Dear UK Doc Filmmakers,

How are you?

We’ve spoken to over 75 UK doc filmmakers in the past few weeks and have learned a lot about what’s on your minds. Folks are questioning how the Covid crisis might fit into the stories they are in the midst of telling, and where the films will sit in the post-CV world. Is it possible to safely continue filming? Are there other means of gathering stories - on-line interviews, inviting subjects to film at home? Filmmakers are thinking hard about development, and researching the opportunities opening up to do finishing post remotely.

And if your film is finished - what’s the best way to get it out there? Jump on a streaming opportunity, see if the broadcast space is opening up, or wait until it’s safe to go into a cinema? The financial uncertainty weighs on people. Students are itching to engage with the industry as the universities close, and recent grads are trying to figure out next steps. Everyone is concerned for the well being of their families and friends. Many are keen to help neighbours and vulnerable people in their community.

At Doc Society we are deeply moved by the unifying message, which rings loud and clear - documentarians are resilient, and will continue to look for ways to tell the world the stories we need to hear.

There’s a beautiful but somewhat overwhelming cacophony of information flowing online so here’s some select over-a-cuppa highlights of what you might find helpful to keep on keeping on over the next few months.

(BFI team pictured above pre-social distancing!)


The BFI Doc Society Fund is proud to confirm that we will continue to connect with and fund filmmakers with creative documentary projects across the UK, both through our Awards Fund and Support Programme. To all those who applied for the last round of funding in February, our team will be letting you know if your project has been granted funds by 30th April. This round has seen the strongest amount of passionate and innovative projects to date.

The Made of Truth Fund (shorts) will launch at the end of May and another round funding for features will open in August.

Our support programme live events will be moved online - we look forward to seeing you (virtually) there. Follow us here and @TheDocSociety for updates.

Sector wide...

The BFI and the Film + TV Charity announced it's COVID-19 emergency relief fund with donations from Netflix and the BBC. The new fund which is NOW LIVE (deadline for applications is April 22) will provide emergency short-term relief to active workers and freelancers in the UK who have been directly affected by the coronavirus pandemic and provision for those in greatest need who are not served by government schemes. A BFI led Screen Sector Taskforce is meeting weekly to discuss the immediate and future needs of the film+ TV industry and you can access daily guidance as a film worker here: BFI.

Screen Scotland + Creative Scotland also announced COVID-19 Impact Funds. If you’re an artist you may be eligible to apply for emergency funds via the Arts Council England.

The BBC have ring-fenced £1m of development spend (Small Indie Fund) to support small and emerging companies - with a focus on recipients from outside of London and from diverse backgrounds.


Racing straight to the frontline, the amazing team at Field of Vision have rallied to offer Virtual Mentorship & Consultation Service for the documentary filmmaking community every weekday till May 1st.

The already reported mental health crisis in our industry will be exacerbated by current events. Producer and psychotherapist (Film in Mind) Rebecca Day provided compassionate guidance on managing mental health as a filmmaker during COVID-19. Join BAFTA’s Resilience and Well-being session with Researcher and Psychologist Michelle White on Thurs 9 April.

The Film and TV Charity has a 24/7 support line (0800 054 0000) you can access here. Screenskills is also launching a series of mental health webinars from 6-9 April.

BAME creatives are hit particularly hard by the current health crisis and Black Thrive are sharing vital resources via their twitter including their community zoom drop-ins and a Solidarity in Crisis line for peer-to-peer support set up by Certitute London. A publication from #CharitySoWhite has called for civil society and funders to put racial justice at the heart of their response. It outlines the impact of COVID-19 on BAME communities, key areas for coordinated action and principles to be used in response plans. Please share and support:

Directors UK, BECTU and PACT are focused on advocating for film and TV workers and providing financial advice. A number of industry led surveys have been circulating (and are planned) to gather statistics and understand the needs of the sector during this time (you can find them being collated here). Specifically for documentary filmmakers is the Whickers annual Cost of Docs survey which includes questions on the impact of Brexit, COVID-19 and the future of virtual pitches. Data will ultimately drive the policy response so please consider contributing so a true picture of the industry can be built.

