Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Registration now open for the 2011 Doc Challenge, March 3-7

Registration for the 2011 International Documentary Challenge is now open. The International Documentary Challenge is a timed filmmaking competition where filmmakers from around the world have 5 days to make a short non-fiction film (4-7 minutes.) All of the registered participants make their films during the same time period (March 3-7) and are required to ship the movie by the deadline.

The filmmakers must choose between 2 assigned documentary genres (such as Biography, Music, 1st Person, etc.) and are assigned a specific theme (such as "Freedom") that will dictate the content and direction of their film. The top 12 films (determined by a panel of judges) premiere at the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Film Festival in Toronto (April 28 to May 8, 2011) where the winners are announced.

More than 20 Awards will be given - including the Grand Prize Winner - Best Film of the 2011 International Documentary Challenge. The Best Film winner receives $1,500, $1,500 worth of services from DocuMentors and a glass award. Each of the 12 finalists receives two industry passes to Hot Docs (an $800 value) and an invitation to the official Doc Challenge reception at Hot Docs. 

After the premiere, there are additional theatrical screenings in major cities, possible television exposure and a DVD release of the best films.

The International Documentary Challenge was started in 2006 by Doug Whyte of KDHX Community Media. In the past 4 years, there have been more than 500 participating filmmakers from 20 countries,  including Canada, Mexico, Bulgaria, Israel, The Netherlands, Japan, Kosovo, Germany, the United States, and many more.

Films made during the Doc Challenge have screened at numerous international film festivals including Hot Docs Canadian International Film Festival, Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, Dokufest in Kosovo, St. Louis International Film Festival, MountainFilm in Telluride, and many more.

The standard signup fee is $115.00. Early bird registrations are now only $99. Registration closes on March 2, 2011.

To register, visit or click here to download and print.

You can watch last year's finalists at


General FAQ

Why is the entry fee $99-$115? It seems higher than most festivals.

Being that you're independent filmmakers, we understand your concern about the fee. Keep in mind that you are doing much more than just entering a festival. The Doc Challenge is much different in that:
1) We limit the number of entries (300) where festivals do not. (SXSW had 3,100 submissions and Sundance had over 8,000!)

2) By paying the fee, you are in the competition, not just considered for it. We work toward getting the films screened and distributed, no matter if they are winners or not. At a festival you get one screening (maybe two.) Last year we worked all year on getting the films screened many times and we actually got more TV distribution for non-winners than winners!

3) We are a non-profit organization and not in this to make a profit. Our goal is to eventually lower the fee to make it more affordable for our filmmakers. We are always pursuing sponsors to help underwrite the expenses of running the event.

What are the prizes?

Check out our Judging & Prizes page.

What are the films about?
That's up to the filmmaker; however, each team must select the genre for its movie from the 2 that are randomly assigned. In addition, teams are assigned a broad theme that must be addressed at some point in their film. Read more about the Genres & Themes.
Who sees the films?
The top 12 films (determined by a panel of judges) premiere at the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Film Festival in Toronto where the winners are announced. After the premiere, there are additional theatrical screenings in major cities, possible television exposure and a DVD release of the best films. The films are also streamed on our website for voting for the Audience Award and many films (including non-finalists) can be seen on the SnagFilms Doc Challenge Channel.

Who are the filmmakers?
The Doc Challenge is open to all filmmakers, pro and novice alike. Rules state that all team members must be volunteers. Most teams consist of film and video professionals or students (high school & college.)

How long are the films?
The films are short; they must be a minimum of 4 minutes and a maximum of 7 minutes long. Short is good. Not only are shorter films tighter and usually more interesting, they are more marketable.

Are we free to submit our project in other festivals?

Yes, filmmakers are encouraged to submit their films to festivals. Just please notify us if your film is accepted to a festival.

May I show a modified version of my Doc Challenge film?
Yes, presuming that the showing adheres to the Team Leader's Agreement that you signed when entering the Doc Challenge. If it is a modified version of a Doc Challenge film, please include a title card that says:
"The concept for this film developed during the International Documentary Challenge."
Can we put our film on YouTube or other video-hosting sites?

Eventually. We ask that you wait to do this until distribution has been pursued - having your film on the internet could affect the ability to have your film screened in festivals and on TV.

Can I take a look at some of the films from past competitions?

You bet! Check out our Screening Room. And buy the Best of the Doc Challenge DVD.

Who judges the films? We gather a group of film and video professionals to serve as our judges. These judges generally have extensive experience within the field. We require these judges to be fair and impartial. Our judges donate their time and talent to rate the films. In addition to determining the Grand Prize winner they also select a number of other awards.

But no matter how careful we are in selecting our judges, judging itself is extremely subjective. So many times, two regarded critics feel markedly differently about the same film-remember the long debate between Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert about Apocalypse Now; remember Pauline Kael's ambivalent review of Star Wars. When it comes to evaluating art, a lot comes down to matters of taste.

Can I sponsor the International Documentary Challenge? Of course! Contact Doug Whyte, the Doc Challenge Producer, to express interest. His email address is This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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