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. This will be done in front of an audience, allowing for a more public and transparent engagement that will benefit the documentary filmmaking community at large. Awards will be made on a bi-annual basis with pitching sessions in Sheffield in June and in London later in the year.
Before making an application, please read through the eligibility criteria for documentary funding in the standard Film Fund terms and conditions, and the general Film Fund application information:
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 public 10 minute pitching session. The first session will take place at the Sheffield Documentary Festival and an event will be confirmed in London for the second 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 1-day (8 hour) event taking place in London approximately 2 weeks before the formal pitching sessions, led by the Sheffield Documentary Festival’s pitch trainer. At this workshop, the six selected pitch teams will be guided as to how to best deliver their 10-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 before Sheffield 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
The pitching session will be a public event held during the Sheffield Documentary Film Festival in front of a panel of experts that will comprise executives from the BFI Film Fund and documentary industry experts. Each team will be given a ten minute slot to present their documentary project and any clips.
Initial verbal feedback will be given immediately at the pitching session.
The panel will meet to decide which of the shortlisted applications it wishes to support and the decision will be announced during the Festival at an industry networking event.
The BFI will then issue a formal but conditional expression of interest in funding your documentary (Letter of Intent). This may be useful in helping you to secure other investment as the BFI will not fully fund your documentary. The offer will be available for a specified period of time. Subsequent to the issuing of the Letter of Intent and at the appropriate moment in time (typically when the balance of finance is secured) further internal discussion with our Business Affairs and Production Finance Department will take place before we are able to formally commit to the project. Recommendations to fund the documentary are made to an internal BFI Lottery Finance Committee for approval in line with the standard guidelines for applicants.
London pitching session
A similar process of comprising a pitch training workshop and event will be held in London later in the calendar year.
All projects submitted before 22 April 2013 will be assessed for potential consideration at the June pitching session.
All projects submitted after 23 April 2013 will be assessed for potential consideration at the London session (dates for London session tbc).
By applying to the Film Fund for documentary funding you are agreeing to:
- Submit your project for consideration through this new process
- Attend the relevant pitching session
- Disclose details of your proposed project in a public forum and displaying clips from the project.
The BFI may, at its discretion, assess certain feature documentary applications according to the Film Fund standard assessment process in instances where the production schedule for the film requires a decision outside of the timeframe for this new process, or where the filmmaking team has a very experienced track record. Finally, filmmakers who wish to apply for documentary development funding and are not at the stage to apply for production funding will not be considered for the pitching sessions and the application will be assessed in the same ways as any other development application.