In August 2019, the Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival announced the creation of the MNFF Franklin Film Development Fund to stimulate production of feature length dramas and comedies. The Fund awards $10,000 grants to two filmmakers each year whose narrative scripts are selected by a panel of judges. The submission process will be open exclusively and only to all MNFF alumni, now totaling 350 filmmakers.

The MNFF Franklin Film Development Fund originated with a significant and groundbreaking donation from Churchill and Janet Franklin, longtime supporters of the Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival, and is named in recognition of their extraordinary generosity. An initial goal to raise $100,000 to achieve multi-year sustainability has been 72% realized in the Fund’s first year.Conceived as early stage “seed funding,” the MNFF Franklin Film Development Fund adds notably to the Festival’s ongoing commitment to supporting new filmmakers.


“We are thrilled to support this incredible film Festival in our community with a special emphasis on narrative filmmaking for MNFF alumni,” remarked Churchill and Janet Franklin, the Fund’s lead donors.

Our First Two Winners

In Wave One of the inaugural grant season, thirteen original narrative drama or comedy scripts were submitted for review from our pool of alumni filmmakers. After a careful, multi-stage review, Échappé, a script by Allison Mattox, was selected as the winner of our first $10,000 Fund grant in early January 2020. Here is a brief description: Telling a compelling story of two sibling members of an elite Soviet ballet company whose trip to the United States in the early 1970s is fraught with intrigue and fears of defection, Échappé provides a sharp focus on the social and political world of dance through the lens of a particularly charged period in U.S.-Soviet relations.

In Wave Two of our first grant season, MNFF received sixteen more original narrative drama or comedy scripts were submitted for review and the twelve unselected scripts from Wave One remained in competition as well. Following a thorough review process, Sayonara, a script by Nikhil Melnechuk, was selected by our panel of judges in mid-August as the next winner of a $10,000 Fund grant. Here is a brief description: When New York novelist Isabel finds a mysterious cache of photographs in her boyfriend Will’s apartment, she sets out to investigate the wild suspicion that he is secretly planning her death aboard his prized antique yacht, the Sayonara. Her journey takes her across the country and into the past as she discovers that years ago the Sayonara was the scene of an unsolved murder. Is Will a psychopath out to recreate a crime from the past, or has Isabel let her novelist’s mind get the best of her?

MNFF heartily congratulates our Fund’s first year grantees for their accomplishment and wishes them success in their next steps of film development!

Submission Window & Grant Awards

The second year’s Fall Window [Wave One] for feature film script submission will open on October 1, 2020 and close on December 31, 2020. We anticipate announcing a winner in February 2021. The Spring Window [Wave Two] will likely open on March 1, 2020 with a close date of May 30, 2021.All filmmakers who submit for the Fall Window, but are not selected as the winner, will have their work stay in the pool for the winning selection from the Spring Window.

The $10,000 grants will be awarded on a matching basis and the selected filmmakers will have up to eight months, following the announcement of their grant, to raise the $10,000 matching amount. A successful match will trigger the release of the Fund grant.

All scripts should be sent via email to Lloyd Komesar, MNFF Producer, at

A Distinct Need

Why is MNFF so focused on narrative filmmaking as a point of emphasis? We think there is a lack of balance between narrative and documentary filmmaking among new filmmakers and we would like to help address this.

“Independent narrative feature films need support. Speaking candidly, we consistently see more and better feature documentaries than narratives in the selection process. It is time for us to encourage narrative filmmakers, who must launch herculean efforts to make good and effective films, only to find themselves stranded by a hyper-commercialized distribution process. Our Fund won’t change this distribution issue, but it’s a solid step in the right direction – one that we hope will stimulate other offers of support.”

Jay Craven, MNFF Artistic Director

Help Sustain the Fund

We welcome contributions to the MNFF Franklin Film Development Fund from those who believe that good dramas and comedies by new filmmakers ought to be made.

“With the funding that began with the Franklins’ groundbreaking donation, and has grown quickly, we are seeking a continuous infusion of funds to support deserving narrative filmmakers intent on telling compelling stories with great characters. We hope that generous individuals and like-minded organizations will step forward with donations that will get us to our goal and beyond. And for filmmakers trying to decide which festivals to enter, let the potential of an MNFF Franklin Film Development Fund grant be a guiding factor.”

Lloyd Komesar, MNFF Producer

Sign up for our newsletter and keep up to date with all the latest news and events.

close X