Top 3 reasons for playing the festival circuit:
1. Get your work viewed by a broader audience.
2. Build critical buzz through word-of-mouth and press reviews.
3. Draw the attention of potential
investors or distributors.
Award-winning documentarian Byron Hurt has received grants and prizes to make his films. Currently Hurt is finishing up Soul Food Junkies, a project he chose after he saw his father plagued by health challenges and obesity. That experience led him to question soul food as a culinary tradition.
Before tackling the topic of food, Hurt made three other films, including I Am a Man: Black Masculinity in America, and Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats &Rhymes, a documentary that tackles issues of masculinity, sexism, violence, and homophobia in hip-hop culture, which appeared at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival and on PBS’s Independent Lens series.
To get Soul Food Junkies launched, Hurt did a modest amount of crowd funding. He embarked on his own online fundraising campaign. The goal was to get people to donate $1 each. He was able to accept tax-deductible donations through a fiscal sponsor, Third World Newsreel. His fundraising efforts netted a little more than $1,600. “I reached out to my personal contacts, friends, and colleagues, sending an e-mail or two, asking them to donate as much as they could.” He also received $1,000 from the Aepoch Fund, an experimental foundation.
Hurt then approached the Independent Television Service’s (ITVS) Commissioning Fund and submitted a treatment that delineated how he would shape his narrative, and what it would look like on the screen. The fund gave him $25,000 to research his subject. He used the money to buy books and connect with soul food historians, cooks, restaurateurs, and people in the food justice movement. He also shot footage for a trailer that would convince ITVS that an hour-long program on the subject would be worthy of their investment.
Hurt resubmitted a longer version of his trailer and treatment, securing grants from ITVS, for more than $200,000. He used that as leverage to get an additional $100,000 from the Ford Foundation. “The vast majority of those funds went into staffing and crew, administrative costs, and editing,” he says.
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