I: Commissions

TVO commissions compelling social issue and current affairs documentaries and digital media projects that focus on contemporary social, political and cultural issues that are of direct relevance to Canadian audiences and promote citizen engagement.

Have an idea for a great documentary or digital media project? Browse our guidelines below and make us a pitch.

  1. Theme and treatment
  2. Who Should Pitch?
  3. Digital Media
  4. Licensing for Commissions
  5. Proposals for Canadian Documentaries & Digital Media

a) Theme and treatment

Commissioned documentaries must explore social issues and current affairs themes of interest and relevance to Canadians. Stories must be contemporary and have active and unfolding storylines that engage unique and diverse points of view on issues of public concern.

Recent documentary commissions include:

The Defector: Escape From North Korea
Out of Mind, Out of Sight: Inside the Brockville Psych
Fight Like Soldiers, Die Like Children
Mugshot
David & Me
Smoke Traders
Prosecutor

b) Who Should Pitch?

Documentary commissions are open to Canadian independent producers with a demonstrated ability to deliver broadcast-quality programs with high production values. Preference is given to producers from Ontario. Programs must qualify for certification as 100% Canadian productions or International Treaty co-productions. Emerging filmmakers are strongly encouraged to partner with an experienced producer prior to approaching TVO.

Producers seeking Canadian Media Fund support are encouraged to confirm their production financing as early in the year as possible in order to ensure access to the Fund and meet license fee thresholds. Financing scenarios can include second-window licenses with other broadcasters, international pre-sales, public and private film funds, provincial and federal tax credits, distribution advances, arms-length private investments, and producer investments (evidence of interim financing is required if applicable).

TVO requires first-window and premiere rights for all commissions. One-hour documentaries are preferred. Acquisitions of completed programs can be considered, provided that first-window broadcast rights are available in Ontario.

c) Digital Media

TVO commissions a range of interactive and digital media projects that are produced in relation to commissioned documentaries including: gamification and data journalism projects, interactive documentaries and websites, mobile apps, creative social media campaigns, informative crowdsourcing projects, and community-building projects that invite citizen engagement.

Digital media projects must be based on social issues and current affairs themes of interest and relevance to Canadians and offer a fresh and innovative approach to engaging users.

Recent commissions include:

http://experience.thedefectormovie.com/
http://insidedisaster.com/haiti/
http://avatarsecrets.com/
http://thelosthighway.ca
http://www.forgetfulnotforgotten.com/
The Water Brothers "Quench" mobile app
The Next Day interactive online documentary (produced in association with the NFB)

TVO will support digital media funding applications with a license fee of up to 10% of the Digital Media production budget to a maximum of $10,000.

d) Licensing for Commissions

Documentaries are licensed for a period of six years, with a 24 month first-window exclusive in Ontario, and have their North American premiere on TVO. VOD, streaming and mobile rights are licensed for a period of six years, with a 24 month first-window exclusive in Canada. License fees generally range from $30,000 to $75,000 per hour. TVO receives prominent full-screen credit in the program and on all printed materials.

Development funds of up to $10,000 may be advanced as a portion of the production license fee. Development licenses may be matched with CMF development financing, if available, at the discretion of the Commissioning Editor.

Production budgets for digital media projects range from $25,000 to $300,000, but strong preference is that budgets not exceed $100,000. Digital Media projects are licensed for a period of six years, with a 24 month exclusive in Canada. License fees range to a maximum of $10,000. TVO receives prominent credit on-screen and on all printed materials. Funding decisions are made on a case-by-case basis.

e) Proposals for Canadian Documentaries & Digital Media

There are no proposal submission deadlines. Proposals of up to 10 pages in length may be submitted at any time. Submissions are reviewed and evaluated as they are received.

Documentary proposal submissions should include:

  • Brief project synopsis
  • Concise treatment or outline
  • Financing plan
  • Production budget top-sheet
  • Production schedule
  • CVs of key creative personnel
  • Samples of previous work that are relevant to the project being pitched may also be included

Producers can also submit digital media proposals that include a documentary component. Digital media proposals should include:

  • Brief project synopsis
  • Outline of the concept in relation to the broadcast component
  • Description of the user experience
  • Proposed technology and platform for the project
  • Proposed financing plan and budget top-sheet
  • CVs of key creative personnel
  • Samples of previous work that are relevant to the project being pitched may also be included

Documentary producers are strongly encouraged to partner with an established digital media producer if submitting a digital media proposal.

