Catapult Film Fund provides development funding to help story-driven and cinematic documentary films get off the ground.
What We Do
Catapult gives early support to propel projects forward that hold the promise of a story that should be uniquely told in film. We provide development funding, up to $20,000, to documentary filmmakers who have a strong story to tell, have secured access, and are ready to create a fundraising piece to help unlock critical production funding. We enable filmmakers to develop their projects to the next level, at the early stage when funding is hard to find. We support powerful and moving storytelling, by filmmakers with a strong voice across a broad spectrum of subject matter.
Catapult is not tied to any specific social issue agenda. We support and encourage filmmakers to tell a full range of stories on film in whatever form fits the film and artist. As a result our Catapult supported films can range widely in style and scope.
In addition to the initial development grant, recipients have access to a mentorship program with the Catapult team, in areas including story development, production process, fundraising and distribution strategy. Our involvement with each project is uniquely tailored to the needs of the filmmakers.
There are two additional opportunities for follow-up grants for Catapult grantees. Catapult offers the potential of additional financial support in the form of “momentum grants” and “consulting grants.”
Catapult grantees may apply for a Momentum Grant for up to $15,000 when they reach a point in their filmmaking process when an infusion of funds can propel them to their next step. Examples include hiring an editor, getting transcripts translated, archival research, or music composition.
Catapult grantees may also apply for a modest but strategic Consulting Grant. This funding supports consultation with a variety of experts such as veteran editors, producers, or First Amendment lawyers.
Lisa Kleiner Chanoff is co-founder of Catapult Film Fund. In 2010 Lisa and Bonni Cohen founded Catapult Film Fund in order to enable important and moving documentary films to get off the ground and to fill a gap in the documentary funding landscape for development support. Lisa has also executive produced narrative features including Fruitvale Station (Co-EP), Burn Country, and Love & Taxes, and documentary features including Watchers of the Sky and Brimstone & Glory. With Catapult, Lisa and Bonni executive produced Art and Craft, Extremis, and When God Sleeps.
Lisa has a J.D. from University of California, Hastings College of the Law and practiced law in San Francisco and with the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington D.C. After leaving law practice, Lisa received a master’s degree in Museum Studies and worked with museums in the San Francisco bay area, including the Contemporary Jewish Museum, designing exhibitions and education programs. Lisa assists several non-profits in an advisory capacity, and serves on the boards of Working Films and SFFILM.
Bonni Cohen co-founded the Catapult Film Fund with Lisa Chanoff in 2010 in order to support the development of important and moving documentary films. Together with Lisa, Bonni executive produced Art & Craft, When God Sleeps and the Academy Award-nominated shorts Extremis and Life Overtakes Me.
Bonni has produced and directed an array of award-winning films. Most recently, Bonni co-directed Athlete A which was scheduled for a Tribeca Film Festival premiere in 2020 and then went on to become a Netflix original. Bonni also co-directed with her partner, Jon Shenk, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power which was selected to be the opening night film of the 2017 Sundance Film Festival and was released by Paramount in summer 2017. In 2016 Bonni co-directed the Peabody Award winning film Audrie & Daisy, which premiered in competition at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival and was picked up as a Netflix Original film.
In addition to her directing work, Bonni served as Producer on The Island President, winner of the 2011 Toronto International Best Documentary. Her work as producer and director on The Rape of Europa earned her a PGA and WGA nomination and was short-listed for the Oscars. In addition, Bonni produced Jon Else’s Sundance film, Wonders Are Many and together with Else co-directed Inside Guantanamo which was nominated for an Emmy for Best Documentary in 2009. Bonni also Executive Produced 3.5 Minutes, in collaboration with Motto Pictures and Participant Media.
Senior Program Director
Megan Gelstein is an Emmy® Award-winning producer of documentary films with over 20 years experience in the field, and has served as the Senior Program Director of Catapult Film Fund since 2015.
Prior to joining Catapult, she worked as an independent producer, during which time she was a Sundance Institute Creative Producing Lab Fellow in 2010 and 2011, a GOOD PITCH participant in 2009 and 2010, and was awarded a BAVC Media Maker Fellowship in 2011. Megan also worked at PBS/WGBH-TV for over 15 years, where she produced and directed films for ‘American Experience’ and for ‘NOVA’. She won a National Emmy® Award in the craft category of Research for her work on the six-hour PBS series Africans in America: America’s Journey Through Slavery. In addition, she has produced award-winning documentaries that have been nationally broadcast on The History Channel, ITV Network of London, and The Discovery Channel.
Communications, Programs, and Operations Manager
Emily joined the Catapult team in 2013. With over a decade of film industry experience and a background in film festival operations and fundraising, production, editing, and marketing for both documentary and narrative film films, she has worked with many Bay Area organizations including SFFILM, Mill Valley Film Festival, SF Indie Fest, SketchFest, and local production companies. She led marketing and outreach for the documentary You’re Looking at Me Like I live Here and I Don’t, which aired on PBS’ Independent Lens in 2013, and was the associate producer for These Are My Hours, currently in distribution. Emily also produced a narrative short and has worked on commercials, a web series, and live musical performances. Her favorite part about being at Catapult is working with fascinating storytellers and helping nurture their films as they grow from development to distribution.