Hot Docs Launches New Production Fund for Doc Makers and Purchases Bloor Cinema

Courtesy of Hot Docs

By Pat Mullen

The Canadian documentary community received two major boosts of support today from the Rogers Foundation. The announcements came at today’s press conference at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema, which was officially renamed the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema and was purchased for the festival with a generous $4-million dollar gift from the Rogers Foundation. The cinema was previously owned by Toronto-based Blue Ice Group, a film financing and production company led by Neil Tabatznik, and managed in partnership by Hot Docs. This purchase ensures that Hot Docs has a permanent home in the city and is safe from the pervasive development of condominiums and big box stores.

“We had no idea if there would be a year-round audience or if this child would be on life support from philanthropic donors,” said Tabatznik, discussing the history of the documentary-focused cinema at today’s press conference. “The child has stood on its own feet,” he added, noting that the sale was a bittersweet rite of passage for the theatre, which has thrived and proven a loyal and hungry audience for documentaries.

“Ted had a great belief that documentaries were a vital part of life,” added Loretta Rogers, Rogers’ widow and member of the Rogers’ board, while proudly making the announcements today with their daughter Martha.

Chris McDonald, the President of Hot Docs, noted that the programming and curation of the cinema would not be affected by the purchase or generous support from Rogers. McDonald called both of today’s announcements game-changers for the festival and the doc community at large.

It was also announced today that the Rogers Foundation would support documentary filmmakers through the creation of a new $1-million Hot Docs Ted Rogers Fund for Canadian filmmakers, which will aid filmmakers with financial support during the production stage. Each year for the next ten years, the Fund will disburse up to $35,000 each to three to four projects.

Big announcement day for documentary! Rogers gifts Bloor Cinema to hotdocs, now the Red Rogers Hot Docs Cinema. Also adds production fund for docs. Jennifer Baichwal, Tiffany Hsiung on stage.</a></p> <p style=" color:#c9c8cd; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px; margin-bottom:0; margin-top:8px; overflow:hidden; padding:8px 0 7px; text-align:center; text-overflow:ellipsis; white-space:nowrap;">A photo posted by POV Magazine (pov_magazine) on

Filmmaker Jennifer Baichwal (Watermark) called the new fund the “missing piece” for filmmakers, as resources exist for the pre- and post-production stages. Baichwal, sharing the stage with filmmaker Tiffany Hsiung, also noted that Hot Docs and Rogers have had “a major effect on developing the careers of many independent documentary filmmakers.” Central to this, Baichwal added, is the presence of a major festival like Hot Docs and a year-round theatre to showcase docs. “That family-like structure is critical,” she said while sharing that all her films have played with the festival, either at Hot Docs or at the former Bloor Cinema, in some capacity.

Newcomer Hsiung, whose acclaimed doc The Apology has buzz from Hot Docs that could net the NFB its first feature film Oscar, added that while she was lucky to receive excellent support from the NFB and producer Anita Lee, she knows the challenges that first-time filmmakers face in getting their projects through production. This opportunity ensures more bold and diverse storytellers like Hsiung seeing their films through completion.

Mayor John Tory said that the extraordinary support from the Rogers Foundation is an opportunity to highlight the game-changers and risk-takers in the Canadian doc community. Tory added that docs are vital to the social fabric of Toronto, both for job creation and for attracting people to the city as a hub of culture and activity. Films that are honest, provocative, and engaging are necessary in a world that is increasingly complex, added Mayor Tory, noting, “You have to keep the real world on the agenda.”

Please visit Hot Docs for more information.