NSI Features First Apply

Presented by the National Screen Institute in association with Telefilm Canada

Application deadline

NSI Features First is taking a short hiatus while we retool the curriculum, explore our funding model and new partnerships, and make important upgrades.

NSI’s mission has always been to deliver training that is current, relevant and of the highest standard. In that spirit NSI Features First will undergo a re-design before we issue the next call for applications to ensure we continue to meet the needs of an evolving industry.

The most recent course guidelines are available below for reference.


Email: joy.loewen@nsi-canada.ca.

Application fee

$100 non-refundable fee per application. Payment is processed through PayPal only.


$1,500 non-refundable fee per selected participant. Due one week after acceptance into the course.


What does NSI Features First offer?

NSI Features First is a development training launch pad for producer and writer teams looking to produce their first or second feature film with strong commercial appeal. It is NOT necessary to have a director attached to the project.

During the course you will:

  • work with experienced story editors to polish your script
  • hear firsthand how a feature film comes together from development, to pitch, to production, to release
  • get the latest in market intelligence from distributors, producers, broadcasters and funders, and find out where your film fits into the marketplace
  • receive a cash award from NSI to put towards additional story editing and approved development costs
  • receive up to $10,000 in-kind in lighting and grip equipment rental from William F. White International towards the creation of development materials related to your project
  • receive up to $7,500 in-kind post-production support from Deluxe towards materials related to your project
  • meet your potential financing partners and learn more about banks, agencies, funds, private investors and tax credits
  • writers attend the Toronto Screenwriting Conference plus a two-day story editing session
  • explore online marketing and find out how to extend your personal brand, generate buzz for your film, use crowdfunding and build an audience

What is the course format?

NSI Features First is comprised of two phases:

Phase 1 – intensive five-day training session – Toronto (dates TBD)

Phase 1 training focuses on story analysis and editing, pitching and marketability from the distributor, producer, broadcaster and funder perspectives. Students have the opportunity to pitch to industry experts.

Teams return home after phase 1 and work to incorporate story notes and feedback received during the training session.

Homework deliverables are assigned and must be adhered to throughout the program.

To be considered for phase 2, teams submit (including but not limited to) a new draft, possible executive producer mentor choices, summary of creative changes and an innovative marketing plan.

Only projects that have advanced creatively and demonstrate an understanding of where they fit in the marketplace, how they might get financed, how much they will cost to produce, etc., will be eligible for phase 2.

All deliverables assigned must be submitted on or before due dates.

Phase 2 – producers – training session – Toronto (exact dates TBD)

Phase 2 focuses on the business of producing. Participants learn about budgets, script clearances, insurance, bonds, alternate financing scenarios and much more.

Producers return home following training and put their new-found knowledge to the test. Phase 2 homework includes (among other items) a development plan and budget for the award money as well as budgets for in-kind awards (William F. White and Deluxe), proof of concept or short film.

Phase 2 – writers – (exact dates TBD)

Writers attend the Toronto Screenwriting Conference (June 2019) and work with story-editing expert Corey Mandell after the conference.

Teams receive award money for approved phase 2 development costs to further project and team development. Eligible costs may include story editors, marketing items, proof of concept or short film line items, business cards, legal, specific festival attendance or workshops, casting directors and budget prep etc. All to be approved by the program manager and program advisor.

What do I have to commit to the course?

You must make considerable time available for the course. While project and professional development plans will be created with maximum flexibility both training sessions take place during the day.

Attendance at phase 1 and 2 training sessions in Toronto is mandatory for all participants.

Who can apply?

This course is aimed at producer/writer teams wishing to develop and produce their first or second feature film with strong commercial appeal. Writers can also be the director, however there will be no director training.

You cannot apply as both the producer and writer.

Preference will be given to strong creative teams who are passionate and invested in the creative development of the project and can demonstrate the team has sufficient craft and technical experience to realistically be considered capable of producing a feature film.

You may submit more than one application but you must complete a separate application along with an additional $100 application fee. If you do submit multiple applications only one project can be selected for the program.

