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Applying to the CMF ESDP: What you need to know


The deadline to submit applications for the 2020-21 Canada Media Fund Early-Stage Development Program is Oct. 15. Telefilm’s submission platform Dialogue is now open for this program (which it is administering). Applicants should begin building their submission on the platform now in order to provide an accurate and complete application by Oct. 15.

The WGC just hosted a webinar with Telefilm Deputy Directors Jill Samson and Shaun Bryan in which they walked attendees through the ESDP guidelines and Dialogue application process. If you didn’t attend, we recommend watching it. It’s available on the WGC YouTube channel HERE. (One key clarification. In this presentation, it was suggested that hours earned in adult scripted animation would not count towards drama. That is not the case. It falls within the CMF’s definition of drama. Genre as many know it — sci-fi, comedy etc. — is not the same as the CMF’s definition of genre. Both sci-fi and scripted comedy, for example, would be classified as drama by the CMF.)   

The CMF has allotted $1.25 million for English-language projects and $400,000 for French ones. A maximum of $40,000 will be awarded to each individual successful project. The program is also moving to a juried system, but it’s important to remember the final deadline for submissions is Oct. 15 by 11:59 p.m. EST. Please see this handy FAQ as you look to complete your application.

What are the key eligibility criteria?
Eligible applicants must have 10 produced hours of written work in one of the CMF’s four supported genres (drama, children & youth, documentary, or variety & performing arts) that has been broadcast by a Canadian broadcaster; and received one producer-level credit, or in the case of animation a story editor credit.

Additionally, two of the eligible hours must have been originally broadcast no earlier than January 1, 2016. And the 10 hours must still be in the same genre as the project you’re submitting, with one exception — hours earned in drama and children & youth may now be combined to meet the 10-hour threshold.

Please note that writers who received ESDP funding through the Writer Access Point in 2019-2020 will not be eligible to apply to the program in 2020-2021.

Is there a Diversity of Voices component this year?
Yes. There is now a Diversity of Voices component, in which a minimum of 15% of the ESDP budget will be reserved for applicants who identify as Indigenous or visible minorities and have at least five credits (not hours) of produced written work in any of the CMF’s supported genres that has been broadcast or made available on a CMF-eligible Canadian Broadcaster. The five-credit requirement replaces the 10-hour requirement for these applicants.

What qualifies as 10 hours of written work?
The CMF will only accept “Teleplay by” or “Written by” credits. If a team of writers has a “Written by” credit, each writer gets to claim that credit and the full broadcast hours associated with it.

Do feature films count towards the qualifying 10 hours?
Yes. As long as the feature film falls under one of the CMF’s supported genres and was broadcast by a Canadian broadcaster at some point.

Can I apply jointly with another writer?
No. The CMF will only contract with one single-shareholder corporation, and only a single, individual writer can apply for funding. What this means is, the individual applying to the program must meet all the criteria outlined above by themselves to be eligible, and cannot meet the 10-hour requirement by pooling hours/credits with other writers with whom they may have written as a team. You can, however, work with other writers as a team on a funded project, but this does not increase the amount of funding available for the project, and the application must come from only one writer, with whom the CMF will contract, and who may then distribute funding to the other member(s) of the writing team as may be agreed to amongst the team. 

Do I have to be incorporated when I apply?
No. The CMF will accept applications from individuals. However, if the applicant is successful, they must incorporate to sign the contract with the CMF and receive the funds.

Can I apply with a project that falls outside the genre in which I have the 10 hours credits?
No. The CMF has determined that the project should be in the same genre as the credits submitted by the writer. For example, if the writer is submitting 10 hours earned in writing documentaries, they could not put forward a drama project. If they did, it would be deemed ineligible. 

However, this year, there is one major exception. Hours earned in drama and children’s & youth can be combined to make up the 10 hours, so applicants can apply with a project in either genre. It should be noted, though, for example, if you’re applying with five hours in scripted drama and five hours written for children’s animation, and you’re applying with a scripted drama, the producer-level credit needs to have been earned on a scripted drama. 

Can I apply for more than one project? 
No. Only one application per individual is permitted for the Early-Stage Development Program. However, a production company may be able to apply to the Predevelopment Program with a different project from the same writer.

What kind of information/materials do I need to submit for my project?
With the move to the jury system, the CMF is requiring a pitch document for the project that contains a maximum of 2,500 words. The submission of visuals is also permitted. Please DO NOT put your company name/applicant information on the pitch documents. There should be no information that can identify you as an individual. (More information on this is available in the above-mentioned webinar.)

If I receive the funding, what deliverables will the CMF expect?
The CMF expects that successful applicants will have roughly one year from when they sign the contract with the CMF to produce deliverables based on the outlined project. Required materials will depend on the amount of funding the individual receives and will be calculated based on rates established by the IPA collective agreement. 

If I receive the funding, do I have to pay it back at some point?
Yes. Early Stage Development Program funds are an advance that allows the writer to, well, write and develop the project. The funds are repayable to the CMF if/when it goes into production or the writer transfers the copyright to another party. They do not have to be repaid if the project does not get produced. 

OK. So how do I get this application started?

  1. Listening to the WGC info session is a good start. It’s HERE.
  2. Go to the CMF website and download the program guidelines, which give the full scope of the Early-Stage Development Program. You should also download and review the accompanying reference documents under the "Guidelines & References" heading. 
  3. Download the CMF checklist of required documents
  4. Set up your Telefilm Dialogue account: (See 1. for full instructions.)
  5. Once you’ve started building your application, you can send any questions you have to the program coordinator at or 1-800-567-0890.
  6. Complete all required forms and have them ready to submit on or before Oct. 15, 2020. Dialogue will be accepting applications until 11:59 p.m. EST on Oct. 15. Dialogue is now open for building your application. 


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