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January 24, 2014

  • “Medicine of the Wolf” won first place in the 2013 ACE Grant. iStockphoto

  • “Shadow Trade” won first place in the 2012 ACE Grant. Benjamin Todd

  • “Cages of Shame” won first place in the 2011 ACE Grant. Martin Guinness

  • “One Lucky Elephant” was the 2010 ACE Grant winner.

  • “American Chimp” was the 2009 ACE Grant winner. iStockphoto

  • “The Elephant in the Living Room” was the 2008 ACE Grant winner.

  • “The Concrete Jungle” was the 2007 ACE Grant winner. iStockphoto

  • “Cougars on the Edge” was the 2006 ACE Grant winner. iStockphoto

Established in 2006, The Humane Society of the United States’ Animal Content in Entertainment (ACE) Documentary Film Grant attracted hundreds of submissions on a vast array of animal protection issues.

From 2006 to 2013, The ACE program awarded an annual grant to documentary film projects that highlight animal issues. The winning proposal received a $20,000 grant. Two runners-up received $2,500 each.

Winners were selected by HSUS staff and a distinguished committee of film and television executives.


ACE Grant Entry Guidelines

Submissions were accepted on a rolling basis, and winners will be announced by the end of the year.


Before submitting, make sure your project fits the following criteria:

  • Film projects must contain an animal welfare or animal protection issue.
  • Works produced by animal-protection groups are not eligible.
  • The applicant must be a producer and/or director of the submitted work.
  • The applicant must be 18 years of age or older.
  • Projects in pre-production will not be considered.

Submission Process

Email your written proposal, which should include:

  • Film story/synopsis
  • Proposed running time
  • Director’s Statement: How will this film raise awareness of an animal issue?
  • Release strategy
  • Budget
  • Funding Sources
  • Schedule
  • Filmmaker bios and past credits

HSUS staff will review written proposals. Entrants whose projects have been selected for the next round will be contacted by The HSUS and asked for a video sample. Qualifying projects are then sent to a committee of entertainment industry executives, who will help narrow the finalists down to three grant-winning projects.

Review Criteria

Projects will be judged on their artistic strength and vision, the professional capabilities of applicant(s), potential broadcast and distribution viability, and on how the the animal welfare issue depicted and relates to the overall mission and/or specific campaign priorities of The Humane Society of the United States.

Frequently asked questions

Don’t see your question answered below? Send us an email.

My film is in development; may I still apply?

No. Projects in development are not eligible. Films must be in production, post-production, or in need of finishing funds.

Is there a minimum running time?

Yes. Documentaries must have a planned running time of at least 40 minutes.

Fiction or nonfiction?

Currently ACE only awards financial grants to nonfiction films. However, if you are working on a fiction film or TV project related to animal issues, take a look at the ways that ACE can assist scripted projects.

May international filmmakers apply?

Yes, the ACE grant is open to filmmakers from anywhere in the world.

Will I be notified when my emailed proposal is received?

Yes, you will receive a confirmation email after your proposal has been received.

What information do I need to include in my written proposal?

That information is listed above under “Submission Process.”

Is video required with the initial submission?

No, applicants should not submit video with their written proposals. Entrants whose projects that are selected for the next round will be asked to submit video. Video samples must be at least 15 minutes in length. They may be in the form of a rough cut, sizzle reel, or sample scene. If you are not asked to submit a video sample, your project has not been moved forward.

May I mail a hard-copy of my proposal?

In order to be more environmentally friendly, we only accept proposals electronically through email.

I have submitted a written proposal, but I haven’t heard back. Does this mean I have not moved on to the next round?

If you haven’t been asked to send a video sample and it’s after December 1, your project was not passed on to the final judges.

Is there a hard deadline to submit?

Announcements of winners will be made by December 1. Submissions are accepted on a rolling basis, so if your project is submitted after winners have been decided, your film will be considered for the following year’s grant.

Who is on your final judging committee?

We have a confidentiality agreement with our individual judging committee members. But we can disclose that previous ACE Grant judges have been representatives from Animal Planet, National Geographic, PBS, HBO, Sundance Channel, Participant Media, Documentary Channel, Authentic Entertainment, PorchLight Entertainment, Gravitas Ventures, Screaming Flea Productions, Cineflix Productions, and Green Planet Films.

Is there a fee to apply for the grant?

No, there is no fee.

Will applicants receive feedback if they do not win?

No, applicants will not receive feedback if they haven’t won a grant.


 Past ACE Grant winners

The deserving projects that have won ACE Grants have been created by filmmakers hailing from all over the world.

And the topics have been just as wide-ranging: from the growing phenomenon of wild animals in urban areas to a nine-year attempt to find a new home for a retired circus elephant to the shocking reality of the illegal trade in dog meat.

2013: “Medicine of the Wolf”

This feature-length documentary from filmmaker Julia Huffman follows the work of renowned environmentalist and “National Geographic” photographer Jim Brandenburg, who has studied wolves in the field for 44 years. “Medicine of the Wolf” examines the treatment of America’s gray wolves.
*2013 Runners-Up: “Kaziranga” and “Sea Horse”

2012: “Shadow Trade”

Produced by Ella Todd of Environment Films and directed by Richard Elson, “Shadow Trade” follows a British journalist as he digs up the dark truth behind Southeast Asia’s illegal dogmeat trade.
*2012 Runner-Up: “Horsepower”

2011: “Cages of Shame”

Director Martin Guinness’ film about the rescue of captive moon bears from a Chinese bear bile farm won the first-place prize in the 2011 ACE Grant. The film is now available for online rental.
*2011 Runners-Up: “The Eyes of Thailand” and “Whale Like Me

2010: “One Lucky Elephant”

Directed by Lisa Leeman and produced by Jordana Glick-Franzheim and Cristina Colissimo, “One Lucky Elephant” follows the nine-year journey to find Flora, a retired circus elephant, her new home. It premiered on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) in 2011 and is now available on DVD.

2009: “American Chimp”

In profiling the bizarre Palm Springs lifestyle of Cheeta, the chimpanzee “star” of film and TV, director David Grabias’ “American Chimp” (formerly titled “Cinema Chimp”) goes on to explore the debate over the ethics of using non-human primate “actors” in the entertainment industry.

2008: “The Elephant in the Living Room” 

Produced and directed by Michael Webber, the film chronicles the dangerous epidemic of keeping wild animals as pets, threatening their owners, their communities, and the animal’s welfare. The film hit U.S. theaters in spring 2011 and aired on Nat Geo WILD. It is now on DVD and Netflix.
*2008 Finalist: The Tiger Next Door

2007: “The Concrete Jungle”

“The Concrete Jungle,” directed by Don Bernier, examines the relationship between humans and urban animals worldwide. From biologists to everyday city dwellers, we get first-hand accounts of the increasing conflicts between wildlife and humans, and what is being done to reach a peaceful coexistence.

2006: “Cougars on the Edge”

Director Janice Jensen’s “Cougars on the Edge” explores the habitat encroachment of the cougars in the Santa Monica Mountains, which border one of the most heavily traveled freeways in the Los Angeles area. Using the technology of radio transmitters and GPS tracking devices, National Park Service biologists get a unique perspective into the lives and behavior of these elusive cats.

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Article source: HSUS

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