[Skip to Content]

Frequently Asked Questions

 

What’s new this year?

1. We have restructured our audio documentary category to differentiate between series and stand-alone entries. Beginning this year, we are splitting the Best Audio Documentary category into two awards, one for stand-alone or single episode audio documentary and a second category for multi-part audio documentaries and series. You can find full details on this change in the Rules and Regulations section 3.4.

2. New required supplemental materials. You can find full details on this change in the Rules and Regulations section 6.

  • We added the requirement in all categories for submitters to provide an artistic or impact statement.
  • Submissions to the Best Writing category are asked to provide a statement illuminating the credited writer(s) distinct creative contribution to the submitted work.
  • The Other craft creative recognition categories — Best Original Score, Best Cinematography and Best Editing — are also encouraged, but not required, to provide artistic statements.
  • Submissions to the Best Original Score category are asked to provide a music cue sheet.

3. The submission window has been condensed. Don’t delay submitting your project for consideration before each deadline. Join or renew as an IDA Member (individual, corporate, institutional or organizational) to get the best pricing, including a Members-Only Early deadline discount, and the exclusive opportunity to screen and vote on the Best Feature and Best Short categories. See key dates below:

Tuesday, June 1: Release of Updated Rules and Regulations

Saturday, June 5: Call For Entries (CFE) Opens

Monday, June 22: Members-Only CFE Early Deadline

Monday, July 12: CFE Regular Deadline

Monday, July 12:  Late Submission Request Deadline

Wednesday, July 21: CFE Extended Deadline

You can find the detailed deadline and fee schedule in the Rules and Regulations section 4.4.


ELIGIBILITY AND CATEGORIES

My film was or will be completed in 2021, but I'm unsure about its release date. Can I submit to this year's awards?

You can submit your project in any year that it’s eligible — either the calendar year it’s completed or the year of its broadcast or theatrical release. The eligibility period begins October 1, 2020, and includes projects completed or scheduled to premiere on or before December 31, 2021. 

We understand there is still a lot of uncertainty for filmmakers with projects that were completed in 2020 and 2021. So if you determine after you've already submitted that you would rather your project be considered for the 2022 awards instead please contact awards@documentary.org any time before the official shortlist announcement in early October to let us know that you’d like to withdraw the project from the competition. You can then choose to defer to next year’s competition with no additional fees. If the project makes the shortlist and you don’t withdraw it before the shortlist announcement however it will not be eligible for competition next year. We don’t offer refunds if you choose not to enter the competition next year.


My film was completed in 2020 and was released or is set to be released in 2021. Can I submit to this year's awards?

Yes. You can submit your project in any year that it’s eligible — either the calendar year it’s completed or the year of its broadcast or theatrical release.  The eligibility period begins October 1, 20120, and includes any film, series, or audio documentary completed or scheduled to premiere on or before December 31, 2021. 


I submitted my project to the Awards, but I would like to withdraw from the competition. Is this possible?

Yes. We recognize that 2020 and 2021 were not typical years for production or releases. If you change your mind after you submit, contact awards@documentary.org before the official shortlist announcement in early October and let us know that you’d like to withdraw the project from the competition. You can then choose to roll your submission over to next year’s competition at no additional fee. If the project makes the shortlist and isn’t withdrawn before the announcement it will not be eligible for competition next year. We don’t offer refunds if you choose not to enter your project in the competition next year.


What’s the difference between the Episodic Series and Multi-Part Documentary categories?

In an Episodic Series, episodes are unified through a topic, approach, characters, or narrative and are produced as part of the series. Episodes are not necessarily designed to be viewed sequentially, and while they have a unifying theme or narrative, they don’t tell a single story. Past winners in the Episodic Series category include: Last Chance U, Abstract: The Art of Design, and Planet Earth II

For the Multi-Part Documentary category, the series is conceived and constructed with a beginning and an end. All the episodes are viewed sequentially to create a complete story or support a complete theme. Past winners in this category include: Atlanta’s Missing and Murdered: The Lost ChildrenWild Wild Country, and The Defiant Ones


What is the difference between the Curated Series and Short-Form Series categories?

