.” 

The Southern Documentary Fund, an arts nonprofit based out of downtown Durham, has been a resource for filmmakers exploring the American South since its founding in 2002. 

Applications are open to filmmakers in the following states: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. The Southern Documentary Fund is based in Durham. 

News of the grant came alongside another announcement: the departure of interim executive director SDF Jenny Slattery. Peter Gilbert, a producer and director who also serves as a professor of practice in the MFA Documentary Film Program at Wake Forest University, will now serve as interim executive director of the organization on a volunteer basis. 

A list of previous winners for the Research and Development Grant can be found here

Contact deputy arts and culture editor Sarah Edwards at

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