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Feature: Applying for Grants- From the Assessor’s Perspective

Feature: Applying for Grants- From the Assessor’s Perspective

Let’s do a quick session on how to apply for grants. I could do a GCAP talk about this, but to be honest, I think it’s better handled in a brief summary.

First up, street cred time, I’m a serial grant assessor. I get roped in a lot, but I find it interesting and rewarding work, so that’s okay. I’m also designing Screenwest’s first foray into supporting games in West Australia. Remember that we want you to succeed, and the choice between quality applications should be difficult for the people whose decision it is to ultimately allocate funds.

  1. Assume the people reading your grant application don’t know you, have never heard of your game and are completely neutral to your personal success. We are doing this because we want the industry to succeed as a whole, but we’re super conscious we are advising other people how to spend their money.
  2. The first thing I skip to when I’m assessing a grant for game development monies is your marketing plan. All too often, what looks like a great game at face value, and a competent team gets let down by an almost non-existent marketing plan. Simply stating “we’ll put the game on Steam/the Appstore/Switch” and listing how comparative highly-successful titles have done is not an effective declaration of your strategy. Those games are outliers, not the standard and if you do not have an established brand-name, with an audience that will follow you, you need a more effective way of reaching your audience. If I could make one piece of advice to every prospective applicant (and this is only my opinion) – know what the rules around spending outside your state are and know how much a potential PR spend with a reputable, far-reaching agency is here. If you have one available in your state, fabulous. If not, then contact one externally and work with them to include them in your proposal. I’ve lost count of how many applications I’ve read with a completely unrealistic marketing spend attached. I would actually suggest increasing your suggested budget to the screen organisation to accommodate this, not trying to go for the bottom figure. The funding budget is partially for what you can’t do internally. In my opinion a solid marketing spend actually de-risks the project significantly, not the opposite.
  3. If you’re going to make statements about your intentions with your application, then back them up. If you’re a long-standing member of the industry and stating on your application that you have solid relationships that will help your commercial activities, copy in a letter of intent from the other party or parties. Again, it’s something where I’ve often seen applicants make unsubstantiated statements and if you’re asking for tens of thousands of dollars, then you need to provide evidence that you have the relationships or commercial weight that you say you have.
  4. If you are applying for a travel grant or assistance to attend a conference, then remember what the intention of such sponsorship is for; it’s to grow your knowledge base and contact list, and more importantly so you can bring that back to your business and the local community. Again, I have lost count of the applications that have something along the lines of “I want to go to Large Games Conference as a way of making contacts and starting my career at a Triple A company in another country.” That is a perfectly legitimate intention, but that if that is what you’re intending to do, it’s probably best that you raise your own money elsewhere. It’s not up to a government of a state or an NGO to sponsor your career elsewhere in the world and an assessor will be conscious of this when they read your application. The organisation however, is interested in making investments in people to grow the local industry and bring back cutting-edge knowledge and business opportunities that could lead to sustained employment and economic growth in the sector.

So there are a solid four (expanded) points from a serial assessor, who has had experience crafting and consulting on grant programs. Others may have differing views, but from what I have seen working around these areas in the past few years and discussing with other assessors and organisations, they’re all commonly held views.

Aside from her work with Stirfire Studios, Vee has worked with Screenwest, Screen Queensland, the GDAA and IGEA.

Evil Within 2