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Documentary filmmakers get new pitching opportunities from BFI

BFI LogoThe BFI Film Fund has announced new pitching opportunities for documentary filmmakers. Applications for documentary production funding will now take place twice yearly at new pitching sessions. One will take place at Sheffield Doc/Fest in June and the second has been announced to take place in London later in the year.

Documentary filmmakers will be able to gain access to valuable feedback directly from senior executives within the BFI Film Fund and wider documentary funding community. On top of this they will also be able to benefit from an intensive day of expert-led development ahead of the pitch.

In a statement today, Sheffield Doc/Fest and the BFI wrote: “Documentary is a form in which the UK excels; nine documentaries with UK involvement appeared in Sundance Film Festival’s prestigious and highly competitive documentary sections in January, the BAFTAs saw Bart Layton and Dimitri Doganis take the Outstanding Debut award for their box office hit The Imposter, and British-produced documentary, Searching For Sugar Man, recently won both the BAFTA and Oscar for Best Documentary. The BFI’s new process aims to help lay the foundations of future success.”

After applying to the pitching session, a shortlist of applicants will be invited to present their projects in a 10-minute pitch to a panel of experts from the BFI Film Fund and industry experts. The idea is that this new process of pitching will provide more detailed advice for all applicants and will allow for greater transparency.

Senior executive of the BFI Film Fund, Lizzie Francke said: “We’re absolutely committed to supporting the UK’s visionary documentary filmmakers and we’re pleased to be working with Sheffield Doc/Fest on this new way to deliver support directly to the sector.

“Documentary is the punk of the film industry – it so often fuels innovation and creativity in filmmaking and also in distribution. No one can bring a film to life with more conviction than the filmmakers driving the project, so we’re really excited to hear about new stories and characters directly from the talented filmmakers who are so passionate about bringing them to the big screen.”

Charlie Phillips, marketplace director, Sheffield Doc/Fest said: “We’re delighted that the BFI is showing a renewed commitment to supporting documentary, especially documentaries being made by emerging talent. This is a totally new opportunity for UK filmmakers to pitch on a biannual basis to the BFI, and we’re honoured to be working with them to make sure they hear from the best talent from all regions of the UK.”

The BFI Film Fund has previously backed a range of innovative documentaries from UK filmmakers, including Carol Morley’s haunting Dreams of a Life, Clio Barnard’s award-winning The Arbor and Sophie Fiennes’ film, The Pervert’s Guide To Ideology.

The move to change the process follows an increase in the volume of applications to the BFI Film Fund for theatrical documentary proposals, and is in recognition of the specialised consideration the genre requires, particularly for emerging talent.

The new application process for documentaries is now live. Filmmakers wishing to apply for production funding for documentaries should go to the BFI website and apply through this new process using the BFI Film Fund online application mechanism


Written by

Alexandra Zeevalkink is a Dutch-born journalist living in London who founded DocGeeks in August 2011 in order to have a legitimate excuse to watch every documentary under the sun. She freelances for various publications and writes mainly about documentaries and the film production industry. When she is not blogging or watching films, she enjoys theater, photography and reading loads of books. She is always on the look out for potential partnerships with other creative minds.

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