Documentary production funding

The Film Fund is committed to supporting documentary filmmaking, and specifically documentary films with theatrical potential.

In recognition of the greater volume of applicants with theatrical documentary proposals, the current industry interest in the form, and the more specialised consideration that this genre requires, particularly for emerging talent, we will now consider applications from documentary filmmakers through twice yearly-pitching sessions – in London and Sheffield – with a panel of Fund executives, industry experts and peers. Filmmakers wishing to apply for production funding for documentaries should read this additional information and apply through this new process.

In conjunction with the Sheffield Documentary Film Festival, we will invite a short list of applicants to a pitching session in which they will have the opportunity to present their projects to a panel of experts with representation from both the BFI Film Fund and the wider documentary funding community. Awards will be made on a bi-annual basis with pitching sessions in Sheffield in June and in London in December.

The process

Before making an application, please read through the eligibility criteria for documentary funding in the standard Film Fund information document:

Applications should then be made through the BFI Film Fund online application form.

An initial assessment of the application will be made by personnel from the BFI Film Fund and the Sheffield Documentary Festival. Projects will be assessed on their creative vision and the perceived ability of the team to deliver that vision. Criteria will include strength of story and characters and the theatrical resonance of the project – i.e. why does it have to be a big screen project?

Unsuccessful applicants will be given feedback and advice on other potential sources of funding.

A short list of up to six projects will be invited to present their projects at a ten minute pitching session.

Prior to the pitching forum, the shortlisted filmmaking teams will be invited to attend a pitching workshop. This workshop is not mandatory, but is advised.

The pitch workshop will be a one-day (eight hour) event taking place at the BFI offices in London approximately two weeks before the formal pitching sessions. The workshop will be led by Christina Burnett, Sheffield Documentary Festival’s pitch trainer. At this workshop, the six selected pitch teams will be guided as to how to best deliver their seven minute pitch in Sheffield – how to clearly communicate their story and characters, how to structure their presentations for most impact on the panel, and what audience they expect to interest with their documentary. They will also be supported in developing the best teaser clips to screen at the pitching session. The day will consist of delivering each pitch a number of times, with critique from the trainer and the rest of the group in order to make the pitch presentation iteratively better each time. After the workshop each team will have a short time to recut their teaser clips based on feedback received and practice their presentations in order to ensure that the presentation in front of the panel is confident and persuasive.

On request from shortlisted applicants showing hardship, BFI may provide travel bursaries for attendance at both the pitch training workshops and the pitching sessions.

Sheffield pitching session – next pitch dates

The next Film Fund pitch will take place at Sheffield Doc/Fest in June. Key dates and deadlines are as follows:

Deadline for applications Friday 7 March 2014
Pitching projects announced Week commencing 28 April 2014
Workshop Monday 12 May 2014
Pitch Wednesday 11 June 2014
Announcements Week commencing 23 June 2014

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