The Curated Series is composed of multiple episodes, each 50 minutes or more in length, while the episodes in Short-Form Series must consist of episodes less than 50 minutes in length. 


What is the difference between the Curated Series and Episodic Series categories?

Both Curated and Episodic Series are composed of episodes that are not necessarily produced to be viewed sequentially

In a Curated Series episodes are generally composed of stand-alone full length independently produced documentary episodes made by different producing teams, often with support from the series producers but not under its direct supervision. The episodes in this category are united by the curatorial vision of the series producers. Some past nominees and winners in this category include Documania, American Experience, and POV.

Episodic Series episodes are unified through a topic, approach, characters, or narrative and are produced as part of a series united by theme and production supervision continuity. Some past nominees and winners in this category include Last Chance U, Abstract the Art of Design, and Planet Earth II.


What is the difference between Best Music Documentary Award and Best Original Music Score Award?

The Best Music Documentary Award recognizes a feature, short or multi-part documentary where music is a subject of the film and a  foundational or pivotal component of the storytelling Previous winners in this category include Universe about jazz musician Wallace Roney, Homecoming: A Film by Beyoncé, and Mr. SOUL!.

The Best Music Score Award is a craft-specific creative recognition category that awards the originally composed score of a feature documentary. Previous nominees and winners in this category include My Octopus Teacher, The Raft, and Hale County This Morning, This Evening


Can I submit a film in both the feature and music categories?

Yes. You may choose to submit your project in both the feature category and the music documentary category. 

 

If I submitted a project to the competition last year that was completed or premiered between October 1 and December 31, 2020 so it meets the eligibility window again this year can I submit it again? 

No. Unless you specifically contacted us to withdraw your submission from the competition before the shortlist was announced and received permission from our staff to roll your submission over into this year's competition. Projects that remained in competition but were not shortlisted or nominated are not eligible for consideration again. 


What kinds of podcasts are eligible for the IDA Documentary Awards?

For 2021 we restructured our audio documentary category to differentiate between series and stand-alone entries. You can find full details on this change in the Rules and Regulations section 3.4. We currently accept Podcasts and Radio submissions in two categories: Stand-Alone Audio Documentary and Multi-Part Audio Documentary or Series.

A Stand-Alone Audio Documentary may be either a stand-alone program or a single or multi-part documentary episode (no more than two episodes or 180 minutes total)  from a series that stands on its own as a documentary on a single subject or theme. Examples of work that would fit in this category include past nominees Latino USA — Episode: “The Return”, Heavyweight — Episode: “Skye” and Crosses in the Desert / Cruces en el desierto.

A Multi-Part Audio Documentary or Series is composed of multiple episodes totaling more than 180 minutes, constructed with the intention that all the episodes be listened to sequentially to create a complete story or to support a complete theme or where the episodes are linked by a unifying storytelling style and theme. Examples of projects that would fit in this category include past nominees Headlong: Running from COPS, Somebody and Gladiator: The Aaron Hernandez Story

Submitted projects can be made for podcast or radio.  We don’t accept interview or conversation shows or programs that are primarily news reporting without significant analysis.


I have an interactive documentary that is only available online. Is there a category that is appropriate for my project? 

Our Short-Form Series category is generally the best fit for online interactive projects and other forms of innovative documentaries conceived of for the web. If you have questions about your nontraditional documentary’s qualification in this or any other category, read the rules and regulations carefully and then reach out to awards@documentary.org or schedule a brief qualification call with us here. Contact us as far in advance of the deadline as possible, and we’ll review qualification factors with you before you submit. 


Are shorts or series eligible for creative recognition awards? 

No. Only Feature submissions are eligible for Creative Recognition Awards.


Can I talk to someone about my project’s eligibility?

