Documentary 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 consider applications from documentary filmmakers through pitching sessions held three times each year, in London and Sheffield. The panel consists of BFI Film Fund executives, industry experts and peers. All documentary applications for development and production will be considered through this process.

In conjunction with the Sheffield Doc/Fest, we will invite a short list of applicants to a pitching session and give them the opportunity to present their projects to the panel. Pitching sessions in will be held in Sheffield in June, and in London in October and February. Funding awards are made three times a year, following each pitching session.

Please note all documentary applications (for development and production) will be considered through the twice yearly pitching sessions.

The process

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


Please ensure you have read the full guidelines for our funding before you complete the application form, and take careful note of the changes in our funding elaborated on above.

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 Doc/Fest. 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 notified but as a result of the volume of applications we receive, we do not have the resources to provide feedback on projects we are not taking forward.

A shortlist of up to eight projects will be invited to present their projects at a private 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, pitch trainer. At this workshop, the selected teams will be guided as to how to best deliver their pitch in Sheffield or London – 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 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 their final pitch to the panel is confident and persuasive.

Key dates:

Sheffield pitch

Deadline for applications Friday 25 March 2016
Workshop for shortlisted projects End of May (date tbc)
Pitch session for shortlisted projects At Sheffield Doc/Fest (date tbc)

London pitch – summer deadline

Deadline for applications Friday 22 July 2016
Workshop for shortlisted projects End of September (date tbc)
Pitch session for shortlisted projects End of October (date tbc)

London pitch – autumn deadline

Deadline for applications Friday 25 November 2016
Workshop for shortlisted projects End of January 2017
Pitch session for shortlisted projects End of February 2017


Read more



    Discovering, developing and funding new and emerging filmmakers.

Read more

Back to the top