Breakthrough Program

Online Application Application Deadline: December 13, 2020

Applications are open for the 2021 Breakthrough Program!

Prepare to pitch for development funds and a development deal for your project. Sell your project at the prestigious Hot Docs International Documentary Festival and beyond! Eight emerging and high-potential producers will be selected for this rigorous and intimate market-preparation course where they’ll develop a successful festival strategy and hone their project pitches and materials to prepare for one of two Breakthrough Awards and the Deal Maker program at Hot Docs.

 Selected filmmakers will get exclusive access to:

  • Two intensive weekend workshops, where participants will hone their trailers and work on their pitch materials with story editors, producers, and pitch specialists.   
  • For two months leading up to Hot Docs, weekly sessions with acclaimed documentary filmmakers and project-specific feedback from funders, broadcasters, distributors, and peers.
  • All-Access Pass to the 2021 Hot Docs Film Festival and Forum, to attend industry sessions, network with key industry professionals, set up meetings to sell their projects and connect and collaborate with peers.
  • Free one-year DOC membership
  • The Breakthrough Alumni Network, a private group where alumni share opportunities & information.

Our 2021 Breakthrough Program concludes with the opportunity to pitch their projects to receive the Breakthrough Development Award:

  • $20,000 cash prize from the Rogers Group of Funds
  • Development deal from CBC
  • Mentorship and professional development support from the DOC Institute

The Program commences with two weekend bootcamps in late January and late February, followed by weekly workshops for seven weeks on Wednesday evenings in March and April. We encourage all qualified Ontario-based professionals to apply. Learn more about past participants here.

The Breakthrough Program was created with a mandate to provide more access and inclusion for individuals self-identifying as Black, Indigenous, a person of colour, and/or LGBTQ+ and to increase participation for emerging film creators from underrepresented communities. We encourage applicants to self-identify in their application. 

Application Deadline: December 13, 2020 before midnight (EDT)

2019 & 2020 Breakthrough Program Participants

If you have questions, we have answers: check our Breakthrough FAQ for more.

The following information (in one word doc or PDF) is required to apply:

1. In three pages or less, give us a summary of your industry and work experience, your educational background and past professional development, or mentorship programs. Please note that many past applicants choose to submit a CV plus a list of broadcast credits and/or a filmography. This section should be used to convey your relevant experience to the jury, so please share your accomplishments with us!

2. In one page, tell us why you would benefit from the Breakthrough Program and what you hope to achieve by attending the Hot Docs Festival and Forum. Why would this program be timely for your career as a producer or director intending to produce your next project? Tell us about how you intend to interact with the other participants in the program to build community and how you have built community in your career thus far.

3. In one page, tell us briefly about one of your projects. We encourage you to include links to any trailers, visual elements/references and/or websites you have. However, this is not mandatory.

4. In one page, if you have a second or third project in development, you may tell us about them. We encourage you to include links to any trailers, visual elements/references and/or websites you have. However, this is not mandatory.

Please note: Non-members are required to pay a registration fee of $25 + tax and will be asked to join DOC if accepted into the program. Questions? Contact us by email at or call us at 647-846-8007.

To apply candidates must:

1. Be documentary filmmakers who live and work in Ontario (we welcome applications from outside the GTA).

2. Be documentary filmmakers who have at least one producing or directing broadcast credit, but no more than five; or who have a comparable level of industry success and experience.

3. Have a slate of one to three projects in development (can be features, shorts, or webseries).

4. Be able to attend the following: the two Breakthrough weekend workshops (January and February), the Breakthrough Program (March – April); the majority of the Hot Docs Festival (April/May), including the Forum; and all DOC Institute training during the program.