As storytelling and media become increasingly essential to social change efforts, creatives and funders are working even more closely. But these communities don’t necessarily share language, culture, expectations, or even a common vision. Too often, miscommunication gets in the way of great collaborations. That’s why, in 2009, we created The Prenups: What Funders and Creatives Should Talk about Before Tying the Knot.

The Prenups At-A-Glance:


Seasoned funders and filmmakers say that it’s important to have an honest discussion about each other’s experience in filmmaking and in philanthropy. From there, they need to clearly communicate their goals and...Read more...


This section covers editorial control, the input process, as well as the real-life contingencies of documentary filmmaking. Editorial control is one of the most contentious issues in relationships between filmmakers and funders....Read more...


Funder and filmmaker should discuss a budget that includes all phases of production, what the funder is covering, where there is flexibility and what additional costs may arise. Especially for the more...Read more...


The full Prenups guide includes perspectives from filmmakers and funders on how to effectively work together. Below are some of these perspectives. Explore other perspectives on filmmaker-funder partnerships and share your own opinions.

Filmmakers take a lot of risks, often don’t have health insurance and spend time in development working speculatively and without pay. When funding comes in, the filmmaker needs to make up for lost income and receive a decent wage that reflects their previous investment in the project.


The filmmaker has to understand that the money the funder brings could be spent elsewhere, and it’s being spent on this project because the funder cares about this issue and wants to see something good done.


There is value to letting a story unfold in a more nuanced, complex fashion—that is almost always a more effective way of drawing your audience in and making your point than hitting the audience over the head with it.


We’re held more and more accountable by our trustees for every dollar spent, [and therefore] filmmakers must be prepared for more scrutiny than ever before.


Some filmmakers might be tempted to lowball their budget, especially if a funder has pushed back on an original bottom line. But that can lead to compromised quality and even stalled production.


We want our grantees to keep us informed, so that to the extent possible we can be a source of knowledge. This relationship can be a beautiful thing for both the funder and the creative.


It’s hard when foundations are interested in outreach goals and objectives but don’t want to contribute to the production of the film. This limits impact because filmmakers are always struggling, and so it can be difficult to reach long-term objectives.


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