Tips & Tools: Choosing Work Samples for Your Applications

We’ve reached the point in our grantmaking process where applicants in Emerging Fields, Literature and Performing Arts who have advanced to the second round are asked to submit work samples. We thought this would be an appropriate moment to offer some tips for artists on providing quality work samples, a crucial element in any competitive application process. While these tips may have a bias towards Creative Capital’s process, they are hardly exclusive to us, and we hope these pointers will be useful to all artists!

  1. Don’t forget that your entire application—words and pictures—is an exercise in persuasion. Your job at this stage is to show the evaluators that: 1) You have a terrific and innovative idea; 2) You have the chops to pull off that idea; 3) The evaluator would be remiss to not join in on your extraordinary creative journey.
  2. Pick your work samples very carefully. They should build a bridge between what you’ve done before and what you propose to do now.  Do not assume that the evaluators will make that connection, however. Instead, make sure you tell them!
  3. The strongest work samples capture your singular sensibility and areas of exploration.
  4. In order for the evaluator to fully appreciate your past efforts, please make sure they can read, see and/or hear your work samples!  (Believe me, I wouldn’t stress this if it were not a problem.)
  5. Please submit recently completed work, say from the last five years. While completed work is best, works-in-progress supplements are also acceptable if you feel they will make the best case.  No matter what, evaluators like to see at least some fully produced work.  It gives them a real sense of what you are capable of doing creatively.
  6. The first few minutes or pages of a work sample are crucial. First impressions count! Try to avoid a slow buildup or lengthy intertitles. Instead, drop them into the action and make them feel like they are right there with you. Remember, yours is not the only sample that the evaluator is reviewing so you want to capture their attention quickly and then hold it for the duration of your sample.
  7. Avoid submitting trailers, a reel of greatest hits, or a series of quick edits of your work. Submissions should be a continuous excerpt so evaluators can see how your work unfolds. If you’d like to share more than one section of work, divide it into two samples.
  8. Finally, remember to follow the guidelines and instructions for the application, and don’t hesitate to ask questions when needed.


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