Get Hot Docs ready! This rigorous and intimate market-preparation course mentors eight emerging, high-potential producers as they get ready to successfully pitch and sell their projects at Hot Docs and beyond. Read some of their success stories here.

Meet the 2019 participants!

Betty Xie is a Chinese Canadian filmmaker and a festival curator. Her short documentary The Home Promised (2014) won the Air Canada Best Short Film at the Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival and played at numerous international film festivals in Canada, US., Taiwan and Hong Kong. In 2017, she produced the Telefilm microbudget comedy feature film Stand Up Man, which premiered at the Atlantic Film Festival and Hawaii International Film Festival. Most recently, she also helped curated East Asian features for the Toronto Reel Asian Film Festival and was part of the programming team for TIFF Docs.

Colin Scheyen is an award-winning filmmaker, author, and educator. Much of his work focuses on issues of media literacy and social justice. Colin’s first feature documentary, Nuclear Hope, which discusses Canada’s nuclear waste issues, won the Rising Star Award at the Canada International Film Festival and screened at over 10 festivals around the world. Colin is also the owner and operator of Evenings & Weekends Productions, which creates diverse multimedia content for clients such as The Ministry of Child and Family Services, Performance Vac and Tank, East Metro Youth Services, The City of Toronto, The Canadian Chess Insitute, and Ryerson University.

More recently, Colin was the principle videographer for the documentary The Secret Marathon of Afghanistan, which will be released in late 2018. Other credits include the director and producer of the Short Film An Endless Procession (2018), The Director and Producer of the Bell Fibe Series, Highway to Health (2018). The Writer, Director, and Producer of the documentary Mum’s The Word (2020), The Director of the web series Best Served Cold (2018).


Eui Yong Zong is an award-winning filmmaker whose works have screened at TIFF Student Showcase, Hot Docs, Montreal World Film Fest, CamFest, Reel Asian and many others. He directed a docu-fiction Leftover which won the Toronto Film Critics Association Award in 2015. His first fiction film Sun screened on CBC’s 2017 Canadian Reflections programming and on Air Canada’s Enroute inflight entertainment system. He’s recently completed a mid-length doc Until We Meet Again as part of his MFA thesis (York University), which was funded by SSHRC (Social Science and Humanities Research Council grant).

Yong worked as assistant editor for films such as My Enemy My Brother (Hot Docs), Sugar Sisters (CBC), Superfood Chain (TVO) and War Story (History Channel). His editor credit includes: Over Time (Bravo Factual), I Hold the Decho in My Heart (CBC), and Here and Mars (NFB FAB).

Jamie Miller is an award-winning director and producer of documentary and fictional films.

A Newfoundlander currently living on the mainland, she began Seachange Films to create films that feel as passionate as her own draw towards the ocean. Her directorial debut, Prince’s Tale, received 6 festival awards including Best Canadian Short at Hot Docs, Best Documentary Short at Calgary International Film Festival, and Best Short at Lunenburg Doc Fest, as well as 3 Audience Choice awards.

Lesley Johnson is a director and producer working in documentary and fiction, focusing on intimate stories that connect with environment, culture and personal transformation. After beginning her career as a biologist, she worked in the Northwest Territories’ Film and Television industry, leading her to studies in York University’s MFA Film Production program and participation in RIDM’s 2016 Talent Lab.

Her recent documentary “I Hold the Dehcho in My Heart / Sedze Tah Dehcho E’toh” (CBC Short Docs – 2018) won the NWT Professional Media Association’s award for Best Short Documentary, and will be followed by the release of her latest doc, “Revolution Moosehide”, in 2019. Her short doc “Princess Jack” (CBC Short Docs – 2016), won several awards after screening in festivals, and her debut short fiction “Charlie”, premiered at BFI Flare (2018) in London, and screened at Inside Out and TIFF’s “Share Her Journey” program.

As a producer, her work has appeared on CBC, APTN, been selected for the Toronto International Film Festival, and Canada’s Top Ten. She is a recipient of Telefilm’s inaugural Emerging Talent Fund to produce the feature documentary “Songs She Sings in Shadows”.

