Bell Fund: Short Form Digital Series Fiction Program

The deadline to apply for the Bell Fund’s Short Form Digital Series Fiction Program is May 7, 2018. Who is this funding available to? How much is it? What steps do I need to take to apply? This blog will discuss the requirements and details of the program to help producers understand how to access this funding, and decide whether they want to make the investment of time and resources to apply.


What is the Bell Fund?

The Bell Broadcast and New Media Fund, a.k.a. “The Bell Fund”, is a CRTC certified independent production fund that provides funding for cross-platform digital media and TV content. Based in Toronto, Bell Fund provides support to Canadians from coast to coast.


What is the Short Form Digital Series Fiction Program?

Funding is now available under four streams: 1) Short Form Digital Series Fiction Program; 2) Short Form Digital Series Non-Fiction Program; 3) Webdocs Development Program; and 4) Slate Development Program.

The purpose of the Short Form Digital Series Fiction Program is to fund original digital video content for online distribution, specifically the production of scripted fiction, which includes drama, comedy, and children’s and youth programming, excluding animated series.


How Much Funding Can I Receive?

Funding is available as a non-repayable grant of 75% of the costs of production up to a maximum of $150,000. Production costs that are eligible to be covered include standard digital video production costs but not the costs of implementing the Discoverability Plan.

Evaluation of the discoverability plan will take place alongside evaluation of the application. If the application is approved for funding, the Producer may be eligible to receive up to $50,000 towards the implementation of the Discoverability Plan based on an approved budget.


What Productions Can Qualify?

The requirements that a production must meet in order to qualify for funding are as follows:

  • The production must be a work of scripted fiction in either of the drama, comedy or children’s and youth programming genres.
  • Productions must have a minimum of six episodes, each episode being a maximum of 15 minutes in length.
  • The production cannot be broadcast for at least 12 months following its release on a digital platform.
  • Principal photography cannot have begun prior to the application deadline.
  • A teaser/trailer of the production (maximum of two minutes) must be provided with the application. Make sure to impress them! From our conversations with the Bell Fund team, the teaser should communicate the tone and feel of the project. According to list of very helpful FAQs, the teaser should be professional quality, and they are looking for “quality premium content.”
  • At the time of the application the production must be able to show that at least 10% of the budget is financed in cash by a third party (there must at least be a commitment in writing).
  • The copyright of the production must be owned, optioned or controlled by the applicant.
  • A Discoverability Plan (as defined here) must be submitted at the time of the application.

In addition to the requirements described above, the Bell Fund requires the production to have one of the following at the time the application is made:

  • A license agreement (commitment letter may be sufficient) with a CRTC licensed Canadian broadcaster-owned, digital platform or hybrid VOD service.
  • A license agreement with a digital platform accessible to Canadians (Canadian or foreign-owned).
  • An agreement with a Canadian distributor with a commitment to make the program available on a platform within 12 months of completion.
  • Where there is no agreement, the Bell Fund, at its sole discretion, may consider waiving this requirement.

While many producers have separate corporations which play the role of distributor, the Canadian distributor cannot be a related party to the applicant, unless they distribute third party content. If there’s any question about whether the distributor is eligible, you should submit the distributor to the Bell Fund team via email ([email protected]) in advance for consideration and hopefully to get approval.

If neither a license agreement nor a distribution agreement is available in time for the deadline the Bell Fund may consider waiving this requirement subject to the applicant being able to provide some or all of the following additional requirements to the Bell Fund for review and assessment of eligibility at the time of application:

  • the proposed platform (not just any platform – there are rules to review, including that it must be accessible to Canadians.)
  • ability to demonstrate the completion and commercialization of at least one other original audio-visual programming project for an online platform; and
  • an ability to execute and commercialize the concept (i.e. if required, retention of outside experts with the experience to deliver and commercialize the project).

If you are not sure if you have what it takes to get a waiver… ask the Bell Fund team.


Also, be sure to read the Application Components (http://bellfund.ca/application-components/) including the Project Details form and  Discoverability Plan (http://bellfund.ca/wp-content/themes/wp-starter-kit-master/documents/short-form/Discoverability-Plan-Eng.pdf), which includes a detailed description of producer driven, audience-focused activities (10-page max) with a budget.


Good Luck!

Edwards PC, Creative Law is a boutique law firm provides legal services to Music, Film, Animation, TV, Digital Media, Game, Software and Publishing industry clients. For more information and blogs, please visit www.edwardslaw.ca

© 2018 Edwards PC

* This blog is for general informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice. Please contact Edwards PC, Creative Law or another lawyer, if you wish to apply these concepts to your specific circumstances.

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