CBC Short Docs

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CBC Short Docs is CBC's award-winning series of short and mid-length digital documentaries. 

We work with emerging and mid-career documentary filmmakers from different backgrounds from across Canada. We want you to bring us the stories that only you can tell, revealing unique perspectives and using innovative methods of storytelling.

Where do our Short Docs live?
We’ll give you a national platform for your docs — they’ll be featured on CBC Gem, cbc.ca/shortdocs and across CBC’s many other digital platforms. We’ll also give you an international platform via the CBC Docs Youtube Channel. Sometimes we’ll broadcast our docs on CBC Television, however we’re programming first and foremost for a digital audience.

What are we looking for?
Stand-alone documentary concepts under 40 minutes in length that are character-driven, contemporary, focus on a single, unified, strong narrative, and will appeal to a digital audience.

Stories that:

Characters that:

  • Are you considering a digital audience?
  • Is your editorial and visual approach distinctive?
  • Are you concise and efficient with your storytelling?

Materials to include in your submission

A simple one-page proposal outlining the following:

  • A logline. Articulate what your doc is, not just the story behind it.
  • Characters. Video of key characters is always helpful for us in making decisions, but not necessary.
  • Story and format. What’s the narrative arc? Tell us how you’re going to take this doc beyond being a profile piece. If you happen to already have tape or other media, please include appropriate links.
  • Creative treatment. What's your unique visual approach?
  • Links to some of your previous work so that we know your strengths.
  • Signed CBC submission release form

FAQ / Pitch Tips

When is the deadline for pitches?
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 minimum or maximum length for short docs?
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

All proposal submissions should be e-mailed to: digitaldoc@cbc.ca

Christian Hamilton
Development Manager, Unscripted Content

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