It may not sound like much in an era of $200 million mainstream movie budgets, but the generous five-figure production funding awarded to independent filmmakers by the Indie Grants program can make all the difference in the world.

Offering production grants ranging from $20,000 to $35,000 for narrative short film projects, Indie Grants is a joint project of Trident Technical College and the South Carolina Film Commission that adds another practical, hands-on layer to the former’s longtime film studies and production efforts. South Carolina filmmakers, experienced or novice, may apply.

Smaller supporting grants of $1,500 to $7,500 are allotted for finishing funds or other needs and require a different application.

The foundation for Indie Grants was laid in 2004 when the state legislature passed the Motion Picture Tax Incentives Act, which mandated that some monies be used for professional development and crew training. Indie Grants was introduced to buttress the efforts of indigenous production pros and provide professional training environments for Trident Tech film students.

“Originally, Clemson University, the University of South Carolina and Trident Tech were all involved,” says filmmaker Brad Jayne, a former grant recipient who now produces the revamped Indie Grants program. “But for various reasons we could not get it off the ground.

“Later, Trident Tech worked out a deal with the Film Commission whereby accomplished production professionals would be brought in to work with independent filmmakers in South Carolina to make short films. Trident Tech students gain technical training working under them. It’s greatly strengthened the state and local film community.”

Eligibility extends to any state-resident individual or filmmaking team.

Recent collaborators include Oscarwinning cinematographer Russell Carpenter (Titanic, Ant-Man), cinematographer Peter Simonite (The Perfect Guy), actor A.J. Bowen (You’re Next) and writer Brad Land (Goat).

Since 2010, Indie Grants has funded and produced 30 short films that were official selections of such respected international film festivals as Sundance, Slamdance and the Los Angeles, Austin, Nashville, Atlanta and Memphis fests, among others.

“The Indie Grants program provided me with an incredible opportunity to strengthen my voice as a filmmaker and gave me the guidance, tools and confidence I needed to help tell my story at its full potential,” says Charleston-based filmmaker Maria White, who directed The Final Adventure of John and Eleanor Greene in 2015 with her husband, Matthew Mebane. “The mentoring, collaboration and continued support are truly unique in independent filmmaking.”

From an original slate of five films annually at $15,000 each, Indie Grants has evolved into a program of two films a year with larger grants and increasingly professional production values.

When it comes to producing short films in the United States, there is simply no other program quite like Indie Grants, insists Ben Joyner, who directed Abducted earlier this year. “Not only did they provide us with the financial support we needed, but invaluable guidance, collaboration and a genuine desire to help make our film a success. The whole experience made me incredibly proud to be a South Carolina filmmaker.”

Selected projects for the 2019 – 2020 Indie Grants application process were announced in September. Submissions will be accepted beginning in March.

Indie Grants also shepherds the Young Filmmakers Project, which is designed to help develop the next generation of South Carolina filmmakers. The statewide competition is open to all high school students in grades 9 – 12.

For further information, visit indiegrants .org or email or The website also has a selection of Indie Grants videos to view.

Bill Thompson covers the arts, film and books.

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