Hot Docs Forum Adds $100,000 First Look Pitch Prize

The Hot Docs Forum is North America’s essential market for documentary filmmaking.


By Pat Mullen

Doc filmmakers received a new major opportunity for support and funding this morning when the Hot Docs Forum opened with the announcement of the first look program that offers $100,000 CDN to two projects participating in the industry event. The winning project receives $75,000 CDN while the runner-up gets $25,000—both substantial rewards to documentary filmmakers as they complete their works. The first look program lets philanthropic minds from the documentary community lend their support to filmmakers by investing in their projects.

Participating first look partners underwrite the new Pitch Fund and determine the top projects. Winners will be announced at the closing night awards ceremony and cocktail party of the Hot Docs Forum.

“The inaugural first look prizes can be a game-changer for the recipients,” said Hot Docs industry program director Elizabeth Radshaw in a statement from the festival. “To our knowledge it’s the largest prize of its kind for a documentary pitch forum. Hot Docs is honoured to host engaged philanthropic supporters and responsible investors through its new first look program, and are grateful for their support of documentary filmmakers through these prizes.”

The new first look program builds upon growing demand for additional avenues of support for documentary filmmakers. In 2015, the Documentary Organization of Canada (DOC) released a report on the potential for the philanthropic sector to support documentaries. The implications and potential benefits of the philanthropic model are considered by POV publisher Judy Wolfe and editor Marc Glassman in issue #100’s article Docs and Philanthropists: Do We Have a Match? The article concludes that “Philanthropy can work if you have the right project (subject, purpose) and the right donors” with films such as Peter Mettler’s Greenpeace supported Petropolis as an example.

Additional funds awarded at the Hot Docs forum are the $10,000 CDN Corus-Hot Docs Forum Pitch Prize, awarded to the best Canadian pitch as selected by a committee of international buyers, and the Cuban Hat Award, which is awarded to the Hot Docs Forum observers’ favourite pitch in a pass-the-hat bid that collects cash with no strings attached.

The Hot Docs Forum runs May 2 to 3 and is attended by over 500 industry professionals as the key market event for documentary filmmaking. This year’s Forum features 19 previously selected projects from around the world.

Visit the POV Hot Docs Hub for more coverage from this year’s festival!