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Decision makers at Forum table
Photo by Joseph Michael Howarth

Pitch at North America's most effective international documentary market.

The 2024 Forum took place on April 30 and May 1 in Toronto.

Hot Docs Forum Format

  • The Pitch

    Each selected project is assigned a 15-minute presentation slot. Each pitch team has seven minutes to present and receives eight minutes of moderated discussion and response from one of two moderators who are tasked with garnering interest for the project and bringing valuable feedback to the production team.

    Pitch teams must include a two to three-minute video clip (trailer, teaser, and/or visual representation of the film) as part of their presentation.

    Projects are selected by the Hot Docs Forum Selection Committee, which is comprised of three members of the documentary community and may include broadcasters, sales agents, distributors, and/or financiers, as well as one Hot Docs Industry representative.

  • The Players

    Pitch Team Members: Approximately 20 teams will be chosen to pitch. Prior to the event, they will receive pitch training, consultancy and support from the Forum team and expert partners.

    Trigger Financier: Projects in the Regular Category i.e. projects NOT pitching in the Rough Cut Category must have a “Trigger Financier,” a broadcaster, distributor, foundation, fund or other legitimate documentary market partner who illustrates a confirmed interest in the project and has contributed financially to the budget.

    Decision Makers: Decision makers can be, but are not limited to, broadcaster commissioning and acquisitions executives, distributors, sales agents, film festival programmers, foundations, associations, funds, charities, agencies, brands, platforms, interactive executives and other production partners.

    Registered Delegates: All-Access pass holders can observe as the pitch teams present their projects live to the decision makers.

  • Project Selection
    Projects are selected by the Hot Docs Forum Selection Committee, which is comprised of three to four broadcasters or distributors.

Hot Docs Forum Pitch Prizes

  • first look Pitch Prizes

    Hot Docs first look is a curated access program for philanthropic supporters of and investors in documentary film that grants behind-the-scenes access to the world of documentary. Hot Docs first look participants award the first look prize to up to three of the best pitches.

    In its inaugural year, during the 2017 Festival, first look participants awarded $100,000 to two projects. The generous prize has continues without interruption, including two years of online pitching.

    2024 first look

    • 1st prize of $20,000: Arrest the Midwife (WT) (D: Elaine Epstein | P: Elaine Epstein, Robin Hessman, Ruth Ann Harnisch | Underdog Films, Inc. (USA))
    • 2nd prize of $10,000: Autumn of the Patriarch (D: Anna Bogoliubova | P: Torstein Grude Ruwê Yuxinawá, Oddleiv Vik, Raphael Pëlissou, Valérie Montmartin, Iikka Vehkalahti, Sinisa Juricic | Piraya Film AS (Norway), Little Big Story (France), IV Films (Finland), Nukleus Film (Croatia))
    • 3rd prize of $5,000: Under the Flags, the Sun (D: Juanjo Pereira | P: Paula Zyngierman, Ivana Urízar, Gabriela Sabaté, Leandro Listorti, Juanjo Pereira | Cine Mio / Ivana Urízar (Paraguay), MaravillaCine S.R.L. (Argentina), Sabaté Films S.R.L. (Paraguay), Juanjo Pereira (Paraguay))

    2023 first look 

    • 1st prize of $50,000: I of the Water (D: Kimberlee Bassford | P: Kimberlee Bassford, Marilyn McFadyen, Vilsoni Hereniko, Leanne K. Ferrer, Cheryl Hirasa, Linda Goldstein Knowlton | Making Waves Films LLC (USA))
    • 2nd prize of $15,000 was awarded to The Sandbox (D: Kenya-Jade Pinto | P: Shasha Nakhai, Kenya-Jade Pinto, Jennifer Baichwal, Rich Williamson | Compy Films Inc. (Canada))

    2022 first look

    • 1st prize of $25,000: The Queendom (D: Otilia Portillo; P: Paula Arroio Sandoval; Oscura Producciones S.A. de C.V.; Mexico)
    • 2nd prize of $15,000: A Woman's Path (D: Marjan Khosravi; P: Milad Khosravi, Stephanie Von Lukowicz; Seven Spring Pictures (Iran), Lukimedia (Spain))