In order to be eligible applicants must:

  • not have more than one produced feature film credit in the position for which you are applying (as a writer or producer, which includes producer, co-producer, executive producer etc.)
  • demonstrate you are a strong team. Your project will be ineligible if team members identified on the application form change at any point after selection.
  • maintain creative and financial control over the project as well as technical ownership. This includes ownership of, or option on, all underlying rights (if any). NSI reserves the right to disqualify any team that does not fully own the rights in and to the project (except for such approvals as are customary in the industry from distributors, financiers, investors, etc.)
  • have determined ownership and decision-making control between themselves. Must identify which team member officially owns the project.
  • be a Canadian citizen or landed immigrant and be over the age of 18.
  • have a production company located in Canada.
  • not be a participant in any other training course that would conflict with your ability to commit to the NSI Features First course.
  • have production or craft experience, or business affairs/legal experience, or marketing/distribution experience, or some combination of the above. Producers only

If you feel you would benefit from the course despite your experience level (lack of, or wealth of) please include a letter explaining why the selection committee should consider you for the course. This letter is in addition to the deliverable letter of expectation.

Can inter-provincial teams apply?

Yes, however teams must demonstrate how they will overcome physical distance barriers as they proceed with their final stage of development and production planning.

Are international and inter-provincial co-productions eligible?

Yes, if a project plans to raise financing by co-producing with a production company in another country and/or another province, the project will still be eligible for NSI Features First.

Co-production projects will be assessed in the spirit of the course, which is to support the development of Canadian writers and producers making their first or second feature film.

Can I apply with more than one proposal per year? Can I resubmit a proposal?

Yes, provided you complete a separate application form along with an additional $100 application fee.

You may apply twice with the same project within a three year period.

Which projects are eligible?

  • Projects are selected based on their creative and commercial potential.
  • Scripts must be advanced to at least second draft stage to be assessed for production potential.
  • Projects must be feature length (80 to 105 pages long) and be intended for theatrical release.
  • Projects must be narrative (experimental and documentary films are not eligible).
  • Theme and subject matter are up to the applicants. NSI will not accept any project that contains excessive violence, sexual violence or sexual exploitation.

How do I apply?

Only complete applications will be considered. This means you must fill out all required sections of the application form and must include all the documents listed below as one file (PDF, zip or Word doc).

Your application will be disqualified if any of the sections are incomplete or missing. A checklist has been provided for your use on the application form.

  • Logline
  • Synopsis: a one-paragraph pitch summary.
  • Second draft script: projected running time must be feature length.
  • Script notes: writer’s notes on your proposed plan for subsequent drafts.
  • Preliminary development plan: provide a list of activities/tasks you feel are needed to get your project into shape to take to the marketplace.
  • Preliminary marketing plan: demonstrate a clear idea of the film’s target audience and your understanding of its market potential.
  • Proposed production budget: top sheet only. NOTE: if selected, a full, detailed budget will be required prior to phase 2.
  • Proposed financing structure: your proposed sources of revenue for financing the project.
  • Chain of title documentation: e.g. option agreement, transfer of rights agreement, and/or publisher’s agreement. Please include a writer’s agreement regarding underlying rights acquisition (if any) and screenplay. The option agreement must include proof of ownership.
  • Resume for each applicant clearly stating production experience. Include your role on the production and the following information about each project: the writer/producer/director, genre, if it was a student film, final running time, any broadcasts/theatrical release/festivals played, is it in development, production, post or completed, plus budget level.
  • Letter of expectation from each team member: a paragraph from each team member describing what you hope to gain by participating in NSI Features First.
  • Letter of reference for each team member: this should help identify why the person writing the letter feels you are ready to take the step up to feature-length production.
  • Description of formal relationship between team members: outline ownership and decision-making control between yourselves. Have you incorporated a company? How long have you known each other? Have you worked together before? How confident are you that you can work together on this feature?
  • Evidence of development funding to date (if applicable): if you have previous or current development funding from other sources, please submit copies of their commitment letters. If you have interest from an executive producer, please explain.
  • Additional letters (if applicable): required for applicants needing to demonstrate their suitability to participate in the course because they don’t meet eligibility criteria.
  • $100 non-refundable entry fee: each team must submit a $100 application fee. Payment is processed through PayPal.

How will teams be selected?

Projects are selected based on the strength of their creative and commercial appeal. Both the project and team must be suitable for the course (it is possible to have a good project but a team who is not yet ready to produce a feature film, or a great team with the wrong project.)