Yes. We’d be happy to schedule a call with you to discuss your project and its eligibility. You can also send us an email with questions about your project to awards@documentary.org. Before you schedule a call, however, you must read the rules and regulations IN FULL and review the list of past nominees and winners in the category you’re considering. Once you’ve done both of those things, you can schedule a 15-minute eligibility call with our awards competition team here. We’ll take scheduled eligibility calls from June 11, 2021 through July 21, 2021. If you don’t see a time available that works for you please email us at awards@documentary.org.


SUBMITTING

I need technical assistance with my application. Who should I contact?

Please contact us at awards@documentary.org and we’ll do our best to assist you.


Can I provide a link to my project rather than uploading a file?

Yes, you may provide a link that will be made available to our screeners and judges. Links must remain active through the entire judging and voting period.  If your screener is password protected don't change the password during that time. If judges cannot access your link because the link or password has expired, your entry may be deemed ineligible for consideration.  Please ensure that there are no geo-blocks on links as many of our judges are located outside of the United States. 


Can I send DVD screeners instead of uploading or providing a link?

No. We do not accept DVD screeners.


Can I save my application and work on it later? 

Yes. Once you create an OpenWater account and begin your submission you can come back to it to finish any time before the deadline. Just be mindful of deadlines and pricing changes. Your submission fee will reflect the day you submit your application, not the day you start it. 


I am being asked for a Program Password. What is that? 

If you see a message about needing a program password when you attempt to begin your application, your browser is loading an old version of the application page. Clear your browser’s cache and then try refreshing the page. If that doesn't solve the problem, reach out to us at awards@documentary.org and we’ll do our best to help you troubleshoot any other technical issues. 


FEES

Do you offer fee waivers for submissions?

Yes. We’ll consider fee waiver requests on a case-by-case basis for independent documentary makers with financial need. If the submission fee is a significant financial barrier for you, apply for a fee waiver by completing this form as soon as you know you plan to apply and will need a discount. You may request 100% off, 50% off, or based on your need, state what, if anything, you are able to pay towards your submission. 

We prioritize fee waiver requests from independent documentary makers facing financial hardship and from those submitting from countries on the DAC List of ODA Recipients.

Waiver codes won’t be eligible for use on late submissions that arrive after the extended deadline on July 22, 2021. Please submit your waiver request as early as possible once you know you plan to apply. You do not need to have started your submission to apply for a waiver. If you are concerned about hearing back in time before a deadline, complete everything but the payment so your application is ready to submit as soon as you are notified of our decision about your payment request.  An IDA staff advisory committee will review requests regularly. We will consider and respond to all requests before the Call For Entries closes.


TIMELINE

How do I submit my film if I plan to complete it after the submission deadline?

We will consider requests for deadline exceptions for eligible projects expected to be completed after July 21, 2021, and determine extension eligibility on a case-by-case basis. If you know you’ll need an extension, request one as soon as possible, no later than July 17, 2021, using our late submission request form. You MUST complete a late submissions request for your project to be eligible for acceptance after July 21, 2021. After that date, the submission portal will only be open to those who have obtained permission to apply late.

A flat fee of $150 for all categories will be added to late submissions accepted after July 21, 2021. Waiver and discount codes will not be eligible for use on late submissions.


ARTISTIC AND IMPACT STATEMENTS

Can you provide some tips on what makes a good artistic and impact statement?

Your statement is an opportunity to provide reviewers additional context and deeper insight into your work. 

In addition to giving you a chance to discuss your artistic approach, the statement is an opportunity to address critical questions of authorship, ethics, your team's approach to working with the documentary’s subjects, or the impact of the project on the people, communities or issues featured in the submitted work. You may choose to include information about your or your team's personal history and how it informs your connection to or approach to your work. While for curated categories, you might discuss the vision and values that drive the curation. Use the Rules and Regulations (section 6) as a guide for what to include but the format is flexible to allow you to include what you feel is most important for judges and reviewers to know when evaluating your submission. 

We ask judges to consider the content of your statement, not to emphasize writing skill or fluency.

