We’re in the Movies (1940)

Town portrait of Traverse City, Michigan, created to help raise money for disadvantaged children, preserved by the History Center of Traverse City with NFPF support.

Avant-Garde Masters Grants


Overview  |  Eligibility  |  How to Apply  |  Notification  |  Preservation Checklist  |  Sample Applications


The National Film Preservation Foundation invites applications for the Avant-Garde Masters Grants. These cash preservation grants, made possible in partnership with The Film Foundation, support laboratory work to preserve significant examples of America's avant-garde film heritage. The grants are available to nonprofit and public archives. Funding is generously provided by the Hobson/Lucas Family Foundation.

By its very nature avant-garde film is hard to define. Avant-garde film is generally produced and distributed outside mainstream film channels. Often created by a single filmmaker or a small team, these films are intended as artistic expressions. They often experiment with the film medium in unique and personal ways.

This grant supports the preservation of a film or films by a single filmmaker or from a cinematic group significant to the development of avant-garde film in America. Works made within the last twenty years are not eligible. Applications should show how the proposed titles have made a significant contribution to American experimental film or, if the works are lesser known today, demonstrate how the films will contribute to a better understanding of avant-garde film history. Proposals must also explain why the proposed films are in need of preservation and include plans detailing how the films will be made available to the public and the scholarly community.

This grant will fund several preservation projects ranging between $5,000 and $50,000.

  • Registration Deadline: May 1, 2024
  • Application Deadline: June 7, 2024
  • Grant Period: August 2024 to October 2025

Grants are available to public and 501(c)3 nonprofit archives in the United States, including those that are part of federal, state, or local government. The grants target avant-garde films made in the United States or by American citizens abroad and not physically preserved by commercial interests. Materials originally created for television or video are not eligible, including works produced with funds from broadcast or cable television entities.

The grant must be used to pay for new laboratory work involving the creation of:

  • New film preservation elements (which may include sound tracks) and
  • Two new public access copies, one of which must be a film print.

The funds can be applied only to work commissioned after the grant start date. Funds must be used exclusively for preservation expenses and may not be applied to staffing or operational costs.

  1. Identify film or films to be preserved

    Identify materials in your collection that meet the criteria listed above and decide what laboratory work needs to be done.

  2. Register with the NFPF

    E-mail the NFPF at regarding your archive's interest in applying. Provide your name, institution, phone number, fax number, mailing address, e-mail address, and a brief description of your project. The NFPF will then contact you to discuss your project. If your project meets the eligibility requirements, you will be invited to submit a letter of application. The registration deadline is May 1, 2024.

  3. Complete letter of application with laboratory cost estimate

    Prepare a brief letter of application (3 to 6 pages) that covers the following points:

    1. Research significance
      • How is the film material in your proposal important to the history of American avant-garde film?
      • Please provide detailed information about the proposed filmmaker or movement, descriptions of each film selected for preservation, the critical response, and any other pertinent information regarding reception and significance of the proposed works.
      • It is strongly recommended that the applicant provide at least two digital still images or a video copy of the proposed project.
    2. Rights to material
      • Please describe the provenance of the source materials. Does your institution have a deposit agreement for the proposed film? Has your institution discussed the proposed project with the copyright holders, donor, filmmaker, or the filmmaker's estate?
      • Does your archive have permission to show this material for on-site researchers and/or on-site public screenings at which no admission is charged?
      • Indicate if there are any other relevant donor restrictions regarding public access to the proposed material. Your organization will need to retain the physical rights to any new preservation material and prints funded through this grant.
    3. Uniqueness of your archive's film copy
      • What organizations, databases, and other resources have you checked to make sure that your archive's copy represents the "best surviving material" for that film and that the proposed work does not duplicate efforts by others? Have you contacted or made arrangements to collaborate with other organizations or individuals holding relevant source material?
      • Are rental or video copies of this film available through commercial distribution or video channels?
    4. Physical film description

      For more information on handling film, please consult The Film Preservation Guide: The Basics for Archives, Libraries, and Museums. These PDF files also include a Print Condition Report worksheet.

      • What is the length, gauge, and condition of the proposed film or collection?
      • How did your organization acquire the material?
      • From what type of source material will your archive be working?
    5. Description of preservation work and cost estimate
      • What laboratory work is requested? For sound films, indicate how you propose to preserve the sound.
      • As applicable, outline the preservation work already completed on the film or that would still need to be done after work funded by the grant.
      • Provide a written estimate for the preservation work.
      • If you are collaborating with another institution, include a letter from that institution briefly outlining its involvement with the project.
    6. Storage

      Describe your archival storage facilities and provide their temperature and humidity levels. Confirm that any new preservation masters created through the project will be stored under archivally acceptable conditions. If your organization does not have an archivally acceptable storage area for film, please include your plans for off-site storage. For more information on recommended storage practices, please see Chapter 6 of The Film Preservation Guide.

    7. Access plans

      Briefly summarize your institution's mission, collections, and public programs; include your Web site address and any brochures.

      • In addition to providing a viewing copy of the film for on-site research, how does your institution plan to make the film available to the public?
      • Does your institution have permission to show this material for Internet viewing, and/or on-site public screenings at which no admission is charged? Be sure to indicate if there are any other relevant donor restrictions regarding public access to the proposed material. (These are important considerations, given the public access mission of the NFPF.)
      • Describe plans for sharing the completed access copies outside of your institution. Do you plan exhibition loans or dissemination on video, television, or the Internet?
      • Public service mission
    8. Tax-exempt status

      Nonprofits, list your institution's tax identification number; government/public sector archives, provide some record or a letter demonstrating that your institution is part of state, regional, or local government.

    9. Matching funds

      Please indicate if your institution is prepared to provide matching funds to complete the project, should it go over budget.

    10. Contact information

      Provide the name, title, address, phone number, fax number, e-mail address, and professional biography of the project coordinator (one paragraph).

  4. Submit application

    All applications are due by June 7, 2024. They may be submitted as PDF or Word files to or mailed in hard copy to the following address.

National Film Preservation Foundation
145 Ninth Street, Suite 260
San Francisco, CA 94103

The proposals will be read by NFPF staff and outside reviewers. Awards will be made by a grant panel serving on behalf of the NFPF Board of Directors.


Applicants will be notified regarding grant decisions by August 2024.


Successful applicants must sign an agreement affirming the responsibilities of the grant. Nonprofit grant winners will be asked to provide a copy of the IRS determination letter verifying their status as a publicly supported 501(c)(3) organization.