Please include the following information in a single PDF and submit your application package using the form below.

  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!
  1. 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.
  1. In one page, tell us briefly about one of your projects. We encourage you to include links to trailers, visual elements/references and/or websites, if available.
  1. (Optional) 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 trailers, visual elements/references and/or websites, if available.
  2. (Optional) We encourage applicants who are part of underrepresented communities to self-identify in one or two paragraphs.

Please note: Non-members are required to pay a registration fee of $25 + tax; we will contact you with a payment method after applications close.  You will also 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 a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, 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 web series).
  4. Be able to attend the following in-person in Toronto: 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.
  1. I don’t have a broadcasting credit. Can I still apply?

Yes, the criteria call for either a broadcast credit or a comparable level of success or experience.


  1. 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.


  1. Can I apply with another member of 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.


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

The 2024 Breakthrough 2.0 Lab is open to past Breakthrough participants.


  1. What is the schedule for the Breakthrough Program?

The program will feature two intensive weekend workshops (one in January, one in February). Subsequently, weekly mentorship meetings will run on Wednesday evenings from mid-March through to late April. Participants will also be asked to attend the Hot Docs Industry events.


  1. When will I hear back about my application?

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


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

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


  1. 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.


  1. 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 (one weekend in January, one weekend in February, weekly meetings from March – April) and the majority of the Hot Docs Festival, including the Forum.


  1. Is there an age limit for applicants?

No, there is no age limit.


  1. 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.



Have a question that’s not answered here? Feel free to get in touch! Email


*Non-members will be asked to pay a $25 registration fee. We will reach out with a payment method after applications close.