    2021 first look

    • 1st prize of $50,000: Light of the Setting Sun (D: Vicky Du; P: Danielle Varga, Vicky Du; Walking Productions, LLC, USA; Setting Sun Productions, LLC, USA)
    • 2nd prize of $35,000: Mother Vera (D: Cécile Embleton, Alys Tomlinson; P: Laura Shacham; She Makes Productions Ltd., UK)
    • 3rd prize of $25,000: Fire of Love (D: Sara Dosa; P: Shane Boris, Ina Fichman, Sara Dosa; Fire of Love Productions Inc., Canada/USA)

    2020 first look

    • 1st prize of $30,000: Children of the Mist [D: Hà Lệ Diễm; P: Phuong Thao Tran, Swann Dubus; Varan Vietnam Co., Ltd. (Vietnam)]
    • 2nd prize of $15,000: Just a Band [D: Anjali Nayar, Mbithi Masya; P: Wanuri Kahiu, Caryn Capotosto, Katie Doering, Anjali Nayar, Roger Ross Williams; Ink & Pepper Productions, Ltd., (Canada), Afrobubblegum (Kenya)]

    An Honourable mention, including a $2,000 stipend, was awarded to Masha [D: Giedrė Žickytė; P: Giedrė Žickytė, Uldis Cekulis, Christine Le Goff; ZED SAS (France), Vides filmu studija, SIA (Latvia), VšĮ Moonmakers (Lithuania)]

    2019 first look

    • 1st prize of $30,000: Midwives (EyeSteelFilm Inc., Canada; AMA FILM GmbH, Germany; Snow Film)
    • 2nd prize $20,000: Colour of the Wind (Tortuga Films, Canada; Alias film und sprachtransfer GmbH, Germany; Mouka Filmi Oy, Finland)

    2018 first look

    • 1st prize of $75,000: Case 993 (D: Shareef Nasir; P: Dana Nachman, Leah Mahan, Josh Braun, Dan Braun, Danny Glover; KTF Films, USA)
    • 2nd prize of $30,000: Born in China (D: Nanfu Wang, Lynn Zhang; P: Julie Goldman, Christoph Jörg, Chris Clements; Next Generation Production, LLC, USA; Motto Pictures Inc., USA; Pumpernickel Films, France)
    • 3rd prize of $20,000: Softie (D: Sam Soko; P: Sam Soko, Toni Kamau, Ingrid Lill Høgtun; Lightbox Limited, Kenya; We Are Not the Machine Ltd., Kenya; DUOfilm AS, Norway; EyeSteelFilm, Canada)

    2017 first look

    • 1st prize of $75,000: 93QUEEN (Malka Films LLC)
    • 2nd prize of $25,000: The Feeling of Being Watched (Multitude Films, LLC, Watched Film LLC, Naked Edge Films Inc.)
  • CMF-Hot Docs Forum Canadian Pitch Prize

    Hot Docs and the Canada Media Fund have once again partnered to present the CMF-Hot Docs Forum Canadian Pitch Prize, awarded to a documentary produced in Canada by a Canadian-based production company. In nurturing Canadian talent and giving voice to a diversity of viewpoints, the fund helps Canadian documentaries reach new audiences.

    The CMF-Hot Docs Forum Canadian Pitch Prize is a $10,000 cash prize that is awarded to the best Canadian pitch at the Hot Docs Forum. The money is intended to go towards the production and completion of the winning project, which is selected by a jury of international buyers.

    Winning projects must be:

    • Pitched at the Forum in the regular pitch or rough cut program
    • Produced by a Canadian-control corporation, based in Canada