Plus independent UK documentary producers have been convening to support and advocate for one another - expect to hear more from them soon.

If you are a freelance journalist covering COVID-19 a brilliant set of recommendations + safety resources have been gathered by the ACOS Alliance to help you do so safely.

Still from The Nightcrawlers, dir Alexander A. Mora (Made of Truth grantee), you can watch the full film here


There’s so many fantastic opportunities for professional development out there if you do have some time. Here’s a handful of (freebies) we think are grand:

Sundance has made their tremendous Co//ab free (where creators come together to learn, share, and connect) - so many relevant and inspiring resources, interviews and masterclasses on there.

Together Films who got straight on it by launching a series of digital distribution webinars and toolkits to help filmmakers and organisations navigate film releases and audience impact online.

If you’re feeling productive, Screen Skills have launched a series of free online training and workshops

We'll be together again soon!


UK festivals are pivoting plans; with our colleagues at Sheffield Doc/Fest announcing a changed format for June’s festival and we concur with fest director Cíntia Gil’s words “we strongly believe that people coming together to watch, to talk and to imagine the world through art is a transformative experience that produces change.”

Our team will be joining the Doc/Fest MeetMarket and Pitching Forums in their new virtual formats and the festival hopes to host a series of screenings, talks, panels and more during weekends throughout the Autumn. Sidenote: we can’t guarantee the full inflatable palm tree party experience but it’s always cocktail hour online somewhere!

You can still apply for Open City Documentary Festival’s creative development lab Assembly (deadline: 15 May) which will operate online, the Scottish Doc Institute’s Edinburgh Pitch will still take place online (deadline: 22 April). Great to see that the Grierson British Documentary Awards have opened for entries (deadline: May 29) with diversity and inclusion a key judging criteria.

International Festival opportunities that are still in play include the Venice Gap Financing Market which is accepting documentary submissions till April 30 here and you can keep track of the status of other European festivals via Cineeuropa here. Toronto International Film Festival (still due to take place Sept 10-20)) remain open for submissions here (their standard deadline is May 29). The Camden International Film Festival (1-4 Oct, 2020) is also accepting submissions till May 26 here.

Still from The Masses, dir. Dorothy Allen Pickard (Made of Truth grantee). Watch the full film for free here.


With so many documentary festivals cancelled, cinemas closed and releases postponed, the team (including co-founder and former Doc Soc-er Luke Moody) behind Something Real is reviving a weekly fix of non-fiction with you virtually. Simply sign-up to the newsletter and get two docs in your inbox every week. You can already discover hundreds of films through previous editions on the website. Something Real is for UK and US releases, but many of the titles are available globally.

Here at Doc Soc, we have compiled an airtable of our fav docs and where to find them. Two Made of Truth shorts are available to watch in full online: The Masses and The Nightcrawlers.

Check out some spellbinding Arab cinema from Aflamuna.

Festivals like IDFA, SXSW, My Darling Quarantine Fundraising Festival and BIFA are streaming films for free.

Open Culture have whopping list of free classic films to get to grips with, including 265 documentaries. Remote Viewing Cinema have programmed double features from streamable sources to satiate your cinematic appetite and soothe your anxious soul.

Indie cinemas are finding ways to support UK doc releases. MUBI and HOME released THE WHALEBONE BOX featuring virtual Q&A’s with director Andrew Kotting. Birds Eye View have teamed up with distributor Modern Films for their release of HERE FOR LIFE (Andrea Luka Zimmerman & Adrian Jackson).

Six of your fav indie cinemas in the UK are partnering with BFI Player to offer some handpicked film selections and an extended 6 week free trial to access thousands of titles. Bertha DocHouse are planning Watch Parties and other digitalised cinematic happenings as well as a creative responses to isolation competition - calling for short docs exploring the theme of “Inventive connections” (deadline 30 April).

And if you’ve got time to turn around a 90 second short made under the constraints of quarantine submit to Depict! before 4 June

We'll be keeping on top of the news and sending opportunities down the line but for now...

...stay safe & keep connected.


BFI Doc Society Fund Team

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