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Presenters on stage at Podcast Festival
Founded in partnership with Inspirit Foundation and sponsored by Amazon Music, this year-round program offers emerging BIPOC storytellers the chance to develop their non-fiction projects by pairing them with seasoned audio creators.

Program renewed for a second year with the support of Amazon Music!

An extension of Hot Docs Podcast Festival, the lab offers five fellowships for emerging BIPOC storytellers with non-fiction series ideas in early development. Fellows will have the opportunity to develop their podcast ideas and create a proof-of-concept sample that will help take their work to the next level.

Throughout the fellowship, participants will meet as a group and one-on-one with seasoned audio creators and mentors to develop their project ideas, hone their skills, and navigate pathways to success in the podcast industry. Each project will also receive a $1,000 creator grant to support the development of their work.

Presented in partnership with         Sponsored by
Inspirit Foundation logo                    Amazon Music logo.png


Podcast Development Lab fellows will be selected via an open application process. Applicants to the program must:

  • Be of at least one of the following priority groups: Black, Indigenous, a person of colour
  • Be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident of Canada
  • An emerging or sophomore storyteller (please see below for more information)
  • NOT be currently enrolled as a full-time student
  • Be able to participate in a bi-weekly virtual lab taking place on Wednesday evenings 5:00pm – 6:30pm (EST) between July and September 2021
  • Have a non-fiction limited podcast series idea in early development. Please see Project section below for more information.

Successful applicants will have a new non-fiction podcast series idea in early development. The podcast ideas may not have been previously released.

Projects should be limited series or podcasts with a limited number of first season episodes. Episodes should be connected via narrative trajectory or through the social themes or subject matter that they explore, with each episode contributing to and building on a greater narrative arc or exploration of the subject matter.

Fiction podcasts, chat podcasts, companion podcasts, and news/current affairs podcasts are not accepted.

During the program fellows will work on further developing their projects, creating pitch packages and/or dissemination plans, and will work towards creating either a pilot episode or a proof-of-concept sample that can be used to further pitch their projects.

Eligible applicants will be emerging or sophomore storytellers, with a demonstrated interest in podcasting. Applicants may have previously created independent podcasts or may have worked on podcasts that have been released on a major podcasting network, however eligible applicants may not have helmed or created a podcast that has been released on a major podcasting network (CBC, Canadaland, Gimlet, Radiotopia, Frequency, etc.).

Applicants should be ready to launch or already working on building their careers. Applicants should not be currently enrolled as full-time students.

Applicants who are new to podcasting and have been working in other storytelling mediums are also eligible for the program but experience with a linear editing Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) that edits non-destructively (ProTools, Adobe Audition, Reaper, Logic) is highly recommended.

Hot Docs recognizes that podcasting is a collaborative art form and will consider admitting up to two podcast creators to the lab for each selected project. In this case, the primary applicant must meet all listed eligibility requirements, and they should be the one to complete the application form. Please indicate in the application form if you have a co-creator who should join you in the lab. In cases where two creators are admitted to the lab only one creator’s grant of $1,000 will be issued per project. Admission of a second creator will be a Hot Docs’ discretion.

Program benefits include:

  • Enrollment in the Hot Docs Podcast Development Lab
  • Complimentary accreditation to Hot Docs Podcast Festival
  • Private intensive creative development story sessions, career planning, and skill development sessions encompassing topics such as story structure, pitching, promotion and distribution
  • One-on-one sessions with lab mentors for directed project feedback and career advice
  • $1,000 creator grant (per project) to support the development of the project


Fellows will participate in a private online lab taking place from July through September 2021. During the lab, fellows will hear from a variety of industry experts and will engage in in-depth workshops.

Please note that the lab is held in English, applicants should be comfortably fluent in English in order to participate. The lab sessions and private meetings with mentors will take place virtually using video conferencing technologies.

Fellows will also virtually meet one-on-one with lab mentors to receive specific feedback on their projects and work towards their learning and production goals.

This fellowship program will focus on story development, pitching, navigating the podcast industry, marketing and dissemination. The program will not focus on technical training (editing, recording, mixing, mastering, sound design, etc)

Mentors will include seasoned audio creators and industry veterans, and efforts will be made to ensure that they are reflective of the priority groups this program is intended to serve.

A jury composed of industry professionals and one Hot Docs representative will review all submitted proposals.

Applications will be considered based on the quality of the proposed project, the applicant’s passion, initiative, experience and promise, and the ability of the program to assist with advancing their goals for their project.

Hot Docs will work with selected applicants to ensure they are able to fully participate in the program. Resources such as personal support workers or ASL interpreters can be available as needed on an individual basis.

Hot Docs is considerate of technological, social and accessibility barriers to the application process. Accommodations that can be provided to support applicants may include an oral or video submission component. Applicants who require assistance are encouraged to request accommodation at least two weeks before the deadline by contacting [email protected].

About Program Partners

Hot Docs is committed to nurturing, developing, and showcasing new and diverse voices. We believe in storytelling in all its forms as a means to greater empathy and understanding; and we aim to dismantle systemic barriers to allow equal access for everyone to tell their stories and have those stories heard.

The Inspirit Foundation funds media and arts for social change, supports young content creators, and invests its assets to align with its mission to promote inclusion and pluralism in Canada – specifically addressing discrimination based on ethnicity, race, or religion.

Amazon Music reimagines music listening by enabling customers to unlock millions of songs and thousands of curated playlists and stations with their voice. Amazon Music provides unlimited access to new releases and classic hits across iOS and Android mobile devices, PC, Mac, Echo, and Alexa-enabled devices including Fire TV and more. With Amazon Music, Prime members have access to ad-free listening of 2 million songs at no additional cost to their membership. Listeners can also enjoy the premium subscription service, Amazon Music Unlimited, which provides access to millions of songs and the latest new releases. Amazon Music Unlimited customers also now have access to the highest-quality listening experience available, with millions of songs in High Definition (HD), more than 7 million songs in Ultra HD, and a growing catalog of spatial audio. Customers also have free access to an ad-supported selection of top playlists and stations on Amazon Music. All Amazon Music tiers now offer a wide selection of podcasts at no additional cost, and live streaming in partnership with Twitch. Engaging with music and culture has never been more natural, simple, and fun. 

Questions? Contact [email protected]

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