Fast Track to Features 2 open for applications

Posted: 4th December 2013

Sheffield Doc/Fest and Creative Skillset have launched Fast Track to Features 2: a seven-month UK-wide feature documentary training programme comprising intensive workshops, pitch training, networking opportunities, individual bespoke mentoring, and a pitching opportunity at Sheffield Doc/Fest 2014, aimed at documentary talent wanting to make the move towards making their first documentary feature.

The first stage of Fast Track to Features 2 will be an Introductory Workshop which will run twice: once in London and once in Newcastle, in partnership with Northern Film & Media. This will run on Wednesday 22nd January 2014 at Toffee Factory.

Successful applicants will learn how to get their feature documentary developed, funded and into the market; make new connections and spark collaborations with documentary professionals from different regions; as well as getting a Doc/Fest delegate pass that comes with 7 months of mentoring and training.

"Fast Track to Features was a fantastic experience for me. The training and mentorship gave me the confidence I needed to move forward with my project and as a direct result it was awarded development funding from Creative England. As well as this, the knowledge that I was attending Sheffield with a well prepared project and a group of new friends and contacts made my festival experience this year the best yet. As a first time feature director I couldn't recommend it enough. Thank you Doc/Fest!" - Fast Track to Features participant 2013


What is Fast Track to Features?

Returning after its successful first year, the Fast Track to Features 2 programme aims to:

  • Prepare documentary filmmakers to attract the interest of funders, distributors and festivals.
  • Prepare documentary filmmakers to access festivals and markets, including Sheffield Doc/Fest, and get the most out of them.
  • Build alliances and spark collaborations between documentary professionals in different regions where networking amongst the documentary community has historically been poor.

The Fast Track to Features 2 programme consists of two separate stages:

STAGE 1 // Participants attend either of the two one-day introductory workshops in London or Newcastle, featuring guest speakers including filmmakers, funders and distributors discussing their feature documentary success stories, culminating in a focused networking event.

STAGE 2 // After Stage 1 a selection process will take place and a reduced number of 20 participants will be invited to progress through the programme, receiving individually tailored mentoring, market preparation, pitch training and longer term project support from industry professionals leading to a pitching opportunity at Sheffield Doc/Fest 2014. The selection process will be based on a 3 minute video pitch of your feature documentary project to be submitted online within one week of the Stage 1 workshops.

At the Market Preparation and Networking Event in May 2014, we will select 6 projects from the 20 participants on Stage 2 of the programme to be pitched in a public pitching opportunity at Sheffield Doc/Fest 2014. The selection will be based on the strength of the project proposals and the quality of the pitch delivery.

Those not selected for Stage 2 onward will continue to be offered our project support and feedback on their pitches.


Who is this for?

  • You should be preparing to actively develop feature documentaries with the ultimate goal of a theatrical release.
  • You will have some professional experience behind you - this programme is not an entry-level talent programme.
  • You will have some experience of reaching audiences already (whether online, on TV, at festivals, on DVD or elsewhere) and will be aspiring to make the step up to making a feature and reaching broader audiences.
  • You should be motivated to join a network of committed and mutually-supportive filmmaking peers.
  • We are looking primarily for documentary-makers based in the regions of the UK outside London, however London applicants are welcome if they can prove exclusion from or a challenge to breaking into the industry of some kind. If this is the case please provide detail of this in the covering email of your application.
  • We especially welcome applications from female and ethnically-diverse documentary talent, and documentary-makers with disabilities.


How to Apply

To apply for Fast Track to Features 2 please email the following to Chris Black, Marketplace Manager at Sheffield Doc/Fest:

  • An up-to-date CV that includes your postal address
  • A covering email detailing why you would like to participate in Fast Track to Features 2 and which of the Stage 1 workshops you would like to attend
  • A completed Creative Skillset diversity and monitoring form (available as a download here)

Stage 1 of the programme costs £50+VAT and payment is required upon selection to secure your place.

If you are selected for Stage 2, a fee of £350+VAT applies and includes a full festival pass for Sheffield Doc/Fest 2014 with access to all film screenings, marketplace sessions, the industry conference programme, the Videotheque, networking receptions and parties.

Hardship support is available, as is the opportunity to pay in instalments. If you need to discuss your financial needs please email Chris Black.


Please read the Terms and Conditions document (click here). All prices include lunch and refreshments, but participants will be required to cover their own travel and accommodation during all stages of the programme.



