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Submission Categories


Feature Documentary

Individual, stand-alone documentary, more than 40 minutes in length. Submissions in this category are eligible for Best Feature and may choose to be considered for Sponsored Awards (ABC News VideoSource Award, Pare Lorentz Award) with no additional application fee and for Creative Recognition Awards (Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Original Music Score, and Best Writing) with an additional application fee. 

Short Documentary

Individual, stand-alone documentary, less than or equal to 40 minutes in length. Submissions in this category are eligible for Best Short and may choose to be considered for the Pare Lorentz Award with no additional submission fee. 

Best Music Documentary

A feature-length documentary where music is pivotal to the storytelling and is a central subject, character or theme of the documentary. This category does not recognize the original music score. Projects wishing to be considered for Best Original Music Score should submit in the Best Feature category and select the Best Original Score creative recognition category.

Creative Recognition Awards

Only projects submitted in the Feature category are eligible for Creative Recognition Awards. On-screen credit must be given for a film to be eligible for a Creative Recognition Award in that category (e.g., a film without a credited writer is not eligible for the Best Writing award). There is an additional submission fee charged for each category you elect to add to your Feature submission.

Best Cinematography: The IDA Documentary Award for Best Cinematography is given to the credited cinematographer(s) or director(s) of photography whose work represents artistic or technical excellence or innovation and is a notable contribution to the documentary's artistry and storytelling.

Best Editing: The IDA Documentary Award for Best Editing is given to a credited editor or editors to recognize exemplary work that is a notable contribution to the documentary's form, artistry, and storytelling.

Best Original Music Score: The IDA Documentary Award for Best Original Music Score recognizes exceptional use of originally composed music and scoring in a film. The Best Original Music Score Award is given to the person(s) credited with “Original Score by,” “Composed by,” “Original Music by,” or equivalent credit. A film must contain that credit onscreen to be considered. Applicants in this category will be required to submit a music cue sheet which will be presented to the Best Original Score Judging Committee.

Best Writing: The IDA Documentary Award for Best Writing recognizes exemplary skill and craft in writing through plotting and guiding the narrative path of the film. This may be through narration or developing an outline for the film carried out in the editing. The Best Writing Award will be awarded to the person(s) credited with “Written by,” “Writer,” or equivalent credit”. A film must contain that credit onscreen to be considered

Additional Sponsored Awards

We may also consider qualified submissions in the Best Feature or Best Short categories for one or more sponsored awards. Nominations for these additional sponsored awards are recommended by awards judging committees and may include prize money or cash honorariums. If your project is nominated for consideration in an additional sponsored awards category, we will notify you and may request additional information or credits. If you believe your project is eligible, submit your project to the Best Feature, Best Short or Best Music Documentary category, then check one or more of the additional awards in the special awards section to be considered. There is no additional submission fee to be considered for these awards. 

ABC News VideoSource Award (Sponsored): This award recognizes a feature documentary that uses news footage as an integral component of the storytelling. "News footage" is defined as factual footage, contemporary or historical, shot for use in contexts such as newsreels, news specials, magazines or nightly news. "Integral component" is defined as footage central to the structure, meaning and impact of the work. PRIZE: $5,000 cash honorarium and research time at the ABC News VideoSource facility in New York. If there is more than one award recipient, the cash prize will be split equally between them. Please submit your project to the Best Feature or the Best Music Doc category and then check "ABC News VideoSource" in the special awards section. 

Pare Lorentz Award (Sponsored): Given to a feature or short documentary that reflects the spirit and tradition of Pare Lorentz’s work. A successful candidate for the Pare Lorentz Award will demonstrate one or more of Lorentz's central concerns—the appropriate use of the natural environment, justice for all, and the illumination of pressing social problems—presented as a compelling story through skillful filmmaking. A Pare Lorentz Award exhibits the highest production values and artistry in its directing, writing, music composition, camera work, editing and research, and exemplifies the spirit and tradition of Pare Lorentz’s work—his passion for people and the land and his quest for a more fruitful coexistence between the two. Entries in the Feature and Short categories are eligible for this award. PRIZE: $2,500 cash honorarium. If there is more than one award recipient, the cash prize will be split equally between them. Please submit your project to the Feature or Short Documentary category and then check "Pare Lorentz Award" in the special awards section. The Pare Lorentz Award is not connected to the Pare Lorentz Documentary Grant.

Documentary Series

Documentary series are eligible for four awards categories: Best Curated Series, Best Episodic Series, Best Multi-Part Documentary, and Best Short-Form Series. Other forms of unscripted programs such as talk shows, reality, competition programs, or programs that consist primarily of news reporting are not eligible. Multi-Part Documentary is the only series category that requires you to submit the entire season or series. For all other series categories, we suggest submitting 4 episodes minimum.

Best Curated Series: An ongoing documentary series in which each episode stands on its own, created by different producing teams, and is unified by a high-level theme (e.g., Independent Lens; POV; 30 for 30). Episodes should be 50 minutes or more in length. The series may be created without an end date and can return season after season. 

Best Episodic Series: An ongoing documentary series comprising episodes that are conceived and produced as part of the series, not as stand-alone entities. Each episode should be more than 30 minutes in length, produced with continuity of production supervision, and unified through a topic, approach, characters or narrative (e.g., Last Chance UPlanet Earth). The series may return season after season.

Best Multi-Part Documentary: A documentary comprising multiple episodes, each more than 30 minutes in length. The series is conceived and constructed with a beginning and an end, and all the episodes are viewed sequentially to tell a complete story and/or support a single theme (i.e. Wild Wild Country; Asian Americans, City So Real).

Best Short-Form Series: A documentary series that comprises episodes that are 30 minutes or less in length. Series in this category may be available by broadcast or online, or may have been produced specifically for a web portal (e.g., Guardian Documentaries; The New York Times Op-Docs). The series may tell a complete story or may intend to continue indefinitely. 

Audio Documentary

Audio documentaries may submit in either of two categories; Stand-Alone Audio Documentary or Multi-Part Audio Documentary or Series. Audio programs that consist primarily of news reporting, interviews, and conversational episodes are not eligible. We are not currently accepting submissions from curated podcast series’ consisting of multiple episodes on unrelated subjects.

Best Stand-Alone Audio Documentary: A stand-alone audio documentary may be either a one-off program or a single episode consisting of not more than two parts from a curated series (e.g., This American Life--episode: The Problem We All Live With, Heavyweight --episode: The Marshes), that stands on its own as a full-length audio documentary.

Best Multi-Part Audio Documentary or Series: An audio documentary series consists of multiple episodes, conceived and constructed with a beginning and an end, where all the episodes, when listened to sequentially, create a complete story or support a single theme (e.g., Somebody, Dirty JohnGladiator: The Aaron Hernandez Story).

David L. Wolper Student Documentary Award

A short or feature-length documentary produced by a registered, degree-seeking student(s). This award recognizes exceptional achievement in nonfiction film and video production at the university level. PRIZE: $1,000 cash honorarium.