NSI students & grads: apply for funding through Telefilm’s Talent To Watch Program

Link to Telefilm

The Telefilm Talent to Watch Program (formerly the Telefilm Micro-Budget Production Program) is back for its seventh year.

The program aims to support a diverse array of emerging filmmakers and accelerate their career development by providing the opportunity and autonomy to create their first feature film or web series.

The National Screen Institute is a partner organization and, as such, can recommend to Telefilm:

(1) up to two feature film projects and one narrative-based web project under the Main Component, and

(2) up to two feature film projects and one narrative-based web project for the Indigenous Component.

This is a competitive process – NSI can only make up to a total of six recommendations to Telefilm.

The project team’s director must be a graduate of, or currently enrolled in, an NSI training program.

NSI students/grads from 2014 to 2019 are eligible.


Please note: we have set our own deadline of Monday, January 28, 2019, 4:30 p.m. Central Time, ahead of Telefilm’s final submission deadline of February 18 – 25, 2019. This allows us to work with teams to refine their submissions before submitting to Telefilm.


To qualify for a recommendation from NSI, the following items must be emailed to Brendon Sawatzky, NSI’s director of programming:

1) Presentation video (YouTube or Vimeo link)

A downloadable pitch video (maximum 5 minutes) that will:

  • state the project’s working title;
  • identify genre, type and project length;
  • identify the key creative team for the project and their individual track records (including samples of past work if relevant);
  • provide a brief synopsis of the story from beginning to end;
  • outline the creative team’s vision/visual treatment of the material;
  • outline any other relevant information that sets the project apart (e.g.: personal connection to the story material, confirmed appearance by an established actor, successful crowdfunding campaign, relationship with VFX professionals or animators);
  • identify the target audience; and
  • include a one-minute segment of the director’s previous short films.

Note: the video must NOT include footage from other projects that are not the team’s own work.

2) Supporting material

The documents listed below must be provided as PDFs:

  • project synopsis (maximum 750 words) including main story developments, and telling the basic story from beginning to end;
  • director’s vision (up to three pages);
  • promotion and distribution plan (up to two pages) identifying project audience (age, sex, sensibility, culture, etc.). It must also identify how the team will find and access this audience and why will they connect with the project;
  • filmography for the creative team (producer, writer and director) – use the template available on Telefilm’s website, which indicates training, education, experience, accolades and an outline of past projects and history of team collaboration;
  • production schedule (from pre-production to digital release) that will ensure completion of the project within 24 months of the receipt of Telefilm’s invitation to apply, as described below;
  • budget top sheet for the project (see template available on Telefilm’s website); and
  • up to one page detailing any other information that sets this project apart (e.g., personal connection to the story material, successful crowdfunding campaign, confirmed cameo by a well-known actor, established fan base on social media).

Projects submitted through the Indigenous stream and all other projects with Indigenous content should address the issue of how the team sought to engage the various Indigenous communities that will be impacted by the project.

Suitable means of achieving this may include the following, as applicable: letters of support from the community, letters of support from Indigenous advisors, contracts between the communities and the creative team for the project, community engagement plans, etc.

3) Completed screenplay

4) Link to previous work, if available

The above documents must be provided in PDF format. Please provide the video pitch as a YouTube or Vimeo link.

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Once NSI determines which projects we will support with a recommendation, we’ll work with the teams to refine their submissions in advance of Telefilm’s February 18 – 25, 2019 deadline. In addition, NSI will provide a letter of support – a brief letter outlining why the team was chosen – to Telefilm Canada.

It is strongly recommended you read Telefilm’s full set of guidelines and FAQs (both PDFs) before approaching NSI.

Contact Brendon Sawatzky, NSI’s director of programming, with queries about submission requirements.

Note the following key program updates:

  • Telefilm has expanded the eligibility criteria to allow more emerging filmmakers access to the program. Going forward, only the director of the submitted project is required to be an alumnus of the National Screen Institute.
  • Under the Selective Stream, NSI may recommend up to two feature films and one narrative-based web project for each component.
  • The submission process has been updated – please consult section 1.2.1 of the guidelines.
  • A project that was not selected for financing under this program may be resubmitted a second time.
  • Telefilm has reinstated a budget cap: the average budget for feature film projects is between $125,000 and $250,000 but, generally, must not exceed $250,000.
  • The minimal requirement for promotion costs has been reduced from 15% to 8%.
  • All selected teams will be invited to attend a Talent to Watch Summit in spring 2019 (details will be communicated in March 2019).

We invite every qualified student/grad seeking a recommendation from NSI to forward the required documents to us for review by Monday, January 28, 2019 at 4:30 p.m. Central Time. Only complete applications will be accepted.

If you have general questions about the Telefilm Talent to Watch Program, please contact your regional Telefilm officer.

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