Research & Development Fund
BFI Doc Society Funds support and nurture independent non-fiction films and immersive projects by UK filmmakers: prioritising expansive, director-led storytelling. Our funding is intended to be transformative and representative of all UK society. We back ambitious, independent feature documentary films and immersive projects intended for theatrical release, from both emerging talent and more established directors. The fund recognises the quality of difference in perspective, the importance of who is telling the story and strong collaborations. We invite local stories and encourage films that take creative leaps and bring fresh vision to the form.
In addition to supporting the BFI National Lottery fund objectives, we have introduced four guiding principles that underpin assessment on the fund (detailed fully in the fund guidelines), they are:
Working collaboratively across the fund and talent support is the best way to learn and to support the documentary field and move beyond centres of power toward a truly distributed knowledge base and field.
Representing all of UK society
From the ground up, the Fund must be representative of society.
Freedom of creative expression
Documentary creatives should be able to take smart creative risks on documentary storytelling, in ways that develop and expand the documentary form
Audience right to culture
Audiences have a right to be able to access film culture and independent documentary belongs in spaces of open dialogue.
What the fund can support
The BFI Doc Society RAD (Research and Development) Fund provides support of up to a maximum of £5,000 to first or second time feature length documentary directors or director/producer teams with a single feature documentary film in early development; or up to £10,000 to producers with more than one feature documentary film in early development with first or second time feature length documentary directors attached.
We recognise the creative risk and financial challenge early development presents to filmmakers without time, commercial investment or resources to advance their creative non-fiction films. This funding is intended to support the need for early stage creative risk, research and development where commercial or private resources are not available, to stimulate new ideas and stories for longform nonfiction projects or immersive formats from first or second time feature length documentary directors and emerging to mid-career producers.
The assessment of applications for this funding will focus strongly on the talent involved, their progression, their relationship to the story they are telling as well as the creative ambition of the feature documentary project itself.
We are focused on access and inclusivity to make sure that untold stories from across the English regions and Nations of the UK have the opportunity to be shared with as many audiences as possible. Through championing under-represented talent, we can help create a more diverse and inclusive film industry.
What can the grant be used for?
- Writing time for an initial treatment document of up to ten pages
- Creating visual materials - e.g a mood board
- Actual costs of conducting research (for example, archive charges to view materials, travel to visit relevant locations) that contributes to developing your project idea
- Access to research material
- Consultant fees (eg. Story consultant or experts)
- Test or research footage exploring the feasibility or visual style of a project, provided this footage is not intended to be part of the final production
- Director and/or Producer fees for activities such as writing, equipment testing and location visits
Who can apply?
BFI Doc Society RAD Fund is committed to supporting a diverse community of filmmakers and working with creatives from underserved backgrounds. We would like to hear from new storytellers from around the UK and we are especially keen to increase the number of projects originating outside London and from Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
Directors and producers must be based in the UK, and projects (on completion of the final production), must be capable of qualifying for certification as a British film or immersive project, either through the applicable cultural test, or as an official co-production. Read more information on British certification. Applicants can apply either as an individual or through their UK registered company.
To qualify the applicants must be either:
- A first or second time feature length documentary director with a single film proposal. Directors can apply with or without a producer attached.
- An emerging to mid-career producer with more than one feature documentary film in early development. Producers should have one or more first or second time feature length documentary directors attached if applying with multiple projects.
- A team of producer and director with a single film proposal. One of the team should be designated as the lead applicant.
The BFI Doc Society is committed to making its funding accessible to all. TAPE Community Film and Music will be providing individually tailored support for applicants with access needs. Find all the details on what support you can receive and how to get the help required to make an application in this Word document.
The BFI Doc Society RAD Fund accepts applications on a rolling basis and is open year round.
As the fund is open all year, applications are assessed as they are submitted. The sooner you apply, the sooner we can process your application.
The application and decision making process can take up to 12 weeks from the submission date of your application.
Keep in touch:
We encourage all potential applicants to the BFI Doc Society RAD Fund to join our newsletter mailing list here to receive the latest funding news, talent support, events and opportunities across the documentary sector.
Find us on @TheDocSociety
If you have a question, you can:
- Read the RAD Fund Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) which aim to address key questions that fund applicants may have
- Watch the BFI Doc Society RAD Fund Webinar Recording here.
- Email us on firstname.lastname@example.org
- You can also register for a 1-2-1 spot to speak with the BFI Doc Society team, see availability here.
As part of our delegate partnership with the BFI between 2018-2023, we funded 61 independent UK feature documentaries.