Why We Greenlit the Greenlight Grants
Some people have asked me about our new Greenlight Grant program and how we determine the amounts our office awards to Iowa filmmakers. The secret: It’s up to the filmmakers to determine what they want to achieve.
These grants are designed to make filmmakers stretch. To really think big and get out of their comfort zones to grow as individuals. And as a result, they also become the job creators that grow our film and television industry organically, as a whole.
Produce Iowa, a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, launched the Greenlight Grants in 2019 to elevate stories that are important to Iowans and to create jobs that contribute to a more robust and sustainable media industry right here in Iowa.
Sustainability is essential. We want to invest in filmmakers who stay in Iowa, and we want to help them develop the industry in their own ways. We do this by cultivating a filmmaking ecosystem that supports all kinds of productions, big and small.
These efforts start with opportunities. For example, Produce Iowa offers an array of educational resources, from our offering our MediaMasters series of hands-on workshops with industry leaders to building awareness about Iowa’s 26 colleges and universities that offer film or media programs. We elevate Iowa-made stories through a statewide television series called “The Film Lounge.” We support film festivals in communities across the state, which spotlight local filmmakers and their work. We help Iowans find jobs by encouraging them to showcase their skills and services in our free, statewide Media Production Directory.
Launching the Greenlight Grants was an important turning point in this ecosystem’s evolution and a major milestone for our office. We thank our lawmakers for believing in the Iowan filmmakers who are building this industry from the ground up.
The grants leverage all the work filmmakers have already accomplished so far. They show recipients that Iowa believes in their storytelling capabilities. And, of course, they provide a financial boost to help take their projects “from script to screen.”
The grants require a 50-percent cash match, and as we’ve already seen, the grants often provide a credible “stamp of approval” that encourages private investors to help filmmakers tackle projects they might not be able to do anywhere else.
Because the grants require in-state spending, they encourage collaboration with other in-state filmmakers, too. Grant recipients turn to our Media Production Directory to hire local cast and crew. The grants help Iowans work together, pay people a fair wage, and sharpen their craft to contribute to better-looking and -sounding productions to enjoy in Iowa and export far and wide.
When we encourage people to produce Iowa, the ripple effects benefit small businesses and Iowans who aren’t even in the film and television industry. Film crews stay in hotels. They eat at cafes and restaurants. They buy lumber and gear at the hardware store. They rent cars. They hire caterers and construction workers and real estate agents. All of this happens when we manufacture entertainment here in Iowa.
As you can see, we’re strategically building support for a homegrown industry to meet the world’s growing demands for content.
When a filmmaker receives a Greenlight Grant, the selection still comes down to the quality of the story, the level of professionalism and how prepared the filmmaker is to take that leap of faith in themselves to expand their careers.
That’s the spark that takes us to the next level. Stay tuned.
— Liz Gilman, executive producer of Produce Iowa, the state office of film and media production