Toronto _ The Indigenous Screen Office (ISO) is proud to announce the disbursement of over $3.8 million in development funding for Indigenous, Black and People of Colour creators in response to COVID and the pressing need for equity in Canada’s screen sector. Over $2.3 million in project and professional development grants were awarded to BIPOC majority-owned companies and $1.4 million to individuals in the 2020 fiscal year.

“The overwhelming response to this initiative from both applicants and funders demonstrates the need for development dollars and the exciting opportunities ahead for new screen content by BIPOC creators,” said Kerry Swanson, ISO Managing Director.

The development programs launched in September 2020 with an initial $800,000 allocation from the Canada Media Fund’s COVID Response Fund. It soon expanded into a multi-million-dollar fund as multiple partners including Amazon Prime Video, Creative BC, IMPACT’s Producers’ Pledge, and Inspirit Foundation reached out to support through partnership funding. Due to the incredible response from applicants, CMF matched a contribution from Amazon Prime Video, providing an additional top-up of over $1.3m to the programs.

“The CMF is proud to have supported this important multi-partner initiative from its inception,” said Valerie Creighton, President and CEO, CMF. “These outcomes are in line with the goals set out in our strategic plan and we look forward to creating more opportunities like this in future.”

The Indigenous Development Program supported 89 projects, with 31 going to companies and 58 to individuals. Funding was awarded in seven provinces with the highest representation in BC, Ontario, and Quebec. The Solidarity Fund, launched in partnership with the Racial Equity Media Collective (REMC) and BIPOC TV & Film, supported a groundbreaking 125 projects, including 32 companies, 18 of which are Black-owned, and 93 individuals, of whom 55 are Black. The fund achieved its goal of reaching Black creators with over 58 per cent representation in total grants awarded.

Funding was delivered through two distinct programs, with selections made by four separate juries. The Indigenous Development Grants Program was designed to support Indigenous content creators in the screen-based sector by providing funding for project and professional development for both Indigenous individuals and majority Indigenous-owned companies. The Solidarity Fund was a strategic initiative supporting project and professional development for racialized screen-based creators, particularly Black creators, whose voices and stories are underrepresented and necessary to a vibrant, innovative and equitable media landscape in Canada.

“To invest in the voices of and production companies of Black, Indigenous and People of Colour, is a powerful and transformative act. We are proud to be a part of it and heartened by the industry-wide support,” said Nathalie Younglai, founder of BIPOC TV & Film.

This funding opportunity is a critical opportunity for many BIPOC creators who were not able to access funding through other mechanisms and to ensure they stay in the film sector during this time of increased precarity, with the pandemic shutting down productions across the country.

One example of the impact of the Solidarity Fund was heard from grant recipient Boonaa Mohammed, who previously made five independently financed films. “As a Black Muslim filmmaker I have struggled with gaining access to grants and funds that are available to creators in Canada,” said Mohammed. “This is because I don’t know many people who have ever received funding, am unfamiliar with the process and was unsure if there would be any prejudice shown towards my content. I feel encouraged to apply to different funding bodies in the future should similar opportunities arise that prioritize creators like myself and ensure an equitable review process.”

Grant recipient Jessie Anthony, who was awarded a grant for a slate of projects, stated: “For Pass Through Productions Inc., a 100% Indigenous-owned production company, this development grant allows us to create paid positions during the creative development stages of our projects and ensures that Indigenous, BIPOC, LGBTQ+ filmmaker voices are amplified within our industry.”

The ISO thanks the Canada Media Fund, and program partners REMC and BIPOC TV & Film along with our funding partners Amazon Prime Video, Creative BC, IMPACT’s Producers’ Pledge, and Inspirit Foundation for their generous support during this uncertain time in the screen industry.

Amazon Prime Video has announced a $1.25 million (CAD) commitment to support the Canadian BIPOC TV and film production creative community with a donation to the Solidarity Fund and the Indigenous Development Program, and a new pitch program, with 10 grants of $10,000 (CAD) to creators who are Black, Indigenous, and Persons of Colour, in partnership with the Indigenous Screen Office (ISO). The initiatives will support the BIPOC creative community faced with ongoing hardship during the COVID-19 crisis. The guidelines for submissions are here: https://iso-bea.ca/amazon-studios-iso-pitch-program-guidelines/.

For media please contact:

Kim Wheeler, Communications at 204-390-3097 or kwheeler@indigenousscreenoffice.com

For general information contact: info@iso-bea.ca