What is the McKnight Media Artist Fellowships Program?
Founded on the belief that Minnesota thrives when its artists and culture bearers thrive, the McKnight Foundation’s arts and culture program is one of the oldest and largest of its kind in the country. Support for individual working Minnesota artists and culture bearers has been a cornerstone of the program since it began in 1982. The McKnight Artist & Culture Bearer Fellowships Program provides annual, unrestricted cash awards to outstanding mid-career Minnesota artists in 15 different creative disciplines. Program partner organizations administer the fellowships and structure them to respond to the unique challenges of different disciplines. Currently, the foundation contributes about $2.8 million per year to its statewide fellowships. For more information, visit mcknight.org/artistfellowships.

The goal of the McKnight Artist Fellowships for Media Artists program is to recognize talented Minnesota media artists positioned beyond emerging stages in their careers whose work is of exceptional artistic merit. The fellowship program supports established artists by providing: significant financial support, public acknowledgment of their award and career accomplishments through the website, email, and various social media platforms; opportunities to meet with local and national art professionals; organization and promotion of a year-end public discussion panel and celebration featuring the fellows; financial assistance toward attending professional conferences and events; professional headshot services; tailored professional support consultations tendered by Springboard For The Arts; invitation to the annual McKnight Fellows Event held at the Foundation; a one-year FilmNorth membership offered at no cost; and access to four complimentary classes through FilmNorth during the fellowship year.

Must I submit a project proposal to apply?
No. The Fellowships are not project grants, and the panel does not evaluate project proposals as criteria in the selection process.

What is the application deadline?
Monday, March 18 2024 at 5PM. No extensions will be granted.

What’s new this year?
FilmNorth aims to foster change in our industry by hosting a QTIBIPOC Artist Panel Event, providing valuable resources for artists from diverse backgrounds. Date and time to be announced.

What does the panel look for?
The panel looks for artists positioned beyond emerging stages in their careers whose work is of exceptional artistic merit and who have created a substantial body of work over a period of time. In other words, these awards are not intended for Media Artists at the beginning stage of their career, nor are they for a single work of merit. Above all, the panel looks for consistent artistic excellence and merit, clarity and uniqueness of vision, professional accomplishment, and commitment.

Is this an award for someone at the end of their career?
McKnight Artist Fellowships are not “lifetime achievement” awards and are not about the age of the applicant. Rather, these fellowships are a recognition of the recipient’s significant body of work; creative achievement; and their sustained contribution to their artistic field.

How do you define “beyond emerging”?
Artists beyond emerging stages in their careers will have a history of sustained professional media arts work over a period of at least five years, demonstrated through film festival screenings, produced films, optioned screenplays, residencies, grants, fellowships, awards or other recognition in the field. Accomplishments must be outside of accredited degree programs, i.e. student work will not count towards the five-year period of professional accomplishment.In simpler terms, “beyond emerging” essentially means that the artist is no longer categorized as anemerging artist. In other words, there’s no such thing as being “overqualified” to apply.

What are the eligibility requirements?
Please see above under “Eligibility.”

May I apply as part of a team?
You may apply as an individual or as a team of no more than two artists. Each applicant on the team must fulfill all the eligibility requirements. Co-applicants should submit only one set of written materials: a combined resume of work completed together, combined artist statement, etc. All work samples must be work created as a team.

What are the fellowships for?
Fellowships are unrestricted funds available to media artists to support their work and artistry by allowing artists to set aside periods of time for study, reflection, experimentation, and exploration; take advantage of an opportunity; or work on a new project.

Who reviews the applications?
Fellows will be chosen by two panels of jurors, comprising media artists and professionals from outside Minnesota. The screenwriting fellowship will have a single juror, while the other three fellowships will be decided by a panel of three jurors. Panelists possess expertise in media arts, showcasing diverse backgrounds and areas of proficiency. The composition of the panel varies annually, and details remain confidential until after the selection process concludes.

