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What is the Community Builders Grant and when can I apply?

The Community Builders Grant is an annual short film grant fund. Applications for the 2021 grant will be accepted March 1st - 31st, 2021. If you've got a project idea brewing, we encourage you to start working on it now. For more information about the 2021 grant, email

Who do we fund?

You. Artists. Storytellers. Filmmakers. Creatives. Screenwriters. Producers. Cinematographers with a story.


*Prizes for our 2021 grant will be announced in the coming months and are subject to change, according to yearly sponsors and funds.*

Here are the prizes from our 2020 grant:

$3,000 Cash from Camera Ambassador

$5,000 Gear Credit from Camera Ambassador

A Wrap Party with Camera Ambassador

Casting Session with Compass Casting

Free Color Grading by The Mill

One Year Membership with the Midwest Film Festival

6-Month Membership with the Independent Film Alliance

40% off post services, 60% off location audio, and One Mentor Session with Noise Floor Sound Solutions

Promoted Screening Event at the Chicago Cultural Center, Sponsored by the Chicago Film Office

Reserved Space for Three Production Meetings at the Chicago Cultural Center, Sponsored by the Chicago Film Office


Camera Ambassador would like to thank our official sponsors for the 2020 Community Builders Grant.

If you are interested in becoming a sponsor, email us at

Chicago Film Office

The Chicago Film Office, a division of the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, leads the city’s effort to attract and enhance the production of feature films, television series, commercials, documentaries and all forms of local screen entertainment. For filmmakers, it is a one-stop liaison for all City of Chicago production needs including permits, city services, and logistical support. Audiences around the world travel Chicago’s streets through its portrayal in filmed entertainment. These compelling images help to generate tourism, promote international business, and establish a new global awareness of our landscape and culture. 

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Noise Floor

NoiseFloor is Chicago's premier audio production studio. We record, mix, produce sound and audio for Film, Broadcast TV, Radio, Web, Video Games and more! What Started with just two sound designers in 2005, NoiseFloor has now grown to a strong ten member staff of sound designers, music composers, producers, audio implementators, mixers and location recordists.  The team has brought experience, passion, and talent to such projects as: Hoop Dreams and Apollo 13. Spanning Advertising, Gaming, Audio books, Television and Film, NoiseFloor’s client list ranges from Coca Cola to EGO to The Big Ten Network to Warner Brothers. 

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Midwest Film Festival

The Midwest Film Festival is the nation's only film festival solely dedicated to the Midwest filmmaker, presenting audiences with regionally produced independent cinema. This year-round film festival sits proudly at the center of the independent film scene in Chicago and the Midwest. They are dedicated to strengthening the Midwest filmmaking community by consistently showcasing its talent, providing educational resources, and creating space in which community members can cultivate organic relationships. 

Visit their Film Freeway page to submit your short film to be considered to be screened at one of their short film themed screenings!

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Independent Film Alliance

The Independent Film Alliance provides the programming and resources needed to integrate the art and commerce of independent content creation, in order to build a diverse, sustainable industry in Chicago.

Formed as the result of a merger between Stage 18 Chicago and IFP Chicago in January of 2020, IFA believes in Chicago as a place where all media creatives can achieve their dreams.

Visit their membership page for more information on how to join their community, and stop by their events page to check out our current programming.

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Compass Casting

Compass Casting is a Chicago based casting office for film, commercial, and television owned and operated by Casting Director Sarah Clark. We have auditioned thousands of actors for hundreds of commercials and dozens of films. With competitive rates, a relaxed environment, and a great casting team, we're excited to help you find your cast.

"Finding the right cast in a sea of actors can be daunting, so we're here to navigate you through the casting process. I opened this office in the summer of 2013 to give actors the kind of place I always wanted to audition when I acted and clients the place I always wanted to work when I produced." - Sarah Clark

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The Mill

We pride ourselves on being trusted specialists, drawing on our legacy and affinity for problem solving to produce great work. As a creative partner for agencies, production companies and brands, we tell stories across moving image, interactive and experiential mediums. We are as confident applying new technologies to events and virtual experiences as we are crafting high quality visual effects and video production.

