As Hot Docs launches its industry programming today (April 30), the Toronto-based documentary festival and conference is also unveiling a five-year funding and development initiative for Canadian filmmakers, with global streamer Netflix as its partner.
The Hot Docs Canadian Storytellers Project will invest in core funding and professional development programs for Canadian doc-makers who are Indigenous, Francophone, Deaf and/or have a disability, or who are persons of color. It’s funded out of the CDN$25 million market development fund announced last September in conjunction with Netflix’s pledge to spend $500 million over five years on Canadian productions.
The centerpiece of the initiative is the CrossCurrents Canada Doc Fund, which will financially support 25-40 independent documentary projects from emerging filmmakers over the next five years with grants ranging from CDN$10,000-$50,000. Both short and feature-length projects will be supported with development, production or post-production funding.
The CrossCurrents Canada Doc Fund will accept applications for its first round of disbursements in the fall of 2018.
The Canadian Storytellers Project will also intersect with existing Hot Docs programs to provide further year-round opportunities for Canadian filmmakers. It will support 10 fellowships annually for Hot Docs’ Doc Accelerator program for emerging filmmakers. Fellows in the Doc Accelerator program take part in a bespoke two-day private lab during the Hot Docs Festival, where they learn from industry experts, attend hands-on workshops and gain access to the Festival’s full slate of industry programming.
At this year’s edition of Hot Docs, 10 emerging filmmakers from the identified priority groups are currently enrolled in the Doc Accelerator program via support from Netflix. Applications for next year’s Doc Accelerator program will be accepted in winter 2019.
The project will also have a connection with Hot Docs’ Doc Ignite labs, which offer established and emerging doc-makers professional development curriculums regarding such topics as audience engagement, marketing and distribution. Through the new Hot Docs/Netflix initiative, no-cost Doc Ignite labs will touch down in multiple communities across Canada across the span of the project. Those will begin in the summer of 2018.
The project was designed through extensive and ongoing consultations with a diverse group of arts and culture organizations and individual artists across Canada. Hot Docs will engage the support of a Storytellers Advisory made up of film and media professionals from the groups served by the project to provide ongoing guidance. Members of these groups will also be involved in decision-making processes.
“Supporting Canadian storytellers is more important now than ever, and Netflix’s extraordinary commitment will be a game changer for many unheralded documentary filmmakers,” said Brett Hendrie (pictured, left), Hot Docs’ executive director, in a statement. “This program will champion world-class talent and reflect the incredible depth and breadth of communities across Canada. We thank Netflix for their collaboration and partnership, and we look forward to bringing these opportunities to filmmakers.”
“Netflix and its members around the world are passionate about documentary films and series,” said Lisa Nishimura (pictured, right), Netflix’s vice president of original documentaries and comedy. “We are thrilled to partner with Hot Docs to support Canadian storytellers. This project will promote opportunities for emerging filmmakers, who offer a diversity of perspectives and connect their unique voices to global audiences.”
The Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival runs April 26 to May 6.