CBC Docs: Short Docs

  

CBC Docs works with new and emerging content creators from across Canada. We want you to bring us the stories only you can tell, to create short docs that reveal unique perspectives, new voices, and use innovative methods of storytelling. 

We want to give you a national platform for your docs — they’ll be featured on cbc.ca/shortdocs and across CBC’s many other digital platforms.

We’re looking for stand-alone documentary concepts that are character-driven, modern, and focus on a single, unified, strong narrative, less than 30 minutes in length. We would like to see stories that have active, unfolding storylines, have the potential to provoke conversation and be highly shareable in the digital space.

Other things we will look for in your submissions:

Great characters and great stories

  • Is it a character-driven, personal, point of view story? 
  • Is it a contemporary story that hasn’t been told before?
  • Will it be relevant to Canadians? 
  • Does it have stakes that are clear and evident?
  • Is it reflective and insightful?
  • Does it give the audience unparalleled access that feels like a privilege?
  • Does the project reflect the real world in an authentic and original way? Do the images and scenes feel manipulated?

Approach

  • Are you considering your audience? These docs will live primarily in the digital space, and we are looking for content that will stand out in that space and feel accessible. That means you need to grab the audience’s attention quickly and keep it, and make them want to share the doc with their friends. 
  • Is your editorial and visual approach distinctive? 
  • Are you concise and efficient with your storytelling? In the digital space, shorter is better.
  • What other content would you produce to enhance the audience experience?
     

FAQ / Pitch Tips

When is the deadline for pitches?
General — we commission projects on an on-going basis.

I live outside of Canada. Can I apply?
Yes. We accept pitches from Canadians living abroad and from people with unique ties to Canada.

How many pitches will you select?
We’re not sure yet. It depends on the quality and scope of pitches we receive.

Is there a length min or max to the doc shorts?
We would like the bulk of these projects to be under 10 minutes  so please aim for that — but we will consider certain projects up to 30 minutes.

Do you accept films at the rough cut stage or even films that have been completed?
We prefer to commission the project at its earliest stage, giving us a chance to collaborate with you on it throughout production. We will consider partially completed docs if they fit our creative requirements. We may consider a limited number of acquisitions if the films have not been posted online or previously broadcast. Please note that finished films may require re-cutting depending on our editorial and technical requirements.

I have already filmed parts of my doc, can I still apply and use that footage in my film?
Yes, as long as you have the rights to the footage.

I’ve filmed some footage or developed my project using funds or grants from another organization/agency. Does this make my project ineligible?
It’s eligible as long as there are no restrictions on our creative input and licensing of the film for digital distribution. On your proposal, indicate any funds you’ve already received so we’re aware up front.

How much funding does each project receive?
There’s no set amount, budgets are evaluated and approved on a case-by-case basis and are reviewed with industry standards in mind.

Do I need to include a budget with my proposal?
It’s not required — we’ll request one if we would like to discuss your project further.

Will this air on CBC television?
We are commissioning specifically for digital distribution, however select shorts may air (in part or whole) in broadcast at some point.

When will decisions be made?
We will commission on an ongoing basis, but you can expect a response within 4–6 weeks of your submission.

What materials would you like included in the submission?
A one-page proposal outlining characters, narrative arc and creative treatment is sufficient. If you happen to already have tape or other media, please include appropriate links. Video of key characters is always helpful for us in making decisions.

Do I need to have confirmation from my characters/subjects before I submit a pitch about them?
Yes! Please don’t pitch us an idea that revolves around a main character if you haven’t talked to them about potentially being part of your doc.

I sent in my pitch and haven’t heard back. Should I follow up?
Thanks for your interest, but please don’t send any follow up emails. If we want to hear more about you or your pitch we will be in touch!

Once my project is chosen, does this mean the CBC has hired me as a freelancer?
You will be hired as independent producer, you will not be contracted as a freelancer. If we choose to work with you on this project, you will need to provide a budget, schedule, and put together a production team. If you already have other people attached to the project (director, editor etc.) please include them as part of your proposal.
 


CBC Submission Release Form

Materials will not be reviewed unless accompanied by a signed CBC Submission Release Form, downloadable here: Submission Release Form (PDF)
 
We will respond to all submissions within 6–8 weeks of receiving a signed CBC Submission Release Form. Please note that we cannot return materials submitted.
 

Contact Information

Lesley Birchard
Executive in Charge of Production, CBC Docs

All submissions should contain the subject line ‘CBC Docs: Short Docs’ and be e-mailed to: digitaldoc@cbc.ca

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