    Past Winners

    • 2024: This Land of Ours (D: Ngardy Conteh George | P: Ngardy Conteh George, Alison Duke | Oya Media Group Inc. (Canada))
    • 2023: Intercepted (D: Oksana Karpovych | P: Giacomo Nudi, Rocío Barba Fuentes, Pauline Tran Van Lieu, Lucie Rego, Darya Bassel | Les Films Cosmos Inc. (Canada), Hutong Production (France), MoonMan (Ukraine))
    • 2022: Untitled Labor Union Documentary (D: Brett Story, Stephen Maing | P: Mars Verrone, Samantha Curley | Level Ground Productions LLC (USA), Oh Ratface Films (Canada))

    as Canadian Forum Pitch Prize

    • 2021: Wilfred Buck (D: Lisa Jackson; P: Lisa Jackson, Alicia Smith; Door Number 3 Productions, NFB, Canada)

    as Corus-Hot Docs Forum Pitch Prize

    • 2020: Ojiibikaan (Door Number 3 Productions Inc., Canada; Clique Pictures Inc., Canada; Earth City Films Inc., Canada; NFB, Canada)
    • 2019: Twice Colonized (Ánorâk Film, Greenland; Ánorâk Film, Denmark; Unikkaat Studios, Canada)
    • 2018: Betrayal (D: Lena MacDonald; P: Noah Bingham; Ferocious Films Inc., Canada)
    • 2017: Blue Box (Norma Productions Ltd., Intuitive Pictures, Breakthrough Films)
    • 2016: Showgirls of Pakistan (Nomad Films Inc.)
    • 2015: Living With Giants (MC2 Communication Media)
    • 2014: Tempest Storm (Shot Glass Productions)
    • 2013: Some Kind of Love (Screen Siren Pictures Inc.)
    • 2012: Shadow Girl (Storyline Entertainment/Maremoto Productions)
    • 2011: Doc Pomus (Clear Lake Historical Productions)
    • 2010: The Fruit Hunters (EyeSteelFilm)
    • 2009: The Team (White Pine Pictures)
  • Cuban Hat Award

    Providing “real cash, no strings attached” support for powerful and unique films, the winner of the Cuban Hat Award receives money raised during the Hot Docs Forum. The winner is determined by observer ballot.

    The Award was conceived by Diego Briceño (Cuibafilms/Pimiento, Montreal) and Giulia Frati (Zelectra Productions, Montreal) at the 2009 Hot Docs Forum.

    Past Winners

    • 2024: Anatomy of a Life (D: Emma Francis-Snyder | P: Tiffany Fisher Love | Anatomy of a Life LLC (USA))
    • 2023: The Sandbox (D: Kenya-Jade Pinto | P: Shasha Nakhai, Kenya-Jade Pinto, Jennifer Baichwal, Rich Williamson | Compy Films Inc. (Canada))
    • 2019: Socks on Fire: Uncle John and the Copper Headed Water Rattlers (Hitbird Productions LLC., USA)
    • 2018: Softie (D: Sam Soko; P: Sam Soko, Toni Kamau, Ingrid Lill Høgtun; Lightbox Limited, Kenya; We Are Not the Machine Ltd., Kenya; DUOfilm AS, Norway; EyeSteelFilm, Canada)
    • 2017: 306 Hollywood (El Tigre Productions LLC, Laokoon Filmgroup, Preferred Content)
    • 2016: Happy Winter (Indyca, Zenit Arti Audiovisive)
    • 2015: Searching for Mercury (Fine Point Films)
    • 2014: The Blue ID (MOXIE, ARTvoltage)
    • 2013: Fractured Land (Two Islands Films Ltd.)
    • 2012: Svalka: Yula’s Journey (Hanna Polak Films/Goats Hill)
    • 2011: (Tie) The Jungle Prescription (Nomad Productions), A Whole Lott More (Flying V Films)
    • 2010: The House That Herman Built (Storyline Entertainment)
    • 2009: Town of Runners (Met Film Productions)
  • 2019 Surprise Prize

    In 2019, the $20,000 Surprise Prize was presented on behalf of Toronto documentary supporters by Elizabeth Radshaw to Twice Colonized (Ánorâk Film, Greenland; Ánorâk Film, Denmark; Unikkaat Studios, Canada).

  • Sunny Side of the Doc Pitch Prize

    In 2021, the organizers of Sunny Side of the Doc selected a winner to receive a complimentary pass to their event.

    2021: Made in Ethiopia (D: Xinyan Yu, Max Duncan; P: Tamara Dawit, Xinyan Yu, Max Duncan; Made in Ethiopia, LLC, USA; Gobez Media Inc., Canada)

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