Fast Track to Features 2 is a two stage programme running between January and July 2014.



January 2014 // Introductory Workshops

Newcastle // Wednesday 22nd January 2014

London // Wednesday 29th January 2014

These one-day workshops will provide an introduction to documentary feature development, funding and distribution, featuring guest speakers including experienced feature documentary filmmakers, and funders and distributors of feature documentary successes.

Throughout the day structured networking time will be provided for peer-to-peer and peer-to-industry introductions and the day will culminate in a focused networking event, to which a selection of additional experts will be invited.

Ongoing activity for all Stage 1 Attendees:

Following the introductory workshops, distance collaborations and conversations will be stimulated through a closed social network group where participants can share resources and ideas.

Regardless of selection for future stages, all participants from the initial workshops will be invited to be a part of the network and benefit from cross-UK information and opportunity-sharing on making documentary features.

This online networking resource will remain active until the end of the programme, with the option to extend and expand to further region-specific documentary talent.



After Stage 1 a selection process will take place and 20 participants will be invited, on the strength of their application and video pitch submission, to progress to Stage 2 of the programme. In the video pitch submission we'll ask you to pitch your feature documentary proposal in 3 minutes and submit this online.

Those not selected for Stage 2 onward will continue to be offered our project support and feedback on their pitches.

February - July 2014 // Mentoring

After Stage 2 selection in February, participants will be matched with an industry mentor tailored to your specific needs. The mentoring will involve a combination of market intelligence, information on access to funders, and creative development of specific projects.

Mentoring will be project- and individual-specific, and each participant will have approximately 8 hours of mentoring over the course of the programme. Individual mentoring means that real personal nurturing can take place, led by mentors who are experts in the real details of the production landscape, new funding sources and distribution.

Mentoring will deliver individual strategies rather than a one-size-fits-all workshop programme. Due to the commitment the course mentors have for nurturing documentary talent, once in the Doc/Fest system we will then continue beyond the period of the mentoring to support and promote the work of the participants.

13th - 14th March 2014 // Pitch Workshop // Leeds

This two-day pitch workshop will prepare participants for presenting their projects in Sheffield, refining their verbal and written pitches, their trailer clips, and how to work festivals. This information will be transferrable across different festivals and not just Doc/Fest, and is intended to prepare trainees for all documentary festival networking and pitching opportunities.

2nd May 2014 // Market Preparation and Networking Event // Sheffield

In May participants are invited to a one-day market preparation and networking event in Sheffield ahead of the Festival for all participants to come together to present their projects to Doc/Fest's Deputy Director, Charlie Phillips, and a group of invited executive producers. This will allow further detailed advice on preparing projects for the marketplace at Doc/Fest but also stimulate working relationships, however informal, with execs who can champion participants in the market in June at Doc/Fest.

The Market Preparation and Networking Event will culminate in a pitching session, where we will select 6 projects from the 20 participants on Stage 2 of the programme to be pitched in a public pitching opportunity at Sheffield Doc/Fest 2014. The selection will be based on the strength of the project proposals and the quality of the pitch delivery and the selected pitchers will be notified after the event.

7th - 12th June 2014 // Sheffield Doc/Fest 2014

Participants will attend Sheffield Doc/Fest's marketplace with "Golden Ticket" access to the following:

  • A public pitching session open to all international festival delegates in which 6 selected participants from Stage 2 will present their projects to a panel of international feature documentary funders and producers.
  • A specially-designed road map for feature documentary makers, outlining the key industry conference sessions and marketplace sessions to attend, and the key people to meet at the Festival.
  • The opportunity to present projects in MeetMarket and other public pitches at Sheffield Doc/Fest, if selected participants will be intensively prepared and mentored for these application processes and on the 2013 Fast Track to Features programme, the success rate was good as a result of personal support and mentoring from application through to pitch.
  • The opportunity to meet one-to-one with feature funders, national film institutes, distributors, mentors, VOD providers, and other key international documentary representatives, across all marketplace opportunities at the Festival (meetings to be brokered by Doc/Fest).

July 2013 // Final Mentoring Session

All Stage 2 participants have final mentoring sessions to debrief on their outcomes from Sheffield Doc/Fest – one session with their allocated mentor and one with Doc/Fest's Deputy Director, Charlie Phillips, at which point a detailed programme for future development will be set.


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