Grants: Stay ahead of the pack


There are numerous outfits and organisations, private and government-linked, that are ready to support creative ventures by providing grants. Grants can help an artist attend residencies, purchase creative supplies or software and have the opportunity to seriously develop a project.

Over the last four years, CENDANA has seen numerous beneficiaries successfully create fresh new plays, artworks and music. However, even though grants are available, the number of applicants always seems to outweigh opportunities available.

Knowing that thousands of other creators are competing for these same funds for their big project may be intimidating, especially for an inexperienced artist.

What’s worse is that applying for a grant may be as complicated as the project itself! But do not give up!

ACE Hab speaks to two former beneficiaries to glean key factors that helped them, and perhaps could help you make your proposal stand out. Physical theatre performer Helena Foo is also a puppeteer who focuses on performing arts education; Chamology is a freelance visual artist who is passionate about graffiti art and animation. Here, they readily share what got them through.

            Helena Foo

Make sure you are eligible for the grant!

Okay, this may seem like a no-brainer. But like any other contest or competition, ensure that you meet all the criteria of applying for the grant. You’d be surprised how many grant submissions are rejected because the applicants have failed to read and follow the fine print. “Examine the requirements thoroughly and make sure you understand them,” offers Foo, adding an example, “if the guideline requires you to be an artist who has operated for two years or a corporation that is established, then you must comply with these requirements.”

Don’t take this too lightly! Before applying, you should first understand the criteria in order to determine if you are a good fit for the provider’s funding priorities.
Fund providers have set aside money to promote or empower certain segments or communities and they are not about to bend their rules to suit you or your project.

Submit a complete application on time

Do not wait until the last minute. It is recommended that you submit a complete application at least two weeks prior to the closing date for applications. “I think a lot of time people feel stressed and get worried about filling up the form, so it’s a good idea to have spare time and energy so you are able to prepare a professional application and not miss out any important points,” Foo advised. Take notice of the important aspects and the deadlines! The moment you submit an incomplete application or miss the deadline, it goes straight into the bin. So don’t waste your opportunity. Instead, prepare in advance and avoid any late submission issues or (horrors!) system crashes!

Be realistic with what you want to achieve

Submission fatigue is real – as time goes by, funders get an increasing number of submissions. During the pandemic these figures may have shot up too!

Bear in mind that the panel reviewing your application may be inundated with submissions. A complex writing style can actually work against you and you may end up sabotaging your own application. Try to make it simple for the funders by presenting your proposal in an easy to comprehend manner.

Getting feedback on your proposal is always a great idea. Have someone read your grant application and evaluate your language and content to see whether it correctly translates your concept.

Also remember that even if you have a brilliant idea, you won’t receive a “yes” unless the funders believe you can actually deliver it.

'Foo says: “It is not enough just to say you want to produce a show. You must consider how the performance will be carried out, as well as who the subsidiary workers involved with the project will be.” All these questions go into the list of things you must include in your application; break down your objectives and state your mission and vision in order to convince the funders that you know what you’re doing.

Also prove that you are the right person to carry out the project you’re proposing. Cham states that, in order to win a grant, “you have to be relevant when it comes to your aims and budget”. There’s no point in coming up with something impulsive. Think things through properly first.

And sell your idea as best as you can! Foo says: “funders will not only judge you with what you’re planning to do with the funding or how it will impact your career, but also what other opportunities they can perceive from your project”.

Include what your project’s strengths are, why your idea is special and who it will benefit in the big picture.

Ask questions

As an artist, you may have big ideas, but filling out grant papers and determining the best way to present your proposal might be a different ball game. If you have any queries or are confused about your proposal, it’s best to contact the grant manager. There’s no harm in asking questions, and it works in your favour rather than risk losing your shot at getting the funding.

Foo advises that you prepare your questions ahead of time. Most grant managers understand what their organisation’s goal is and are ready to help. Taking this extra step might raise the odds of your application being accepted.

Get in right in the video

It might be difficult to squeeze all the necessary information into a single short video; you must advertise yourself, your purpose, and demonstrate how effectively you can do it. “To create an impactful and engaging video proposal, you must first have a clear goal and keep the important parts basic yet informative,” Cham shares from his own experience.

Foo noted that it is vital for an artist to be adaptable. “To achieve flawless video direction, you need to adapt your idea into a one-minute film (or whatever the criteria is). First, plan how many seconds each shot in the video will have. Then, simply be confident and execute the video shoot utilizing any software you’re familiar with,” says Foo. It’s a process of trial and error, as well as adaptation. She advises managing your time well! “If the audio is broken, you can do a voice over or add subtitles where necessary.”

Helena Foo is a professional theatrical director and performer with almost two decades of experience in the industry. She is now concentrating on her co-founded company, SIAPA Theatre. She conducts theatrical shows with an emphasis on puppetry and circus art, as well as advocating for performing arts education for young children. Pak Pandir: A Malaysian Adventure, VSC Project's DUALITY, Suna Productions' In A Different Light, and Fajar & Senja at Iskarnival 2018 are among her latest directing works and performances.

Chamology, better known as Cham, is a freelance visual artist. He studied graphic design, majoring in illustration then explored 2D drawings, animation and graffiti art. Western comic books and cartoons have influenced most of his works. Cham has worked for numerous organisations, including an advertising company, before becoming a full-time freelancer.
Under the CENDANA financing scheme, Foo and Cham applied for the “Arts for All Online Program” fund. Helena stated that obtaining the grant allowed her to purchase creative tools for her theatre show.

Under the CENDANA financing scheme, Foo and Cham applied for the “Arts for All Online Program” fund. Helena stated that obtaining the grant allowed her to purchase creative tools for her theatre show.
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