The San Francisco Film Society has secured $3m in funding over the next five years from the Kenneth Rainin Foundation to support narrative features made in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The SFFS/KRF Filmmaking Grants support films that through plot, character, theme or setting significantly explore human and civil rights, anti-discrimination, gender and sexual identity and 'other urgent social justice issues of our time.'

The grants will be awarded in the spring and autumn of each year, commencing this year with two $35,000 grants. The application period for the first grant opens on January 28 and the 2009 grants support screenwriting and script development, pre-production and post-production. The first winner will be announced on May 6 at the Golden Gate Awards during the San Francisco International Film Festival.

In addition to the cash grant, recipients will get various benefits through the Society's film-maker services programmes, such as free tuition to Society classes and workshops, a residency of up to six months, published articles on the festival's daily online magazine, and work-in-progress presentation and discussion at the bimonthly SFFS Film Arts Forums.

Exact amounts of individual grants and the number of grants made each year after 2009 will be determined on an annual basis. The total annual grant amounts per year are projected as follows: $70,000 in 2009; $450,000 in 2010; $675,000 in 2011; $864,000 in 2012; and $1,050,000 in 2013.

'The Kenneth Rainin Foundation's mission is to fund inspiring, world-changing work,' Kenneth Rainin Foundation founder Jennifer Rainin said. 'We are thrilled to partner with the San Francisco Film Society to harness the power and influence of film for positive social change and to support the vibrant Bay Area film community.'

'The Film Society is supremely proud and grateful to be entering into this extraordinary partnership with the Kenneth Rainin Foundation,' Graham Leggat, the Society's executive director who hinted at the grants last week at a Sundance reception in Park City, said. 'The Foundation's enlightened patronage promises to have a transformative effect on Bay Area film culture.'

The Kenneth Rainin Foundation is a private family foundation 'dedicated to enhancing the quality of life by promoting equitable access to a baseline of literacy, enabling inspiration through the magic of the arts and providing opportunity for a healthy lifestyle for those with chronic disease. The Foundation focuses its efforts on the San Francisco Bay Area and specific medical issues.