Spark Fund (Archived)

The Spark Fund offered support to established independent documentary filmmakers who self-identify as Black, Indigenous, and/or people of color, and whose work on humanities-themed projects was disrupted by the COVID-19 public health emergency.


Note: The application for the Spark Fund is now closed.




This one-time opportunity, which was underwritten by the National Endowment for the Humanities’ Sustaining the Humanities through the American Rescue Plan (#SHARP) Grantmaking initiative, provided stipends rather than project support to selected filmmakers.

The Spark Fund provided 36 stipends of $50,000 to selected filmmakers over the period of one year, for their use in alleviating financial hardship and work disruptions endured from the COVID-19 pandemic. Guidelines are archived below.

Selected filmmakers must be working on a humanities-themed project. The Spark Fund is particularly interested in supporting filmmakers whose projects are aligned with the NEH’s “A More Perfect Union” initiative, including those that:

  • explore, reflect on, and tell the stories of the quest for a more just, inclusive, and sustainable society throughout US history;
  • bring the perspective of the humanities to questions of racial justice, gender equality, the evolution of the United States landscape, and the nation’s role in the world;
  • strengthen public knowledge of the principles of democracy, constitutional governance, equity, and human rights; and/or
  • highlight the experiences of Indigenous people and nations as well as other communities severely underrepresented in the media landscape, including those in US territories, as well as the history of relationships among historically disenfranchised or marginalized communities.
  • Documentary Directors or Director/Producers are eligible to apply. Producers or editors who are not also Directors are ineligible.
  • Directors must self-identify as Black, Indigenous, and/or a person of color, and must either be a U.S. citizen or have resided in the U.S. for a minimum of 3-years prior to December 29, 2021.
  • Applicants must have previously directed at least one of the following: 1 documentary feature (40+ minutes); or 2 documentary episodes (30 + minutes); or a minimum of 3 documentary shorts (less than 40 minutes) receiving exhibition in a qualifying festival and/or theatrical, broadcast or SVOD distribution.
  • Applicants must be actively working on a non-fiction documentary project (short, mid-length or feature) with a social humanities theme. Projects can be in active development, production, or post-production, but cannot be completed.
  • Applicants must have endured financial hardship due to the pandemic, and stipends must be used to help them address the pandemic’s negative economic and creative impacts.
  • Applicants cannot be enrolled in a degree-granting program, under age 18, retired, or on Social Security Disability with no work attachment. K-12 teachers and administrators are not eligible.
  • Applicants cannot be engaged by Firelight Media as an officer, employee, or member of the board of directors.

Want more information about the Spark Fund and the application?

View Frequently Asked Questions here.

Ver preguntas frecuentes en español aquí.


Applications will be reviewed according to the following criteria:

  • Applicant is a mid-career filmmaker with a demonstrated commitment to documentary filmmaking
  • Disruption of work and livelihood caused by the pandemic
  • Relevance and importance of humanities themes, and thoughtfulness with respect to integrating humanities scholars and/or scholarship into project
  • Filmmaker Statement conveying overall filmmaking mission, creative approach, and intended impact for the finished project

Eligible filmmakers will receive notification of their application status in March 2022.

The American Rescue Plan: Humanities Grantmaking program is an emergency relief program intended to fund grantmaking programs that assist organizations and individuals working in the humanities who have been adversely affected by the coronavirus pandemic and require support to restore and sustain their core activities. The National Endowment for the Humanities has funded 13 grantmaking programs: six grantmaking programs for individuals and seven grantmaking programs for organizations. Collectively, these awards will support approximately 145 individuals and as many as 625 organizations. Learn more:

Funding for this program is provided by
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