Bell Fund – Introduction
Next in our ongoing series highlighting funding opportunities for digital creators we’re going to take a look at the Bell Fund.
What is the Bell Fund?
The “The Bell Fund”, is a CRTC certified independent production fund that provides funding for cross-platform digital media and TV content. The Bell Fund has offices in Toronto and Montreal and provides support to Canadians from coast to coast.
What is the Short-Form Digital Series Program?
This Program provides production financing for short form digital series. In 2020, the Bell Fund issued changes to its Short Form Digital Series Program. Most notably, “fiction” and “non-fiction” were merged. There are two opportunities for producers to apply in a year.
Bell Fund – “Fiction”:
Eligible genres of programming include scripted drama, comedy and children and youth programming (excluding animated series), being produced as an ongoing series.
Bell Fund – “Non-Fiction”:
Eligible genres of programming include factual, documentaries and lifestyle programming, and children and youth programming (excluding animated series), being produced as an ongoing series.
Check the guidelines carefully to ensure that your content is eligible. Excluded content includes (but is not limited to) vlogs, user generated content, news, current affairs, sports, and film and tv convergent content. The Bell Fund encourages producers to read the FAQ’s and contact them if they will require clarity.
The maximum episode duration for short-form digital series has also been increased from 15 to 20 minutes per episode. Six episodes remains as the minimum requirement.
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 (which includes the strategy, activities, timelines and measurement methods planned to identify and build an audience and monetize the series).
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?
Funding Qualification Requirements:
- 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). Third parties include provincial or federal agencies (including tax credits). Note that for provincial and federal tax credits, applicants must demonstrate eligibility and estimate a maximum of 90% of anticipated tax credits.
- The copyright of the production must be owned, optioned or controlled by the applicant.
In addition to the requirements described above, the Bell Fund requires the production to have a license agreement or meaningful commitment letter from one of the following at the time the application is made:
An online service owned, controlled and operated by a Canadian, licensed programming undertaking (eg. OUTtvGo, APTN lumi, Savoir média) including operating as a Hybrid VOD service (eg. Crave, Club illico).
A digital platform that features Entertainment Programming and is accessible to Canadians (Canadian or Foreign owned).
Funding decisions are generally made 6-10 weeks after the application deadline…good luck!
Bell Fund – In Closing
Also, be sure to read the Application Components, including the Project Details form and Discoverability Plan, which includes a detailed description of producer driven, audience-focused activities (10-page max) with a budget.
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Updated to December 18, 2020
Edwards Creative Law is a boutique law firm provides legal services to Music, Film and TV, and Interactive Digital Media industry clients. For more info and blogs, please visit www.edwardslaw.ca
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* This article is for general informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice. Please contact Edwards Creative Law or another lawyer, if you wish to apply these concepts to your specific circumstances.