MN Film & TV Student Film Grant

Minnesota Film & TV has supported student filmmaking and the cultivation of our state’s future production professionals for more than a decade with the MN Film & TV Student Film Grant. Established at Minnesota State University Moorhead, this grant has given students the means to realize their creative vision and showcase their work in front of audiences. Support from MN Film & TV not only gives students the means to reach higher when producing and distributing their creative content, but also gives students the confidence to reach for their career goals.

In the 2018-19 academic year, MN Film & TV expands the Student Film Grant program to Minneapolis Community & Technical College.


Recipients of the MN Film & TV Student Film Grant at MSUM have screened their shorts at festivals world-wide, including Montreal’s Fantasia Film Festival, the Sci-Fi London Film Festival, the Roswell Film Festival New Mexico, the Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival, the Twin Cities Film Fest, and the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Film Festival, to name just a few. MSUM’s MFTV granted films have received awards including Best Editing and Effects at the St. Cloud Film Festival, the Rusty Casselton Award at the Fargo Film Festival, Best Student Narrative Short at the South Dakota Film Festival, and a nomination for Best Student Film at the Tampa Bay Underground Film Festival.

Past grant recipients from MSUM have gone on to work in post-production on “Bizarre Foods,” at festivals like Slamdance and Sundance, as a grip for a Kendrick Lamar music video, a best boy grip for an Ariana Grande music video, and as an editor for ad agency Threefold (which recently took home numerous 2018 Gold Addy Awards including Best in Show). These talented filmmakers are working freelance in Fargo, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Louisville, Los Angeles and New York.


Filmmaking at Minneapolis Community & Technical College (MCTC) traces its history back to the nineteen seventies when Film in the Cities (FITC), one of about thirty media arts centers in the United States and one of the first fifteen centers to receive National Endowment for the Arts funding, was originally created as a joint project of the St. Paul Council of Arts and Sciences and the St. Paul Public Schools.

After 1974 FITC shifted its focus to concentrate more on adult filmmakers and photographers. New means of support were found including programs such as Local Film Makers Review and Moving Image Makers, which were supported by the Jerome Foundation. The organization also cooperated with the Walker Arts Center and the Minneapolis College of Art and Design and was instrumental in establishing photographic and film classes at the Inver Hills Community College. The organization also established a community extension program to work with low-income groups, halfway house residents, minority groups, community centers, and similar groups. Other activities included a Visiting Film Artist program, in which six filmmakers discussed their films and published monographs, and Lightworks, a national summer photography workshop, started in 1981. Due to financial problems the organization dissolved in 1993 and was succeeded by IFP, the Midwest Media Arts Access Center.

By 1987, the program at Inver Hills was moved to Minneapolis Community and Technical (then known as Minneapolis Community College) and became the MCC Film Program. In 1990 the program added a video component and became the Film and Video Program. In 1995 a new Screenwriting Program was initiated still under the umbrella Film and Video Program. By 2009 the entire division was reorganized to its current form with the diversity of programs that it still offers.

Located in the heart of downtown, MCTC is the most diverse urban college in Minnesota. Artistic inspiration surrounds the campus, which is conveniently located near the Walker Art Center and the Minneapolis Theatre District. MCTC has developed excellent connections to local businesses and artistic organizations as a part of our mission to enrich students’ lives and strengthen our community. MCTC serves more than 12,000 students; 43 percent are students of color and 30 percent are the first in their family to attend college.

The college offers an outstanding transfer curriculum leading to enrollment in four-year degree programs as well as certificate, diploma and degrees.

MCTC’s Cinema Division fuses cutting-edge technology, affordable professional training and outstanding liberal arts education to help you become a compelling visual storyteller. MCTC is the only school offering a comprehensive cinema production education in the upper Midwest. As one of the only two-year divisions of this kind in the nation, we offer affordable programs with low student-to-teacher ratios. Our students are diverse, and they come from all over the world with varied experiences, perspectives and professional backgrounds. The faculty, all active professionals, with graduate degrees, will guide you as you learn to express yourself using moving images and sound. The resources and facilities are state-of-the-art and include film as well as electronic production and post-production equipment. The program also offers students diverse internship opportunities. 