All proposal submissions are evaluated on the following criteria:

  • Originality and creativity of the treatment and/or subject
  • Relevance of the subject to audiences in Ontario and across Canada
  • Strength of the creative team and demonstrated ability to finance the production and deliver the project in a timely manner
  • Meeting TVO's mandate and programming needs

Submissions for Canadian documentaries and digital media projects may be sent to:

TVO
2180 Yonge Street
Box 200, Stn Q
Toronto, ON
M4T 2T1
Attention: Jane Jankovic or Linda Fong
Email: jjankovic@tvo.org or lfong@tvo.org

Allow up to eight weeks for a response.

II: Acquisitions & Pre-Buys

  1. International Documentaries
  2. Science
  3. History
  4. Arts

a) International Documentaries

TVO acquires and pre-buys one-hour and feature-length international documentaries that are thought provoking and inspiring explorations of social issues from around the world, created by the world's finest filmmakers. License fees, license period, number of plays, exclusivity, digital streaming and other terms vary. Works-in-progress and finished films are considered.

Past and current titles include:

Armadillo
First Comes Love
The World Before Her
Banaz: An Honour Killing
Ping Pong
Hitler's Children
Sisters in Law

Submissions for International Documentaries may be sent to:

TVO
2180 Yonge Street
Box 200, Stn Q
Toronto, ON
M4T 2T1
Attention: Naomi Boxer
Email: nboxer@tvo.org

Allow up to eight weeks for a response.

b) Science

TVO's prime-time science programming features hour-long Canadian and international documentaries that focus on cutting-edge scientific and technological discoveries which explore all facets of the natural and scientific world.

In wide-ranging series such as "How to Build a Planet," "Wonders of Life," "How Many People Can Live on Planet Earth" and "Tipping Points," TVO explores the scientific and environmental issues that have an impact on Canadian lives.

Though primarily acquisitions-based, a limited number of Canadian and international pre-buys may be funded each year.

Submissions for Science Documentaries may be sent to:

TVO
2180 Yonge Street
Box 200, Stn Q
Toronto, ON
M4T 2T1
Attention: Christine Lee or Naomi Boxer
Email: clee@tvo.org or nboxer@tvo.org

Allow up to eight weeks for a response.

c) History

TVO's History programming presents hour-long documentaries that examine events of national and international historical significance for both prime-time and family audiences.

From acclaimed Canadian series such as "For King and Country" and "Greatest Tank Battles," to international co-productions such as "Apocalypse World War I," to the award-winning archaeological series "Time Team," TVO seeks out the best in probing and provocative history programming from around the globe.

While acquisitions dominate the strand, a limited number of Canadian and international pre-buys may be funded each year.

Submissions for History Documentaries may be sent to:

TVO
2180 Yonge Street
Box 200, Stn Q
Toronto, ON
M4T 2T1
Attention: Christine Lee
Email: clee@tvo.org

Allow up to eight weeks for a response.

d) Arts

TVO acquires arts documentaries that explore the life, work, and creative process of influential painters, photographers, architects, writers, musicians and filmmakers considered masters in their in their respective fields. This programming is both Canadian and international in scope. License fees, license period, number of plays, exclusivity, digital media streaming and other terms vary. Hour-long and feature-length works-in-progress and finished films considered.

Past and current titles include:

Portrait of Wally
Views of Vermeer
West Wind: The Vision of Tom Thomson
Nick Drake: A Skin Too Few
'4'
Kinngait: Riding Light Into The Wind
Bill Cunningham New York

Submissions for Arts Documentaries may be sent to:

TVO
2180 Yonge Street
Box 200, Stn Q
Toronto, ON
M4T 2T1
Attention: Naomi Boxer
Email: nboxer@tvo.org

Allow up to eight weeks for a response. No large email attachments please.