Lulu Wei is a Toronto based filmmaker and cinematographer. She holds a Master of Fine Arts in Documentary Media from Ryerson University. Her work explores themes of urbanization, cultural identity and queerness. Her short films and installations have been screened and exhibited at various festivals such as Images Festival, Planet In Focus Film Festival and Inside Out Film Festival. Outside of film, she has shot and directed commercials for brands such as Air Canada, Mazda, and Converse. In 2017, she was a fellow of the RIDM Talent Lab and a participant in the E20 program at Reelworld Film Festival. Most recently, she was a Hot Docs Doc Accelerator fellow and a Telefilm Talent to Watch recipient in 2018. She is currently working on her first feature about the redevelopment of the Honest Ed’s block.

Polina Teif is an artist and filmmaker currently based in Toronto. She received her BFA from the University of Toronto with emphasis on Visual Studies and Semiotics and completed an MFA in Film Production at York University with a specific interest in documentary and experimental film. Her work largely stems from photo-based and experimental video practice woven in with social, political and ecological undercurrents.

Qais Pasha is a documentary filmmaker and media specialist based in Toronto.

He grew up in Pakistan and immigrated to Ontario as a teenager. He is a graduate of Carleton and Ryerson Universities. He was one of 12 filmmakers selected for the CBC diverse creators workshop in 2016, received the Corus diverse voices scholarship at Hotdocs 2017 and was one of the E20 chosen for ReelWorld film festival 2017. His work has screened nationally on the CBC and in 2018, he received Ontario Arts Council funding to complete his first feature film.

The Breakthrough Program offers participants a unique opportunity to develop & hone their pitch materials in advance of submitting to Hot Docs Dealmaker & other festival opportunities. Selected participants receive exclusive access to:

• Two weekend workshop intensives, where participants receive training & feedback on their pitch materials from acclaimed filmmakers, producers, and craftspeople.

• For two months leading up to Hot Docs, weekly pitch workshopping with project-specific feedback from funders, broadcasters, distributors, and peers.

• All-Access Pass to the 2018 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 DOC Institute events during the program.

• The Breakthrough Alumni Network, a private group where alumni share opportunities & information.


What people are saying:

“The Breakthrough program was a valuable glimpse into the professional world of documentary funding and sales.” – Marc Serpa Francoeur


“The Breakthrough program put me squarely in the middle of a talented group of filmmakers, mentors and industry leaders at just the right time.” – Sherien Barsoum


“I would never have established such a strong relationship with broadcast executives had I not been part of the program.” – Rob Lindsay

Featured Past Program Participants

During the 2016 Breakthrough Program, Lisa Rideout pitched her project Take A Walk on the WildsideThe film was awarded a BravoFACTUAL grant, went on to premiere at the 2017 Hot Docs Film Festival, and nabbed the Canadian Screen Award for Best Short Doc.

Shasha Nakhai produced Frame 394 which premiered at Hot Docs 2016 and was shortlisted for an Academy Award (Documentary Short Subject).

Stephanie Brown co-created and co-produced APTN’s All Our Relations, which celebrates the lives of Aboriginal Canadians who have achieved international success and recognition, and acted as Supervising Producer on Qanurli?, an Inuktitut language comedy show. She recently joined VICE Media as the Supervising Producer of Digital Platforms.

Rob Lindsay’s film Go-Boy!, which was brought to the Program received interest from Telefilm to be adapted into a feature film. His film, Why Horror? was licensed by Super Channel and received CMF POV funding and CMF Digital fund.

Since participating in the Mentorship Program in 2011, Aaron Hancox has continued to employ the specifics skills learned in the program for pitching and developing projects. This has helped him shepherd several projects through development as Director, Sales & Development at Markham Street Films Inc. Since the Program he has secured development financing for two projects and production financing for one project. He also continues to utilize the professional relationships with top broadcast executives, which began at Hot Docs 2011.

Elisa Paloschi’s Embracing Voices: The Woman Behind The Music of Jane Bunnett had its world premiere at NXNE Festival in 2012. Elisa was working on this film for five years, including the time she spent as an OMDC Mentorship Program participant in 2010. Elisa was recently accepted to BritDoc’s Good Pitch and received funding from Chicken & Egg for post-production on her most recent project, Driving With Selvi.

Sheona McDonald had her film When Dreams Take Flight air on documentary Channel in November 2012 and it has since gone on to be sold in various international markets including Discovery EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa). Sheona was also nominated for a Gemini award for the writing on a documentary she produced, wrote and directed called Capturing A Short Life for CBC Newsworld


The Breakthrough Program, part of the Producers Exchange, is made possible
by its generous supporter, Ontario Creates.