Film students express frustration over decrease in CPA funding
The maximum amount students can be awarded has been decreased to $500 for most projects that are not student theses.
Tim Tai, Photography Editor
This past year, Yale College saw a rise in applications for the Creative and Performing Arts Award and decreased the maximum amount students can be awarded to $500 for projects in most arts disciplines that are not student theses. Previously, all award maximums were set to $1200.
Film students expressed concern that the money they get from CPAs – often lower than the limit – remains insufficient for the costs of their projects. These students said the guidelines for what CPAs cover are often restrictive for film projects, as CPAs cannot cover purchase of equipment, actors, travel or transportation costs, food — unless it serves as a prop — or wages.
“It’s a really hard space to navigate and almost feels like we’re pulling at strings, pulling at each other and pulling from the little resources that we can to make anything work,” said Fernando Cuello Garcia ’24, a film and media studies major. “As a whole and for the CPA as well, it really shows that Yale doesn’t care about film.”
CPAs are administered by the Council of Heads of College with the goal of supporting on-campus dramatic, musical, dance, video or film projects. They are financed by the Sudler Fund, Welch Fund and the Bates Fund. Projects must take place on campus, and applying students must consult with their Head of College prior to submission of their application.
While there is a centralized website for applications, Cuello Garcia said that changes to recent rules — including that students must speak to their Head of College — goes against “institutional knowledge” passed down from upperclassmen, creating confusion around how to apply for CPAs.
Given these challenges, Marc-Alain Bertoni ’24, a film and media studies major, said film at Yale is an “afterthought,” with the lack of funding through CPAs as clear evidence of this.“Time and time again, film at Yale has been undermined by unclear regulation and broad rules applied to the artistic community that simply don’t consider how film and filmmaking would factor into the equation,” Bertoni wrote.
Students may apply for CPAs twice a year and can only serve as the primary proposer for one project produced per term.
The maximum grant for plays and musicals, as well as thesis films, is $1,200. For all other projects, price maximums range from $500 to $1,000, with additional funding granted for obtention of legal rights.Cuello Garcia said the decreased limit compounds with other discrepancies including a lack of resources for film students at Yale, which are mostly provided through the Center for Collaborative Arts and Media.
“Film, on its own, I think tends to be a lot more expensive to produce than some of the other arts but that’s compounded with the fact that a lot of resources at Yale are kind of lacking for production,” Cuello Garcia said.
Cuello Garcia, the student coordinator at the CCAM, said that the CCAM lacks resources from Yale to support the space, especially if compared to the resources for graduate students at the School of Art.
Bertoni wrote that he applied for a CPA for a film project last fall and received the maximum amount of $500, but said he thinks that there are a lot of hidden costs which make the maximum insufficient, along with the high costs of what the CPA does cover.
“Essentially, if you’re at Yale, and you want to make a film, you have to be prepared to pay out of pocket to do so, and considering the amount of money this institution has, I think it’s a shame that is the case,” Bertoni wrote to the News.Head of Timothy Dwight College Mary Lui, the chair of the CPA committee on the Council of the Heads of College, wrote that there are categories of funding within the CPA system that each have preset limits, and the aim is to fund projects “as best as possible according to our best understanding of average costs per category.”
“There are many reasons why a project won’t get full funding, and it is case by case rather than a specific category getting less,” Lui told the News.
According to Lui, CPAs come out of gifts to Yale College and are broadly defined — early conversations back in the 1980s emphasized performing arts but the fund “quickly broadened” to a greater variety of arts today.
But Lui said this year has faced an increase in applications across many categories. Residential colleges have stretched their arts budgets “to the limit,” with some exceeding their own budgets.
Lui added that there are varying costs between theater and film projects, and theater projects may be especially costly due to the buying of rights for productions.
“The difficulties of funding such a high volume of CPA applications across the board, including film, has led to discussions with film faculty on how best to support filmmakers whether through the CCAM or additional streams of funding devoted to curricular film making,” Lui told the News. “So I am hopeful that we’ll be able to do more for filmmakers in the future.”
Kate Krier, Dean of Yale College Arts, explained that total CPA funding per college has remained flat since 2014. In the 2014-15 year, 72 students applied. In the 2022-3 year, 421 have.
As such, colleges have had to be more selective regarding funding decisions, and a lower percentage of applicants.
Krier noted that the Center for Collaborative Arts and Media will, in the coming fall, offer $28,000 worth of film equipment to students, informed by “wish list” feedback from student filmmakers.
This year’s applicants, however, have weathered numerous monetary difficulties in carrying out graded film projects and, in some cases, their senior theses.
Jonas Kilga ‘23, whose senior thesis film required external funding, felt hindered in his ability to complete his graduation requirement by financial restraints.
“If you, like me, needed this grant to graduate from Yale, then it is a case of the school actively prohibiting you from completing a graduation requirement,” Kilga explained to the News. “The need to crowdfund…creates significant equity issues, because those students with wealthier friends and family will have more funding for their films than students from low-income backgrounds.”
Kilga explained that difficulties surrounding CPA funding only cropped up starting this year, when a drastic increase in applications had severely reduced the percentage of applicants who received grants.
The explanation students received, Kilga noted, was that the money “just wasn’t there.”
Non-senior film students have also run into difficulties funding class-mandated film projects, having to crowdfund or spend thousands of dollars on projects. Cuello Garcia said many students fund projects using their own money — spending up to $10,000 for film theses.
“It doesn’t have the sufficient equipment that we need,” Cuello Garcia said. “So it’s a matter of pulling money out of your own pocket or, or asking friends to give you equipment. There’s mostly no other mainstream ways of funding”
Funds given from the CPA awarded in February must be submitted for reimbursement by May 5.
Correction 4/20: This article has been updated to reflect that the $500 cap for non-thesis CPA grants only applies to most, not all, arts disciplines.