  • All applications will be assessed for eligibility and completeness. Incomplete applications will be rejected.
  • The NSI Features First manager, advisor and a jury of industry professionals will read each proposal and create a shortlist.
  • Based upon the strength of the script, professionalism of team members and support documentation, the jury will select up to four teams to participate in NSI Features First.

When will we know if we’ve been selected?

Shortlisted applicants will be notified via email (exact dates TBD). A phone/video conference call will take place following the email notification. Date of final selection of teams TBD. Tuition will be required one week following notification of acceptance into the course in order to confirm your spot.

Who is the NSI Features First advisor?

Al Magee

Al Magee is a producer, showrunner, writer and mentor with over 30 years experience in all genres.

With over 50 feature film credits, Al grew up as a writer and story editor on independent Canadian feature film breakouts like Roadkill and Highway 61, Rude and Cube.

He has worked with many of Canada’s most influential filmmakers including Bruce McDonald, Clement Virgo, Deepa Mehta, Vincenzo Natali and Jeremy Podeswa.

As a television producer, creative consultant and showrunner he has over 2,000 episodes of scripted, unscripted and documentary content on series like Trailer Park Boys, Slings and Arrows, Designer Guys, Income Property, Kink and Interrupt This Program. He has won a Canadian Screen Award and been nominated for an Emmy.

Digital productions include the comedy cult hit The Whole Truths, the Webby-winning narrative Andy and the Upside, and the award winning I Kill Monsters and Night Chef.

Honoured numerous times for mentoring emerging talent, he has designed and delivered hundreds of writing and production workshops. He won the Alex Barris Mentorship Award from the Writers Guild of Canada, and the Banff World Media Festival’s Innovative Producer of the Year Award. He is very proud of his 4.74 passenger rating on Uber.

What are the exact dates of the course?

NSI Features First is a 10-month training course. The week-long, phase 1 training session takes place in Toronto (exact dates TBD).

A second (up to) week-long training session will be held in Toronto – one for producers (exact dates TBD) and a writer’s story editing session after the Toronto Screenwriting Conference in June 2019. Exact dates will be determined once the final teams are chosen.

What rights does NSI have on the project?

All copyright in the project remains with the applicants. NSI reserves the sole right to disqualify any team that does not fully own the rights in and to the project.

NSI and its sponsors will retain the right to exhibit and/or stream (non-commercially) completed productions for promotional purposes and will use best efforts to notify the producer of any such screening prior to its occurrence.

NSI and select NSI Features First investors require a tail credit on all copies of the film as well as a prominent credit on all publicity and promotional materials developed with respect to the project.

A contract will be signed with each team outlining the commitments and responsibilities of the team and NSI under the course, due one week after final teams are chosen along with tuition.

We have financing/deals lined up – how does that affect our application?

An application that demonstrates deals already made by the marketplace is clearly a viable project, however this does not guarantee it will be selected for the course.

All creative and financial controls must still remain with the team (except for such approvals as are customary in the industry from distributors, financiers, investors, etc.)

What financial assistance will I receive?

Teams from outside Toronto will have their airfare and accommodations covered (if applicable) while they are in Toronto for the training sessions. Phase 2 teams will receive a cash award to put towards approved development costs.

In-kind awards from William F. White (up to $10,000) and Deluxe (up to $7,500) will be offered for use towards NSI Features First project proof of concept, short film or feature.

What is the relationship between NSI and the applicant?

The relationship between the applicant and NSI shall not be deemed to constitute a partnership or joint venture. The applicant shall not have the right to incur any debts nor make any commitment of or on behalf of NSI.

Can I submit my application by fax or email?

No. All applications must be provided using the online form and received by the deadline of September 14, 2018. Late applications will not be accepted.

I have more questions. Who do I contact?

Email your questions to joy.loewen@nsi-canada.ca. 

• • •

NSI Features First is funded by Presenting Sponsor Telefilm Canada; Supporting Sponsors Super ChannelCorus Entertainment and Breakthrough Entertainment; Provincial Sponsor Creative BC through the Daryl Duke and William Vince Scholarship Fund; and Industry Supporters William F. White and Deluxe. NSI Core Funders are Manitoba Sport, Culture & Heritage and the City of Winnipeg through the Winnipeg Arts Council.