A few tips:

  • Don’t submit a synopsis or summary of the subject or story of your film. Focus on illuminating what isn’t apparent from viewing your work.
  • Write for a general audience. Use simple words and plain language. Avoid dense or academic writing. 
  • Don’t use jargon, abbreviations or shorthand that might not be familiar to everyone. Remember that we have judges and reviewers from all over the world. 
  • Keep it short - No more than 500 words (about 1 page, double spaced) but you don’t have to use all those words if you don’t feel you need them. 
  • Proofread your statement for spelling, grammar, and most importantly, clarity; but we’re judging your film, not your writing. 


What if I’m not a great writer? How heavily will the artist’s statement be weighted? 

We ask judges to consider content when evaluating statements, not to emphasize writing skill or fluency. Your written statement won’t be scored. If submitting a written statement is a significant barrier for you, you may upload or link to a brief (up to 4 minutes maximum) video or audio statement in place of a written one. 


Do you have any examples of Artistic or Impact Statements?

Since this is the first year we’re requesting statements, we don’t have any examples available. Use the Rules and Regulations (section 6) as a guide for what to include, as well as the tips provided above.  


Is it possible for someone to review my artist statement before I submit it?

No, unfortunately, we can’t review applications before submission. 


JUDGING AND AWARDS VOTING

Who determines a project's eligibility?

IDA staff alone are responsible for interpreting the rules and regulations and determining a project's eligibility in any category. Decisions by IDA staff are final. Carefully read the rules and regulations and the descriptions of any categories you're considering submitting to before you apply. If you have questions about your project’s eligibility after reading the rules and regulations please contact awards@documentary.org or schedule an eligibility call with us here.


How are the winners of the IDA Documentary Awards chosen?

Judging of the IDA Documentary Awards is based on overall excellence. More than twenty committees of 150+ filmmaking and industry professionals screen all 700+ entries and select all nominees. For the Best Feature and Best Short categories, IDA Members vote to select the winners from a list of nominees. For all other awards, blue-ribbon panels choose the winners. 


Can I become a judge for the IDA Awards? 

The IDA Awards would not be possible without the 150+ filmmaking and industry professionals from around the world who will screen and evaluate 700+ entries in 16 categories this year.

The judging process is overseen by committee chairs who assemble and lead teams of judges in their assigned categories. It’s likely that we will have some committee slots open in most categories for 2021 so if you’re interested in becoming a judge or leading a committee, complete this form as soon as possible. We’ll provide your information to committee chairs and they will reach as they need to fill open slots on their individual committees.

We are especially looking to expand our pool of judges outside of the US, Canada and Western Europe. Judges must be able to evaluate projects in English. 

Judges do not need to be filmmakers but should generally have at least three years of documentary, film or journalism industry experience.  If you’re interested but aren’t sure if you meet the minimum qualifications we still encourage you to register your interest. We may have open pre-screener opportunities for those who do not demonstrate enough industry experience to be a judge. Committee chairs make final decisions about judges for their committees. 

Most of our pre-screeners are degree-seeking candidates in Documentary, Film and Journalism programs. If you’re a professor and are interested in exploring pre-screening opportunities for your students please reach out to awards@documentary.org to get on our list. We are especially interested in expanding participation outside of the US, Canada, and Western Europe.

Committee Chairs and Judges receive honorariums for their contribution to the IDA Awards Competition.

  • Committee Chairs receive an honorarium and recognition in our Awards program.
  • Judges will receive an honorarium and recognition in our Awards program and on our website.
  • Pre-screeners receive a complimentary membership and recognition in our Awards Program and on our website

AWARDS EVENT AND CEREMONY

Will there be an awards ceremony this year? 

While we don’t have a confirmed date for the 2021 IDA Awards ceremony just yet or know if it will look precisely like it did in pre-pandemic times, we’re planning to gather to celebrate the best documentaries of the year. If we cannot hold the 2021 IDA Documentary Awards in person in its usual format we will always find an appropriate way to honor and celebrate our honorees and nominees. 


HELP

Please contact awards@documentary.org with any questions not addressed on this page.

Share