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Hot Docs 10 Hot Tips for Applying to Funding

Are you thinking of applying to one of Hot Docs funds this spring? Whether this is your first or fifth time applying to a documentary fun application, consider these hot tips from our funds team!

  1. Before getting out your pen, read the guidelines.
    • Every fund has a specific mandate and timeline. Are you and your project a fit? If you are, you will need to demonstrate this match in your application.
  2. Apply at the right stage.
    • Are you in development, production or post-production? Learn the differences through our FAQs.
    • Don't apply to a stage if you're not ready. It will hinder not only your prospects of funding, but it could also hinder your opportunity to re-apply in the future.
  3. If you have questions, please ask!
    • Whether it be about the fund, the guidelines, your eligibility, or accessibility support with your application, contact us at [email protected] or give us a call (416-203-2155 x 249 or 286). We're happy to answer your questions in French or English.
  4. Give yourself ample time to write the application.
    • Know the deadline and start way in advance. You want to allow yourself enough time to research, write, collect all the necessary information, review, and anticipate any technical difficulties. Always write your application first in a Word or Google document so that you retain a copy.
  5. The three most important rules of grant writing are clarity, clarity, clarity.
    • Confusion is a common pitfall. Review, revise and rewrite.
    • You may be too close to your writing. Are you having difficulties seeing the forest for the trees? Test your answers on a friend who is unfamiliar with your story.
    • What are the known unknowns of your project? Anticipate those questions in your answers; don't leave the reader guessing.
  6. Film is a visual medium.
    • Explain using active, visual and evocative imagery to show why this project should be a film. What will the audience see?
  7. Always provide a visual sample.
    • Show us your unique voice! Take the time to put together supporting footage that compliments your written application. Think of them as two parts of a whole.
    • Supporting footage can come in many different formats. It can be a trailer, a scene, photographs taken on set, or even a collage of image and sound. Whatever format you choose, ensure that the final product conveys the tone, the message or the style that you want your final project to have. You can also submit some past artistic work as an example.
  8. Inspire confidence with a thoughtful production plan.
    • Demonstrate a specific and realistic plan for what needs to be done, when it will get done, and what it will cost. Don't invent the costs of items but base your estimates on research. For more specific tips, check out Hot Docs’ Budgeting for Emerging and Established Filmmakers.
    • For budget templates, consider this one provided by Telefilm Canada. However, don't be overwhelmed. Just write a list of what expenses may be, what they will cost, and add them up.
  9. Demonstrate that you've considered how to continue to finance your film.
    • A budget explains how you want to spend your money; a finance plan explains how you plan to acquire that money. You need both for a successful application.
    • In a financing plan, list all the possible resources (e.g. grants, licenses, equity, investment, crowd sourcing). Even if you haven't acquired the financing, list your ideas on the application and whether the financing is confirmed or unconfirmed. If you are not sure where to start looking for resources, consider the IDA’s Grants Directory.
  10. You're a storyteller and a grant is just a particular kind of story.
    • Treat grant writing as part of the creative storytelling process. It's an opportunity for you develop, redefine, re-frame or reassess your pitch along the way.

Happy grant writing!
Olena Decock
Industry Programmer, Funds & Conference

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