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Hot Docs Jots

Doc Ignite: Edmonton & Yellowknife Editions

The Doc Ignite program exists to reach under-served filmmaking communities across Canada. This year, the Hot Docs Industry team is crossing the country from east to west, from Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, to Whitehorse, Yukon Territory. This May, Hot Docs Industry Programmer Madelaine Russo and Greg Rubidge of Sales Agent/Distributor Syndicado travelled to NorthWest Fest in Edmonton, Alberta, and to Yellowknife, NWT to deliver presentations on Writing for Documentary and Distribution 101. Here are some key take-aways from these sessions.


Writing for Documentary

Strong writing begins with answering core questions that help you better understand your story and film. If you can't answer, "What is my story?", "Why am I telling it?" and "Who is this story for?", then you may not be ready to pitch yet.

You need to have a strong sense of your characters, laying out their stakes and their expected journey. At the pitching stage, you don't need to know where the journey will end, but you should have a sense of the questions your film will try to answer. And make sure you indicate how your story is relevant now, even if you are following a story that has already happened, something about it should still be relevant to today's audiences.

Distribution 101

Created to help filmmakers better understand the marketing and distribution landscapes, the Distribution 101 workshop invites filmmakers to consider the kinds of rights that are at their disposal (e.g. theatrical, streaming, broadcast), identify their core audiences, set well-defined and achievable goals, and match those goals to partners like sales agents, distributors and on-demand theatrical services.

Creative approaches to distribution are increasingly important in the documentary space, and filmmakers are choosing to play a direct role in the distribution of their projects, rather than relying entirely on traditional distributors.

Identifying a passionate and engaged niche audience will help you make the most efficient use of limited marketing resources and, when developing a marketing strategy, you need to consider the physical and virtual spaces these viewers inhabit.

Setting goals involves balancing the competing imperatives of art, impact and money, and it's important to prioritize these in accordance with your team members.

When choosing distribution partners, it's valuable to consider where you might be able to take a DIY approach, like setting up a theatrical tour with the help of a booking agent, and where you might want to enlist the support of a well-connected partner, such as an aggregator who can help put your film on digital VOD platforms.

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Presenting Platinum Partner

  • logo Scotia Wealth Management

Founding Partner

  • logo Rogers

Signature Partner

  • Logo Cbc Gem

Presenting Partners

  • logo Crave
  • logo Netflix

Major Supporters

  • logo Celebrate Ontario
  • logo telefilm