Nobody watches the filmmaker who sits alone in a cutting room and chops scenes while consumed with grief. The VFX artist who takes a moment in-studio to go to the bathroom with a welling beehive of anxiety might do so in silence. The mental burdens we carry are often done so behind a curtain of workmanlike motion. 

Now, there’s a short-film grant open call asking filmmakers to take the issues we often fight through in the dark and shine a camera on them. 

Art With Impact is a nonprofit organization that encourages mental well-being through the creative expression and collaboration inherent in filmmaking. From the Art With Impact Instagram:

Art With Impact promotes mental wellness by creating spaces for people to learn and connect through art and film. We host in-person and virtual events and workshops where we collectively explore short films and art. We create conversation spaces centered on destigmatizing mental health issues.

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Art With Impact holds an annual grant open call for its “Voices With Impact” grant of $7,500 awarded to ten filmmaking teams. Filmmakers are encouraged to propose a five-minute film that aligns with Art With Impact’s chosen themes for the year. The two 2023-2024 themes are films centered around “Cliques & Echo Chambers” or “Serious Mental Illness.” 

The submission window begins on August 15th and closes on September 15th. Art With Impact is holding a series of informational sessions that help filmmakers learn what they’re looking for in a proposal. The next of these will be held online on August 10th as a 90-minute session that addresses the “Cliques & Echo Chambers” topic. Filmmakers can reserve a free spot for this group gathering here. The second of these meetings – and more attuned to animators – is the “Voices With Impact Open Call: Mental Health Animation Special.” This session will run on Thursday, August 24th from 6 to 7:30 p.m. EDT online, and showcase animated films from previous grant awardees to help current applicants navigate making an impactful animated film on a strict timeline and budget. Interested animators can reserve a free spot for this session here.

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Notable films that were featured this past year include a gorgeous stop-motion short bathed in cool ambient blues called Fortune Cookie by Taiwanese-American Director Fu Yang. The film addresses the concept of burnout and Yang discussed the draining experiences as an aspiring filmmaker that influenced Fortune Cookie in her Film Freeway bio

I need an exit to put my mixed feeling of hopelessness, exhaustion and anxiety aside. Therefore, I want to transform the negativity into art to remind myself, other aspiring artists and young professionals the importance of knowing our limits and taking care of our well-beings while pursuing our dreams.   

The diversity of mental health experiences is also paired with a myriad of filmmaking formats. A mixed-media animation film called Carbon Traces by Stefie Gan explored the idea of overconsumption, while Director Shenuka Corea’s animated film The Plastic Horror depicts the impact of climate change on mental health.  

Filmmakers can investigate the Voices With Impact Production Grant proposal guide on the Voices With Impact page. The winning films will also premiere as part of the Voices With Impact Mental Health Film Festival. This year’s festival premiered the ten films in June and the 2022-2023 winning films are available to stream on demand through the Voices With Impact Eventive page.

It’s one of the core pieces of being human. When we struggle, when our world feels like cascading waves or a dull heaviness of overwhelm, there’s one thing to do with it: 

Express it.