Breakthrough Program

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)



1. I don’t have a broadcasting credit. Can I still apply?

Yes, The criteria calls for either a broadcast credit or a comparable level of success or experience.

2. What qualifies as a “comparable level of success or experience”?

While it’s a bit difficult to ascribe a specific definition to, you should be able to express a significant level of success with festivals, arts council grants, wide online distribution, or work in other areas of production (music video, commercial, corporate). Without verifiable credits, you should be submitting solid examples of your documentary work. Please limit clips to 15 minutes.

3. Can I apply with another member from my team?

Since we only have 8 spots available, we don’t typically accept two participants for one project. However, depending on the strength of the application and other variables, exceptions may be made. Please apply separately and make a note that you’d like to participate on the same project. Please understand there’s a possibility that both, neither or only one of you may be chosen.

4. I’ve participated in the Breakthrough Program in a previous year. Can I apply? 

Unfortunately, if you’ve already participated in the Breakthrough Program, you are ineligible to participate again.

5. What is the schedule for the Breakthrough Program?

The program will feature two intensive weekend workshops on Jan 20 weekend and Feb 10 weekend. Subsequently, weekly mentorship meetings will run on Wednesday evenings from mid-March through to late April 2017. Participants will also be asked to attend the Hot Docs Industry events.

6. When will I hear back about my application?

All successful and unsuccessful applicants will be notified in late December.

7. What stage of development should my project be in?

Typically, participants who get most out of the program are in late development – ready to start shooting and/or shopping to broadcasters/distributors.

8. Do you accept digital media projects? 

Digital media documentaries will be considered — however, we would strongly encourage you to consider a more traditional component to your project as well. Digital projects that have a traditional media component will be given preferential consideration.

9. Are full-time students allowed to apply to Breakthrough?

Yes. However, please beware of the time commitment. Participants must be able to attend all sessions of the Breakthrough Program (January 20 weekend, February 10 weekend, weekly meetings from March – April 2018) and the majority of the Hot Docs Festival (April 26 – May 6, 2018), including the Forum.

10. Is there an age limit for applicants?

No, there is no age limit.

11. Can I include a trailer in my application?

Yes, we encourage you to include links to any trailers and/or visual elements/references you may have. However, this is not mandatory.

12. Can you give me any tips on what makes an application stand out with the jury?

a. Demonstrate professionalism. This doesn’t mean that you have to have years of experience or scores of credits – this is a program geared for growing talent after all – but participants will be representing DOC and Ontario Creates to the guest mentors and industry at large during Hot Docs, so we are looking for candidates who are ready to succeed.

b. While a slate of projects in development is acceptable and even encouraged, concentrate your application on one or maximum two stronger projects that are ready to progress to the pitching stage. A slew of half-formed ideas shows creativity but also a lack of focus and will make for a weaker pitch. Note that you will have to choose only one project to workshop throughout the program.

c. Recognize the viability of your project. Projects that require travel to 12 countries and helicopter rigs, for example, require established reputations and track records of success to finance.

Have a question that’s not answered here? Feel free to get in touch! Email or call 416-599-3844 (ex. 3).