How does the panel determine “artistic excellence”?
Each year we select media arts panelists with a wide variety of expertise in multiple areas, who leverage their professional background to define their understanding of “artistic excellence.” Additionally, we give the panel these instructions to help guide them:

Some things to consider when evaluating “artistic excellence and merit”
1. Work demonstrates strong technical skills and craft in its execution
2. Self-awareness of the artist is communicated in their response to application materials
3. Work reveals something about the world, communicating unique perspective/s, inviting the viewer/listener/reader to question, discover, explore new ideas
4. Work represents an artistic challenge or stretch; there is risk involved
5. Exploration feels relevant and deeply considered
6. Artist has an authentic relationship/connection to the content/community involved in the work
7. Artist shows a commitment to working in this form
8. Combination of aesthetics, technical skill, and delivery is engaging emotionally, intellectually, spiritually
9. Are you excited to see/hear more from this artist?
If you have further questions, please contact Robert Ndondo-Lay, program administrator.

What does a “substantial body of work” mean?
Ideally it would mean that you had created several projects that displayed a consistent artistic excellence and merit, clarity and uniqueness of vision, professional accomplishment, and commitment. FilmNorth recognizes that some projects by media artists take many years to complete because of their scope (for example, a documentary project where the filmmaker follows their subjects for many years). Hence, a significant body of work doesn’t necessarily mean numerous projects but only when the submitted work samples illustrate that the projects required extended time for completion due to their scope.

Can students apply?
Applicants cannot be enrolled full-time in a degree-seeking program at an institution of higher learning during the fellowship year, and the fellowships funds may not be used to support work associated with a degree program. However, fellowships may be used to support professional study. If you have further questions about what the fellowship may support, please contact us at [email protected].

Does FilmNorth help pick the fellows?
No. FilmNorth fellowship staff who oversee the McKnight Fellowship program do not contribute to the decision-making process or the selection of the McKnight Media Artist Fellows. Our role is to provide clarity for the review process, and to ensure that the panel review and discussion proceed in accordance with the program’s guidelines.

What should I say in my artist statement?
Since the fellowship is an award for an artist and a body of work (rather than a specific project), we suggest using the artist statement to help the panel get a better idea of who you are as an artist, describing your creative process and vision, and how they relate to your work samples.

The statement may take any one of several directions: you may choose to write about your background, the development of your work, your particular interests as an artist or your aesthetic position, your future direction or anything else pertinent to your art. If applicable, discuss how you are uniquely positioned to create your work and/or how you consider questions about representation, accountability or other ethical considerations in your work or practice.

Keep in mind that the artist statement is not a project proposal. You may discuss your plans for the fellowship year if you wish, but it’s not obligatory, nor is it a criterion used by the panel in selecting fellows.

May I use the same artist statement I submitted last year?
Yes, certainly, if it is still pertinent. The panel make-up changes every year, so each panel is seeing application materials anew.

How can I get help with my artist statement?
We encourage you to contact Springboard for the Arts to meet with one of the Artist Career Consultants. For a small fee, the Artist Career Consultants can guide and give feedback on crafting your artist statement and/or your whole application. You can see the full Artist Career Consultant Roster and their bios at https://springboardforthearts.org/consultants. If you have questions, email Wone Vang at [email protected]. Do not wait until the last moment to contact Springboard, as the process takes a little time.

Should I submit two or three work samples?
If you have three excellent work samples, it is highly recommended to submit all three. While an application with only two samples may appear less robust than one with three, prioritize submitting only exceptionally strong work. It is advisable to place your most compelling work sample as the first submission.

Should my work sample show recent work, older work or both?
Ideally you should have work that covers a span of time, but you are strongly encouraged to have some recent work. Applicants who do not submit recent work (last 1-2 years) might be at a disadvantage. (Note: If you have previously received a McKnight Artist Fellowship you may not submit the same work you submitted the year you received the fellowship. Additionally, at least one of your work samples must have been created since you received the fellowship. In short, you must demonstrate growth and ongoing artistry since your most recent McKnight Artist Fellowship.

Note: If you have previously received a McKnight Artist Fellowship you may not submit the same work you submitted the year you received the fellowship. Additionally, at least one of your work samples must have been created since you received the fellowship. In short, you must demonstrate growth and ongoing artistry since your most recent McKnight Artist Fellowship.

