Camera Ambassador announces Builders Grant

equipment rental house
to award winning
filmmaker with
nearly $10K in cash,
gear, and goodies

Camera Ambassador is offering creators a chance to win nearly $10k worth of funding, gear, and other goodies by way of a Builders Grant designed “to recognize accomplished individuals, as well as provide opportunities for young and emerging artists.”

Besides earning $3,000 cash and $5,000 in equipment rental, the chosen recipient will receive mentoring, casting assistance, organizational partnerships, and other bonuses. Interested parties should submit by April 1. For more information, click here.

The Camera Ambassador Builders Grant differentiates from other established film opportunities in one crucial way: it is being offered by a Chicago-based, privately owned equipment rental company.

The Camera Ambassador team
The Camera Ambassador team

That means Windy City devotion, expertise, resources, and, of course, a party.

Since founding the company in 2014, Erica Duffy and Brandon Werlin have grown Camera Ambassador from an equipment rental business into a multifunctional vendor and frequent partner to productions around the country (they also got married along the way, but that’s a whole ‘nother story).

Besides hosting social events, sponsoring weekend seminars, offering hands-on support, and residing in the Cinespace Chicago Film Studio campus, offering the Builders Grant is another way that they consistently back up words with action.

Below, Camera Ambassador takes Reel Chicago behind the scenes to reveal some of the details.

What inspired Camera Ambassador to create this grant? We saw a need within our community. It’s really hard to raise funds, pull together a quality crew and cast, figure out gear, locations, and wardrobe, think about your audience and distribution …. AND this is all before you even begin to shoot or edit! We want to do our part in ensuring that the mid-west has the same support, infrastructure, and funding that either of the coasts have. This is a brain child of Camera Ambassador’s founder Erica Duffy. She wanted to create a platform that long outlived even her and ensured that for generations to come her personal mission to enable artists was fulfilled, thus was born the annual Camera Ambassador Community Builders Grant. This is not your typical grant either as the prize list includes cash money, gear credit, mentor sessions with outstanding local talent like Angie Gaffney and Charles Gardner, prep, audition, and call back days with Compass Casting, Use of the conference room at Stage 18, rehearsal space at Camera Ambassador, a partnership with SAG, a catered lunch during production from Northern Fork, a wrap party with food and booze included, discounts on location audio and post production from Noisefloor, and a few more secret prizes that we’ll be announcing in the next few weeks!

Who will be reviewing applications and selecting finalists? We wanted the community to be a big part in reviewing applicants and selecting finalist so we spent a lot of time designing how this would work. We have a stellar group of producers, actors, directors, DPs, professors, writers, distributors, and business owners who will be selecting our ten finalists. The selection will be based on a ten-point survey that each committee member will fill out and grade from 1 to 10. The ten scripts with the most points will move onto the next round. The committee will also have an opportunity to provide feedback based upon each question. These ten finalists will be reviewed by a totally new set of eyes that will grade upon the same exact questions and point system, but will also have access to the feedback given by the first committee. This will allow for a personal note or give the committee an opportunity to evaluate WHY someone graded a script one way or another. The three scripts with the most points during this round will then move on to the finals. This is where it gets really fun! On May 29th, the three finalists will pitch their scripts at Camera Ambassador’s Iron Sharpens Iron Feedback session and receive grades one more time from everyone in attendance. This evening will be open to the public, and we hope that a really strong representation of our Midwest film community turns out to participate. The points will be tallied one final time and the production with the most points will be announced on June 1st at Camera Ambassador’s 5th birthday party!

How does Camera Ambassador typically assist filmmakers making short films and why do you enjoy it? Camera Ambassador has been putting great effort in since it’s inception to ensure that we not only provide quality gear and tech support, but that we also enable artists of all kinds with the tools to create their art. We have done everything from donating gear, providing an event space for fundraisers, recommending quality crew, building bridges within the community, signing on as a producer, hiring filmmakers(!!!!), training interns, volunteering, and mentoring. We absolutely love it, and it’s the reason we’re in this business. There’s no other art form that really requires the effort of so many talented folks to come together and collaborate. Camera Ambassador founder Erica Duffy thinks, “this is what makes filmmaking so special. It really is all about how to come together to create something that inspires others and leaves lasting change on this earth.”

What’s the coolest thing about watching a good short film? We think the coolest thing about watching a good short film, or really any film, is two parts. The first is when you can see someone’s hard work and vision come to life. It is so rewarding to work hard on something and then get to experience it. It brings back so many emotions and memories. It usually even reminds you of why you wanted to make it in the first place! The second is when someone else’s story is something that you can relate to or when it inspires you. It’s important to be reminded that you aren’t alone and that there are other creatives right in your own backyard who are able to understand what you may be going there. When you are able to view the work of your peers and it becomes a source for more creativity, sparks a new thought, or even becomes a muse for you it is truly beautiful.

To learn more about Camera Ambassador, click here.

Send your production updates to Reel Chicago Editor Dan Patton,