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CMF Opens New Writer-Focused Funding Program

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The Canada Media Fund (CMF) has launched its new Early Stage Development Program. What differentiates this CMF funding program from others is that it’s the first time since the government org’s founding that it is giving writers the chance to access development money directly, without a producer or broadcaster attached. The WGC has been working with the federal government for several years to get more direct financial support for content development led by Canadian screenwriters — and this is the first step. Screenwriters who are interested and meet the CMF’s eligibility criteria — as this fund is fully operated and administered by the CMF — should apply.

So, what’s in this new program?
CMF Early Stage Development funding is available via two access points. The Writer Access Point can be employed directly by writers who have:

  1. Completed a minimum of 10 produced hours of written work in one of the CMF’s four supported genres —drama, children & youth, documentary, or variety & performing arts — that was broadcast by a Canadian broadcaster.
  2. Received at least one producer-level credit (like exec producer or associate producer for live-action productions) or one story editor credit (for animated productions).
  3. Are incorporated, as applicants must be a Canadian single-shareholder company meeting the CMF’s eligibility requirements.

The second is the Creator Collaborator Access Point. For this stream, an applicant:

  1. Must be a Canadian company that has a writing agreement with a writer and a letter of interest from a Canadian broadcaster, “Eligible Distributor,” provincial funding agency, or CRTC-recognized certified independent production fund.
  2. Is not subject to a minimum requirement for produced hours of written work, and does not need any financial commitment from a broadcaster.

For both access points:

  • Eligible projects are awarded funding on a first-come, first-served basis until resources for the program are depleted or until the final closing date (January 10, 2020), whichever comes first.
  • Eligible applicants may apply to the program with a maximum of one project (for this year).
  • Successful applicants receive non-interest-bearing advances, which are repayable upon first day of official preparation for principal photography or other use of the script, or upon transfer, sale, assignment, or other disposition of the script.
  • Expenses that can be funded are set out in the program guidelines, but they include scriptwriting and related costs, up to $40,000 for the Writer Access Point and up to $46,000 for the Creator Collaborator Access Point, though these costs cannot have been incurred before the 2019-2020 CMF fiscal year (April 1 – March 31).

Additional key information
The Writer Access Point clearly contemplates direct access by Canadian screenwriters. However, nothing in the Creator Collaborator Access Point guidelines prevents screenwriters from applying that way if they prefer, either themselves or in partnership with a producer, provided that they meet the eligibility requirements for that access point.

Eligible projects for both access points must be linear audiovisual content that is developed as a Canadian production or intended as an audiovisual treaty coproduction. This means, among other things, that it is a 10/10 CAVCO-point production, for which the underlying rights are owned and significantly and meaningfully developed by Canadians, and shot and set primarily in Canada. 

Funding is available for English- and French-language projects, but the above summary refers to English projects where applicable. Just a reminder: This is a CMF program, so the CMF’s own guidelines and interpretations will apply.

How to apply
Full eligibility requirements and other details can be found on the CMF website here. The program opens on June 20, 2019.

Further questions should be directed to the closest CMF Program Administrator/Telefilm Canada office. These offices also provide pre-application consultations, which can assist  further. In addition, the CMF will hold a webcast on April 9 at 2:00 pm ET to discuss new programs and to answer questions.

The WGC will monitor this new program closely to see how effective it is for supporting Canadian screenwriters and great Canadian content. We hope that this is just one step towards further empowering Canadian screenwriters — the authorial voice of Canadian programming — to continue to thrive in this rapidly evolving global industry.

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