I understand the judges will watch at least 10 minutes of my work sample. Can I have them watch the first 5 minutes and the last 5 minutes of my film?
No. The panel will watch a minimum of 10 consecutive minutes, so choose your starting point wisely!

I have a lot of short films; can I use two 5-minute films as one 10-minute work sample?
No. Each film is its own work sample. If your film is shorter than 10 minutes, the panel will watch the entire film.

Since the panel will only watch 10 minutes of my film, do I have to submit the entire film, or can I just submit 10 minutes of it?
You are required to submit the entire film. Although the panel is obligated to watch a minimum of 10 minutes, they often review more, especially when making decisions between closely matched candidates.

For submitting my work, can I use Dropbox?
No, the work must be playable in a browser window without the panelist needing to download any software. Screenplays must be uploaded as PDFs, while other types of work samples must be hosted on external sites (e.g., YouTube, Vimeo, or SoundCloud) with the link(s) provided in your application.

What about DVDs? Can I submit my work that way?
We no longer accept DVDs for work samples.

What should I include in my resume?
Your resume serves as a tool to convey your professional achievements and dedication to the panel. Crucially, it aids in establishing whether you are beyond the emerging status. As such, it should depict your work, honors, awards, and recognitions, providing details about your education and related experience, with a particular emphasis on including dates. Ensure clarity for the panelists regarding your body of work, its creation timeline, screenings/broadcasts/experiences, and any accolades received. Omit any work not relevant to your career as a media artist.

Can I have the juror read the first ten pages and the last ten pages of my script?
No, the juror will evaluate the initial 20 pages of your script, but they are allowed to continue reading if they so choose.

Why can I no longer tell the panel which page of my screenplay I want them to start reading from?
It has been established that the most equitable approach for all screenwriters is for the juror to commence reading from page one of every script. If the juror decides to continue reading beyond page 20, they have the flexibility to do so.

Why are screenwriters judged separately?
Screenwriters were initially assessed separately from other media artists, but approximately 10 years ago, changes by McKnight led to consolidating all media artists into one category. During this time, feedback from panels suggested challenges in comparing a “blueprint” for a project (like a screenplay) with a completed project (e.g., a film). After extensive discussions with McKnight Arts staff to ensure fair evaluation for all artists, the decision was made to revert to the original format, separating screenwriters from other media artists.

I’m a writer/director. May I submit a work sample of a screenplay and a finished project?
No, you must choose either to apply as a writer or a “non-writer.” To submit a screenplay, you must apply as a writer, and in that case, all of your work samples must be screenplays.

I’m a writer/director. May I submit two applications: one for my writing and one for my directing?
No, you are limited to submitting only one application for any McKnight Artist Fellowship. Therefore, you will need to decide which medium you would like to apply in.

I’ve had films screened at dozens of festivals; does it help me to provide links to more than just the minimum of 5?
No, the panel does not have access to these links; only the program staff does, and they use them to verify eligibility. However, it is advisable to include these festivals on your resume.

I’m submitting films for my work samples. Does each film have to have been shown in 5 film festivals?
No, you must have a minimum of 5 screenings in 5 different film festivals or curated screenings in your career. Applicants are permitted to submit projects that have not been screened anywhere yet. Please refer to the “Eligibility” section above.

I’ve received a McKnight Artist Fellowship in a previous year. Can I reapply?
You may reapply if you received a fellowship in 2018 or earlier. You are not eligible to apply if you received a McKnight fellowship in any category in 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022, or 2023. Note that if you have received a McKnight Artist Fellowship in the past, additional restrictions apply to your choice of work samples; please see FAQ 18.

Can I get assistance with my application?
Yes, we are here to help with workshops and one-on-one assistance. Information is available above.

Can I get feedback from my application after selections are made?
Yes, you may make a phone appointment to receive feedback.

How can I be sure to receive information about the fellowship program next year?
Sign up for the FilmNorth email e-Flash to receive ongoing news and information about the McKnight Media Artist Fellowships.

I forgot my password for Submittable. What should I do?
For any inquiries about account-related issues, please contact Submittable. FilmNorth staff does not have access to your account password.

Additional questions? Please contact Robert Ndondo-Lay, Program Administrator, FilmNorth, 651-644-1912 ext. 4, [email protected].