Chicago Forward Project

                                                                                  MEET THE CHICAGO FORWARD GRANTEES 


Kartemquin Films (KTQ) supports independent filmmakers to create impactful documentary films that foster a more just and engaged society. KTQ’s Chicago Forward grantees will receive funding to produce a demo-like piece (collection of scenes, extended trailer, etc) exploring broad themes emerging from the pandemic and renewed reckoning with racial injustice in Chicago’s communities. 

KTQ will award grants for makers advancing a short or feature documentary, with decisions made by a panel of diverse Chicago filmmakers. The initiative will pair grantees with dedicated mentors to provide guidance in the full year of their grant term and culminate in community-centered events.


Recognizing that artists have always played an important role in advancing the causes of justice and racial equity, DCASE is supporting artists and arts organizations in developing projects that engage the public in a constructive, civic dialogue that will propel our collective action, facilitate progress, and make Chicago a model city for the nation as it faces the difficult work ahead. Seven arts organizations, including Kartemquin Films, are receiving funds to re-grant to approximately 60 artists. 

The "Arts 77" grant project is a citywide arts recovery and reopening plan for all of Chicago’s 77 community areas, representing an initial investment of over $60 million to support local artists and organizations. 

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The purpose of this grant is to invest in and provide seed funding to Chicago documentary or nonfiction projects made in response to the societal upheaval we have experienced, from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, to the racial reckoning reignited by the murder of George Floyd, and beyond. Eligible projects will be those that have not yet cultivated significant financial or industry support. Funding support will also focus on emerging filmmakers, with openness to storytellers who may be newer to the form or who are exploring compelling and participatory ways to illuminate a story close to their hearts. 

Applicants should propose self-defined projects, based in and focusing on Chicago, according to their own vision, which could range from exploring public health inequities to systemic injustices re-exposed or deepened by the crisis to stories of community and resilience.

Projects will receive priority consideration that:

  • Address public safety, equity and access.
  • Are associated with repair and rebuilding, in a post-COVID landscape, on the South and West sides of Chicago.
  • Activate Chicago communities and institutions to address broader social issues, opportunities and challenges.
  • Are a tool to inspire community organizing, civic engagement and participation.
  • Activate vacant or underutilized spaces by infusing community participation in the project to enhance the quality of life for residents.
  • Seek to celebrate and preserve the cultural traditions of underrepresented or historically/traditionally excluded groups.
  • Recognize and illuminate the character defining attributes of Chicago’s neighborhoods. 

Projects applying for funding should be in early development. Funding may be used for the following or similar purposes:

  • Exploratory research in the topic or theme of the film
  • Outreach to participants/subjects 
  • Seeding collaboration with partner creatives and/or organizations,
  • Creating a demo for fundraising
  • Creating a proof of concept and pitch deck

Projects with a major investor, streamer or other distributor attached to the project are not eligible. 

Applicants must:

  • Be an individual artist, not a team or organization.
  • Be residents of the City of Chicago.
  • Be a resident of the neighborhood where the project will take place, or be working in collaboration with a resident, organization, or small business in that neighborhood. 

Applicants must demonstrate past creative work in documentary or nonfiction filmmaking, or in a related form, such as photography, multimedia production or installation, videography, graphic design, podcasts, audio stories, journalism, blogging, social media content, etc. Your role(s) in the past creative work samples you submit should be clearly described (director, writer, sole creator, producer, etc.) to indicate the level of direction you had in the project.

Applicants must provide links to past works (project websites, online portfolio, Vimeo, YouTube, etc.) If submitting a link to a personal portfolio, please indicate the specific work(s) that you would like the application reviewers to consider. You should submit no more than (3) for consideration, and reviewers will be unable to view more than 15 mins (if timed media) or 15 pages (if written) total for all works submitted.

The fund is limited to artists that are residents of the City of Chicago. We require proof of residency as part of the application in one of the following forms:

  • A current, valid ID with your name, photo and Chicago address, such as any Illinois state-issued identification. 

If you don’t have a photo ID with your name and current Chicago address, two pieces of current ID. One of these must include your name and Chicago address, and one must include your name and photo. Accepted forms of ID include:

  • Personal check (please write “VOID”)
  • Chicago Public Library card
  • Current telephone, gas, electric or cable bill, or other service provider billing statements
  • Mail postmarked within 30 days
  • Voter registration card

Post office box numbers are not accepted. If you don’t have a fixed address, you may use a letter certifying your Chicago residency from the social service agency where you receive mail.

Priority consideration will be given to applicants that are:

  • Living and/or working on a project based in the South or West side of Chicago
  • Identify as Black, Indigenous, Latina/e/o/x, Middle Eastern or North African, Asian, Asian American or Pacific Islander, or other person of color
  • Creatives of historically/traditionally excluded communities, such as the LGBTQIA+ or disability community
  • Those who have meaningful connections to the communities on which their project focuses

Anyone currently working at Kartemquin is ineligible. Grantees may be alumni of KTQ programs, but we also invite and strongly encourage filmmakers who have not formerly engaged in the KTQ community to apply.

Grants will be awarded in an estimated range from $5,000 - $10,000 for both short and feature-length documentary/nonfiction film projects. Applicants should indicate what the total runtime for their project (overall length of the projected final version) will be and whether they see it as a short or feature film project.

Applicants may receive funding electronically or by paper check. Funding must be disbursed/received by December 31, 2021.

In addition to the direct grant award for the project, grantees will be assigned a mentor with experience in documentary filmmaking based in Chicago, as well as the chance to screen their in-progress project with the KTQ community of filmmakers for feedback.

Grantees should be prepared to submit a demo, sample or work-in-progress to KTQ by the end of October 2022 and screen that with their community and the wider KTQ Community by the end of 2022 (the end of the grant period). Additional funding will be provided to a community partner organization of the filmmaker’s choosing to host and promote the community screening of the project, with an additional all-grantee screening organized by KTQ open to the public, in the final quarter of 2022.


The timeline for the KTQ Chicago Forward fund will be as follows (subject to change, please check back for updates):

  • Application Open: Friday, July 16th, 5:00 PM CST - Friday, August 31st, 4:59 PM CST
  • Information Sessions *updated*: Late July - Early September (TBD) 
  • Application Deadline *updated*: Friday, October 1st
  • Applications Reviewed *updated*: October 2021
  • Notification of Decisions *updated*: Early November 2021
  • Funds disbursed *updated*: As early as November 31, 2021, and no later than December 31, 2021 (dependent on timely confirmation of grantee award acceptance, and receipt of agreement and disbursement information)
  • Mentors Assigned: By January 31, 2022
  • Midpoint check-in with KTQ Staff: Spring (April - May)
  • Work-in-progress screening and feedback: Late Summer 2022 (July - Sept 2022)
  • Projects submitted: Oct 31, 2022
  • Community screenings: Fall / Early Winter 2022 (Oct - Dec 2022, TBD)

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