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What you need to know to apply to the CMF Early Stage Development Program

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The Canada Media Fund’s Early Stage Development Program was announced at the end of March, identifying two funding streams: The Writer Access Point and the Creator Collaborator Access Point. Materials are now available from the CMF website so that interested writers can begin assembling their applications to either stream of the program, which is being administered by Telefilm. The WGC was fortunate to host an info session about the program and the application process on May 3, led by Telefilm Deputy Director and CMF Program Administrator, Mireille Darveau, and Telefilm Coordinator, Selvina Rajoo. An audio recording of the entire session is available here, and we’ve recapped what you need to know about the Writer Access Point in the FAQ below, with relevant links.

The CMF has allotted $1.25 million each to the English-language Writer Access Point and the Creator Collaborator Access Point. Applications to both streams will be accepted starting June 20, 2019 at 6 a.m. EST. As a first-come, first-serve program, the CMF expects that all funds for the Writer Access Point will be assigned to successful applicants on the first day, or shortly thereafter. So, if you are interested in applying to this program, it is crucial to have all supporting documentation ready to go on June 20, when the Telefilm Dialogue submission portal (more on that in a bit) opens for applications. On to the Writer Access Point FAQ.

What are the criteria for the Writer Access Point again?
Eligible applicants must have: 10 produced hours of written work in one of the CMF’s four supported genres (drama, children & youth, documentary, or variety & performing arts) that has been broadcast by a Canadian broadcaster; received one producer-level credit; and be incorporated in Canada as a single-shareholder company.

What qualifies as 10 hours of written work?
The CMF will only accept “Teleplay by” or “Written by” credits. If a team of writers has a “Written by” credit, each writer gets to claim that credit and the hours associated with it. And, for example, if you have a 45-minute written drama script, the CMF will count that as 60 minutes of produced work, as it was made for commercial television. 

Do feature films count towards the qualifying 10 hours?
Yes. As long as the feature film falls under one of the CMF’s supported genres (likely drama) and was broadcast by a Canadian broadcaster at some point.

Can I apply jointly with another writer?
No. The CMF will only contract with a single-shareholder corporation, so in this case the individual incorporated writer. What this means is, the individual applying to the program must meet all the criteria outlined above by themselves to be eligible. You cannot apply in teams or try to meet the 10-hour requirement by pooling credits. The application must come from one individual. 

Do I have to be incorporated when I apply?
No. The CMF will accept applications from individuals. However, if the applicant is successful, they must incorporate to sign the contract with the CMF and receive the funds.

Can I apply with a project that falls outside the genre in which I have the 10 hours credits?
No. The CMF has determined that the project should be in the same genre as the credits obtained by the writer. For example, if the writer has earned their 10 hours writing in the Children’s & Youth genre, the project they are applying for should also be in that genre. They could not put forward a drama project, and if they did, it would be deemed ineligible.

Can I apply for more than one project? 
No. Only one application per individual corporation is permitted for the Writer Access Point. However, a production company may be able to apply to the Creator Collaborator Access Point with a different project from the same writer.

What kind of information/materials do I need to submit about my project?
The CMF is only requiring a short, written synopsis of the project. As the program is first-come, first-served and early stage development, the CMF will not be evaluating the projects on their individual merit.  

If I receive the funding, what deliverables will the CMF expect?
The CMF expects that successful applicants will have roughly one year from when they sign the contract with the CMF to produce deliverables based on the outlined project. Required materials will depend on the amount of funding the individual receives and will be calculated based on rates established by the IPA collective agreement. 

If I receive the funding, do I have to pay it back at some point?
Yes. Early Stage Development Program funds are an advance that allows the writer to, well, write and develop the project. The funds are repayable to the CMF if/when it goes into production or the writer transfers the copyright to a production company. They do not have to be repaid if the project does not get produced. 

OK. So how do I get this application started?

  1. Listening to the WGC info session is a good start. It is available here. Mireille Darveau’s accompanying presentation starts at 03:10 (minutes) and you can download it here to follow along. Selvina Rajoo’s delves into the technical process of using the Telefilm Dialogue system at 1:04 (hour) and her accompanying slide presentation is here.
  2. Go to the CMF website and download the program guidelines, which give the full scope of the Early Stage Development Program. You should also download and review the accompanying reference documents under the "Guidelines & References" heading. 
  3. Download the CMF checklist of required documents here. (The required documents are available here under the "Submitting Your Application" heading.) 
  4. Set up your Telefilm Dialogue account: https://telefilm.ca/en/log-in (See 1. for full instructions.)
  5. Complete all required forms and have them ready to go for June 20, 2019. Dialogue will be accepting applications from 6 a.m. EST to 11:30 p.m. EST that day. You cannot start your application in Dialogue before June 20. You must build and submit it that day. Be sure that all accompanying documentation/forms are filled out correctly. Telefilm will not be contacting individuals for clarifications.
  6. Good luck!

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