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The Guardian Documentaries Pitch for short films

The GuardianSheffield Doc/Fest might have lost its Deputy Director Charlie Phillips to The Guardian two years ago, but this doesn’t mean Phillips stopped caring for the documentary filmmakers he worked with for so many years. For the second year in a row, the newspaper offers festival delegates the chance to pitch ideas for short docs and get £5000 towards their film and an online premiere on The Guardian website.

Guardian Documentaries is a platform for the world’s documentary talent to showcase documentaries of 5-20 minutes. The criteria are strong storytelling, a suitability for an online audience, a good pace, and telling a story not yet known to The Guardian’s readership.

For this particular pitch competition, The Guardian wants original ideas for short stand-alone documentaries.

These must:

  • be fast-paced in the way they’re told
  • be contemporary not historical
  • feature brilliant storytelling and characters, led by a complete story arc which really pulls you along and completes in the running time of the film (between 5 and 20 minutes)
  • be relevant globally to a wide audience beyond the UK or your host country
  • be about something that’s not been done too much before. If you can break a new story, even better
  • be something you can imagine people who aren’t necessarily documentary fans clicking on out of curiosity
  • be led by actuality/action rather than interviews/talking heads, and are not entirely observational
  • have a sense of purpose to them, and take our audience somewhere new
  • work for an easily distracted online audience
  • look good

This pitching opportunity is open to all filmmakers from anywhere in the world with any level of experience. Your documentary idea can be on any subject as long as it’s contemporary, but it is strongly advised you watch as many of The Guardian films as possible to get a sense of the kinds of subjects and style that works for The Guardian, and to ensure you don’t duplicate what we’ve done before.

You can see their films by clicking here.

This opportunity is primarily aimed at new original commissions. Versions of longer films will be considered, but you’ll have to convince the assessors that the short you’re pitching is a stand-alone film, not dependent on the longer documentary.

The documentary you’re pitching must be able to be completed by April 2017, and must be an online exclusive for The Guardian website to be eligible (i.e. they need global exclusive online rights for all their platforms. Matching The Guardian’s £5000 with other funds may be possible, subject to discussion on the source of that funding and rights required.

To top off the offer The Guardian may also be able to help with resources such as archive and music libraries and offer some in-kind production and post-production support.

Five projects will be selected to pitch in front of an audience of delegates during Sheffield Doc/Fest, so in order to apply, the director and producer of the proposed film must be able to attend the festival if the project is selected. Films will be pitched to Charlie Phillips, now the Head of Documentaries at The Guardian, plus a panel of experts.

To apply you’ll need to complete this application form. You will also need to include a one-page treatment for your film plus a short trailer, teaser, sample clip, or other visual materials, and links to previous work where applicable. Send these to The deadline is midnight UK time on Wednesday 30 March. Good luck!!



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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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