It's not often that artists who receive grants are asked to give them back, but that's what happened to four filmmakers who got Legacy Amendment money through the Minnesota Film and TV Board.

The state Office of Grants Management decided to terminate $60,000 in grants -- half of a total $120,000 -- citing "technical noncompliance" in the film board's review process.

Last winter, filmmakers were invited to submit funding proposals to the Film and TV Board for movie projects that had something to do with Minnesota and were nearing completion. It was seen as a rare opportunity.

"There are so few grants for the post-production phase; there hadn't been anything like this, and it's so desperately needed," said applicant Kelly Nathe, whose project wasn't one of the four that got funding.

The board received 25 applications. Its reviewers then watched clips and did a preliminary elimination based on what they saw before looking at the more detailed proposals. However, the rules set by the state specified that each proposal be evaluated equally on a 100-point scale.

Lucinda Winter, director of the film board, said that since it was the first time they had received a Legacy grant, "we weren't sure what to expect."

"We understood state grants have lots of rules," she said, "but I didn't understand there was no room to freelance how you're going to do the review. We were trying to be efficient."

Grants specialist Jane Xiong from the state Office of Grants Management said she "received a complaint about how the process was done, so our folks looked into it. We were involved in crafting the original RFP [request for proposal], so we reached out to another state agency to review, as an internal control. They found it did not adhere to the guidelines."

Each of the filmmakers got some portion of the initial $60,000 that was granted, and if the money already has been spent, they don't have to repay it. But they won't be getting their expected portion of a second $60,000 outlay.

"We met personally with each filmmaker and apologized profusely," Winter said.

Xiong called the termination of funds unusual. "I do feel for those filmmakers who were expecting that second advance, but there were quite a few people who weren't fairly evaluated," she said.

All the filmmakers have been invited to reapply for funding.

Kristin Tillotson • 612-673-7046