Fiscal Sponsorship FAQs
Do I need to be a Film Society member to apply for fiscal sponsorship?
Yes, you must be a member at the Filmmaker Pro level or higher.
Is there a fee to apply for fiscal sponsorship?
There is a $40 application fee due with your application. If you are applying for Express Service, then the application fee is a total of $100 ($40 regular application fee and $60 for the express service fee). You will be asked to pay the application fee before as you fill out your application form.
Are there any fees once I am approved?
There is a seven percent administration fee on all funds managed by the Film Society up to $100,000. After you raise $100,000 the fee is five percent. This fee covers the overhead expenses associated with managing the program. Donations made by credit card are subject to an extra three percent to cover the merchant account processing fees.
If my application needs work, will you help me?
The project development & fiscal sponsorship staff review all proposals and provide a detailed critique on all aspects of the submitted package. If there is a substantial amount of changes required, we will ask you to send us a revised proposal for further consideration. Our suggestions are made from the perspective of the funder and with the goal to help you create the most competitive blueprint possible.
What should I include in my proposal?
The project proposal which should be uploaded in your application form should include the following sections in the order below:
Title Page with an image and logline
Synopsis (300 words or less)
Treatment (2-5 pages)
Current status with completion timeline
Key personnel bios
Budget summary and detailed breakdown
What do I write in the background section?
The background is the most academic part of your proposal. It introduces the reader to the issues behind the specific story and provides a link for your project to the broader socio-political or cultural issues it represents. It does not explain the filmmaker’s personal relationship to the story and should not be in first person narration. It acts as the exposition to your film.
What is a synopsis?
A synopsis is a summary given in brief terms that covers the major points of the subject matter. In many cases it refers to the plot or facts of a film, book or some other kind of narrative. Synopses are usually more in-depth than a mere summary and aim to give a fair idea of the topic. In many cases, however, they will omit spoilers or only introduce the subject. In the case of a plot, they will cover only the first portion, often to try to make the audience see or read the real thing.
What is a film treatment?
A narrative treatment is an abridged script, longer than a synopsis. It consists of a summary of each major scene of a proposed movie and descriptions of the significant characters. It reads like a short story. While a complete script is around 100 pages, a treatment is closer to ten pages or less. Please also include the look and feel of the film.
How long/detailed should my distribution and marketing section be?
This depends on the phase of production your project is in. Most funders will look for approximately one page of your well-researched plan of action in regards to the film’s outreach and distribution. Be as detailed as possible in identifying a clear strategy that will bring your project successfully out to the world.
What is an above-the-line cost?
This is an accounting term used by commercial production companies to refer to initial budgeted expenses for the producer, director, cast and scriptwriter working on a film production. This cost relates to nontechnical personnel and creative elements, such as artwork or graphics in the production.
What is a below-the-line cost?
This is an accounting term for production costs incurred for equipment, props, special effects, rentals, location fees and anything else of a technical nature needed for a specific commercial shoot. It also includes any insurance or taxes that must be paid as a result of the production requirements of the project.
My project is not a documentary. Would you still consider me for fiscal sponsorship?
We fiscally sponsor projects that comply with the San Francisco Film Society’s mission. That is, we support works that are educational, noncommercial, not-for-hire, and that constitute an imaginative contribution to the film or video form. As long as you can display adherence to these requirements, your project is eligible for a fiscal sponsorship with us.
Please note that we no longer offer fiscal sponsorship to filmmakers that plan on using a hybrid model to fundraise for their projects, utilizing commercial and non-profit means of support.
Can I have more than one fiscal sponsor?
The San Francisco Film Society does NOT allow its fiscally sponsored projects to have additional fiscal sponsors unless a) you plan on seeking funding from government organizations that SFFS does not prepare applications for (i.e. NEH or NSF) or b)you are applying for a grant that requires you to have a local (non-Bay Area) fiscal sponsor in order to receive the grant. We request that our fiscally sponsored filmmakers always notify us when receiving grants through their secondary fiscal sponsor. If this is not communicated, fiscal sponsorship with SFFS may be revoked.
Does SFFS hold any creative rights over the finished film?
As your fiscal sponsor SFFS does not interfere with intellectual property rights over the film. We act as a mediator between donors and the filmmaker and ask that you include our logo in all printed/online materials during the duration of your fiscal sponsorship as well as in the film’s end credits.
Can I apply for fiscal sponsorship with the Film Society if I don't live in California?
Yes. Our program is national. You can live anywhere, even in another country as long as one of your project’s named project directors has a Social Security number, EIN (employer identification number) or ITIN (independent taxpayer identification number) or other type of IRS registration.
Can I still apply for fiscal sponsorship with the Film Society if I am not a US citizen?
Yes. You do not need to be a U.S. citizen to apply for fiscal sponsorship with SFFS. However, at least one of your project‚s named project directors will need to have a social security number, EIN (employer identification number), ITIN (independent taxpayer identification number), or other type of IRS registration.
Does the Film Society help me raise money for my project?
It is the responsibility of each project director to raise funds for their projects. We provide helpful fundraising tips to use when starting out, and our staff is always available to answer your questions and provide guidance. See our Resources page for foundation information.
Does SFFS submit applications on my behalf?
In most cases the filmmaker is responsible for submitting their own grant applications. Please contact us if your application needs to be submitted by your fiscal sponsor.
Does SFFS provide feedback on applications prior to filmmakers submitting them directly to foundations?
We are more than happy to provide feedback if there is sufficient time to do so. Applications must be received three weeks prior to grant deadlines.
How do I donate to a project listed on the Film Society Web site?
- Select the project you would like to donate to from the list of current projects on sffs.org.
- Click “Donate to this project now,” which takes you to the shopping cart.
- Fill in the amount you would like to donate.
- Proceed with the credit card donation.