Founded in 2016, The Saul Zaentz Innovation Fund in Film and Media at Johns Hopkins University seeks to further the pioneering legacy of Mr. Zaentz by connecting the Baltimore creative storytelling community with prestigious artists, veteran executives, and successful entrepreneurs in an incubator program designed to nurture project ideas that will advance the art and craft of audiovisual media.

The Innovation Fund, open to all greater Baltimore residents, is working to break barriers and help underrepresented filmmakers in Baltimore enter and succeed in the film and XR industry through workshops, mentoring, and grant funding. Applications for Fellowship this year will be open through September 5th. Our new cohort of Fellows will be selected from this applicant pool and announced in September. Then cohort will participate in StoryLab over the weekend of October 27-30 in partnership with top Indie producers, directors, and writers. Upon completing the lab, each Fellow will be teamed up with an industry mentor and will be eligible to apply for the next round of grant funding in early 2023. Visit and click APPLY.

Like Saul Zaentz, the Innovation Fund believes that film has the power to change our way of seeing the world and like him, we know first-hand the difficulties of getting films made and distributed. Zaentz was a talented and relentlessly fierce filmmaker and made the films he wanted to make – most of which he was told would be impossible to make. Fully aware of just how much his early financial success and reputation in the music industry enabled him to fight the establishment, Zaentz proved them all wrong, and made his films independently, outside the studio network – winning 20 Oscars in the process.

The Saul Zaentz Innovation Fund at Johns Hopkins University (SZIF) was created in his honor to combat the deeply entrenched inequities in the film industry by providing support to Baltimore creatives, to help them tell the stories they want to tell. Stories that have long been ignored, rejected, excluded, or stolen. Since its launch, the Fund has had a direct impact on Baltimore-based artists and filmmakers, awarding nearly 2 million dollars to the community and connecting our filmmakers with experts from all areas of the industry.

All SZIF Fellows come from the Baltimore region – far outside the filmmaking hubs of NY and LA, both geographically and experientially. More than half of our funded Fellows have come from the BIPOC community and just under 70% have been female. Our current 2022 Fellows range in ages from their early twenties to over fifty. While we do not measure sexual orientation, we support LGBT+ content and storytellers from the LGBT+ environment. As we like to say, we don’t look much like industry statistics, and that makes us happy.

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