In the first year, students can earn a Cinema Production Certificate. This intensive one-year curriculum, required of all Cinema Division production students, is a hands-on introduction to the moviemaking process. Students develop professional skills in writing, camera operation, sound recording, and editing by working on numerous individual and group productions. After obtaining a Cinema Production certificate, students become eligible to pursue one of five specializations and earn an A.S. at the end of the second year: Cinematography, Directing, Editing and Post-Production, Screenwriting, and Producing.

Many of our students and graduates have been recognized for their work:

  • Cole Koehler and Ben Krueger produced Samurai Snack Attack in 2010: this Doritos commercial aired during the Super Bowl and is considered to be one of the most viewed commercials of all time.

  • Eric Howell wrote and produced several shorts such as Anna’s Playground, nominated for a 2012 Oscar. He is currently finishing his feature film “Voices from the Stone” in Italy.

  • Karen Frank earned the 2009 McKnight Screenwriting Fellowship Award, as well as several awards from the Screenwriters Workshop Feature Contest.

  • Elizabeth Day and Lee Vang received Bush Foundation Artist Fellowships in 2009 and 2005.

  • Jeremy Bandow won one of the most prestigious screenwriting prizes in the world in 2008, the Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.

  • Jacob Roske was awarded the Archibald Bush Fellowship in 2010.

  • Joe Carlini won the Student Midwest Regional Emmy twice and was nominated eight times.

Many MCTC graduates work in the Twin Cities production community as freelance contractors for companies such as Target, Best Buy, 3M, ShopNBC, Medtronic, HealthEast, and The History Channel. MCTC graduates are on staff at Splice, Pixelfarm, Cinequipt, ShopNBC, Target, MMP. 


UMBRA by Selena Rios-Cortez and Megan Gourley (2018 Recipient):

The 2018 recipient of the MN Film & TV Student Film Grant is, for the first time, an animated short. Congratulations to Selena Rios-Cortez, Megan Gourley, and the entire team behind UMBRA!

Statement from UMBRA writer/director Selena Rios-Cortez

“The idea behind the film was one that I had since my freshman year of college. I am fascinated by the horror genre and the dark side of humanity. I strongly feel that everyone has dark desires that they repress – there can't be good without the bad after all. Everyone has the potential to be a monster; those that are just act on their repressed desires. The shadow beings are manifestations of the character's dark desire, which become more monstrous with each act committed. I decided on a horror film because there are not that many animated horror films. Most animated feature films, especially in the US, are kid friendly. Animation can be an adult platform with mature content. I want to see horror animated films in theaters!”

“The process for creating Umbra is one that made me want to drown in my own blood sweat and tears! Umbra is a hybrid animation of 2-D and 3-D animation, the background being 3D and characters being 2-D. I wanted it as a hybrid because we had people who specialized in either one or the other in our team. I wanted to utilize everyone's talents in the best way possible, plus hybrid animations are interesting to look at. We hand drew all the characters, as well as the textures on the buildings. We then scanned them into Photoshop and added our effects. Then we animated everything in After Effects using the puppet tool. We used 3ds Max to model our buildings, then unwrapped them, then textured. There was so much work put into this animation.”

“The Umbra team is honored and thankful for receiving this grant.


Umbra from Megan Gourley on Vimeo.


A BETTER LIFE by Connor Holt (2013 Recipient):

BIO: Conor Holt graduated from Minnesota State University Moorhead with a degree in Film Studies. Originally from Roseville, Minnesota, he moved to Los Angeles to pursue an internship at Marvel Studios. After working for the Sundance, Slamdance and Telluride Film Festivals, Holt now works in post-production for reality television, including the shows Undercover Boss, United Shades of America and Bizarre Foods. His short films “A Better Life” and “Alternate” have played at multiple festivals, including the Fantasia Film Festival in Montreal and the Sci-Fi London Film Festival in England.

“The MN Film & TV Grant was an indispensable asset to making my Senior Thesis film “A Better Life” at Minnesota State University Moorhead. Thanks to the grant, I was able to purchase props and equipment for the shoot and buy food for the cast and crew. I also used part of the money to pay for the fees to submit the film to festivals around the world; “A Better Life” ended up playing at a dozen festivals, including the prestigious Fantasia Film Festival in Montreal. It was an incredible honor to receive this grant, to be trusted to use the funding wisely in my artistic pursuit. I am forever grateful to the MN Film and TV Board for providing this Grant to MSUM students like myself.”

Conor Holt


A Better Life (Short Film) from Conor Holt on Vimeo.