We know unconventional problems need unconventional ideas. We thrive on thinking laterally to bring a new perspective to a client’s project. We push the creative potential of technology to deliver awe inspiring and impactful results.

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Chicago Department Of Cultural Affairs & Special Events

The Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) is dedicated to enriching Chicago’s artistic vitality and cultural vibrancy. This includes fostering the development of Chicago’s non-profit arts sector, independent working artists and for-profit arts businesses; providing a framework to guide the City’s future cultural and economic growth, via the 2012 Chicago Cultural Plan; marketing the City’s cultural assets to a worldwide audience; and presenting high-quality, free and affordable cultural programs for residents and visitors.


Having developed a passion for storytelling at a young age, Jessica Tolliver has approached the film industry with a fresh perspective and an unparalleled work ethic. Taking an entrepreneurial approach, she founded her production company, Mad Panda Lab to ensure she would have the freedom to create films, music videos, and promotional content without limitations.⁠ To contact Jessica visit: or follow her on instagram at: @Jessicatolliver_dp

Sean Sankalp Raju (Winner of the 2020 grant) is a Chicago-based director and producer. He cut his teeth on political filmmaking as the Director of Video for Daniel Biss in Illinois, and eventually as the video producer for Elizabeth Warren’s campaign. In 2019, he created the popular web series, Chicago’s New Boss, where he documented the Chicago Mayoral race and interviewed candidates including Toni Preckwinkle and Alderman Andre Vazquez. His series was featured on⁠ Chicago Tonight, Politico’s Illinois Daily Playbook, and radio shows across the city.⁠

To contact Sean visit: or follow him on  instagram at: @Seanr1795

Hannah Welever is a writer, director, producer, and cinematographer carving her own way as a storyteller and rugged creative. Hannah is committed to creating refreshing and empowering content that remains at a point of accessibility and relevance to women and minority communities. Recently Hannah & Ramone Hulet started their own production company called Good Trouble Films. To contact Hannah visit: & or follow her in instagram at: @hannahwhatevah


Congratulations to past years winners of the Community Builders Grant

2020 - A Nickname By Sean Sankalp Raju

A Nickname is a comedic short film centered on the childhood story of how I got my nickname, Sean, as an Indian American immigrant.

I am proud of my Indian heritage, but to those that don’t know me, taking on a Western nickname is a sign of abandoning my roots. Our short film recreates the true childhood story of how I became entangled in a 7-year-old girl’s grand plan of buying a can of coke and ended up going by Sean to this day. Along the way, the film delves into arbitrary Western gender constructs like “pink is for girls and blue is for boys”, and ends with a frank conversation between myself and a friend about what the implications are of me being “named by a white girl”. It’s funny, irreverent, and brutally honest.

The film will be told in a hyper-stylized, experimental scripted vlog format. Every event is real and actually happened to me, but it’s important for the audience to realize that these are memories — so they should *feel* like memories. Voice overs, jump cuts, animation, montages, and non-linear B-plots add to the stream-of-consciousness feel that comes through throughout the film.

America can be a scary place for immigrants and the decisions we
make for ourselves are often a reflection upon our communities. This film is meant for those who have gone through the struggles of being an outsider and we hope that they will relate to the film’s themes emphatically.

2019 - Patios By Zachary Moore of Naked Gallery

Patois is a film that speaks on the importance of identity and self-worth through the coming of age story of a young first generation American girl Khenya, as she navigates being raised in a household with rules and tendencies that reflect the traditions of her parent’s home country, while also trying to find herself and fit in at a typical American school.

Naked Gallery, Inc. is a minority owned, Chicago based production company whose mission it is to make films that express our ideas, however beautiful or disturbing they may be. We promise to never create boring productions, and will always do our best to avoid trends, in favor of setting them ourselves. Our work focuses on exposing the human experience bare, free from any facades. Free to be comfortable in your own skin. Naked.

More information on Zach Moore & Naked Gallery: