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Rules & Regulations
1.1 The eligibility period includes any film, series or audio documentary completed or scheduled to premiere between October 1, 2020, and December 31, 2021. Series entries are eligible for the awards year in which the majority of their episodes were broadcast or uploaded.
1.2 Projects may choose to submit in any year they are eligible—either the calendar year in which they are completed or the year of their broadcast or theatrical/film festival premiere. Submissions may be withdrawn from the competition any time before the shortlist announcement. To withdraw a project from the competition, the submitter must contact email@example.com before the official shortlists announcement. We will not refund submission fees; however, you may choose to roll submissions and entry fees over to the following year’s competition one time.
1.3 IDA determines the final eligibility of the submission, including any interpretation required of specific rules or submission criteria.
2.1 Entries are accepted from June 5, 2021, through July 21, 2021. Projects expected to be completed after July 21, 2021, but before December 31, 2021, that wish to be considered in 2021 may request a deadline exception. Late submission requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis, no later than July 21, 2021, by completing this form.
For questions and updates about late submission requests, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. A fee of $150 will be added to all submissions, regardless of member status, accepted after July 21, 2021. Late submissions are not eligible for discount codes or fee waivers.
2.2 Screeners submitted through a password-protected link must remain active until the shortlist announcement in mid-October. If judges cannot access your link because the link or password has expired, your entry may be deemed ineligible for consideration.
2.3 Only the submitted version of the project will be reviewed by the judging committees. Revised versions will not be accepted or considered.
2.4 All submissions must be made through our submissions portal OpenWater at documentary.org/awards/submit (link will be active on June 5). You may request accommodations to complete your submission by emailing email@example.com with the subject “Accessibility Request” by July 19.
2.5 All non-English language entries must be subtitled in English.
2.6 All English submissions are encouraged to provide files or links with captions for the deaf and hard of hearing whenever possible. Audio documentaries are encouraged to provide a transcript or a link to a captioned video file when possible. Nominated features and shorts must be able to provide a captioned video file for member voting.
2.7 Payment may be made by credit card online at the time of submission. You may also elect to pay for your entries via electronic ACH or international wire transfer. To pay by ACH or wire transfer, contact firstname.lastname@example.org immediately after completing your submission to obtain IDA's banking information. If we do not receive your ACH payment within seven (7) days of completing your submission, a hold will be placed on your submission and you may be assessed additional fees for later deadline pricing changes. We will not refund entry fees. Should you choose to withdraw from consideration, you may roll over your submission one time to the following year without paying additional entry fees.
3. Submission Categories
3.1 Feature Documentary: Individual, stand-alone documentary, more than 40 minutes in length. Submissions in this category are eligible for Best Feature, ABC News VideoSource Award, Pare Lorentz Award, and Creative Recognition Awards for Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Music Score, and Best Writing. (see section 4).
3.2 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 the Pare Lorentz Award (see section 4).
3.3 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.
3.3.1 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.
3.3.2 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 U; Planet Earth). The series may return season after season.
3.3.3 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).
3.3.4 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.
3.4 Audio Documentary: Audio documentaries may submit in either of two categories; Feature Audio Documentary and Multi-Part / Series Audio Documentary. 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.
3.4.1 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 documentary on a single subject or theme.
3.4.2 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 John, Gladiator: The Aaron Hernandez Story).
3.5 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 Music Score should submit in the Best Feature category and select the Best Original Score creative recognition category.
3.6 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.
3.7 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 recognition category.
3.7.1. 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.
3.7.2 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.
3.7.3 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.
3.7.4 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.
3.8 Additional Sponsored Awards: We may also consider submissions in primary categories for one or more special category 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 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 for these awards.
3.8.1. 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.
3.8.2 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.
4. Deadlines and Fees
4.1. Deadlines are subject to change
- Early Deadline: June 22, 2021, 11:59 PM PST (NON-ASSOCIATE MEMBERS ONLY)
- Regular Deadline: July 12, 2021, 11:59 PM PST
- Extended Deadline: July 21, 2021, 11:59 PM PST
- Late Submission Request Deadline: July 12, 2021, 11:59 PM PST
- Late Submission Deadline *by Permission Only*
- Shortlist Announcement: Mid-October
4.2. 4.2. Pricing is based on the Regular Deadline submissions price, which increases by 20% for the Extended Deadline. Late submissions after the Extended Deadline are accepted on a case-by-case basis and are charged an additional $150 late fee. IDA Members (Associate level excluded) receive special pricing at each deadline except for late submissions. IDA Members receive $75 off main category submissions by the Members-Only Early Deadline, $55 off main category base pricing for submissions by the Regular Deadline and $50 off main category submissions by the Extended Deadline. Members receive $45 off each add-on category submission by the Members-Only Early Deadline, $25 off each add-on category submission by the regular deadline and $20 off each add-on category submission by the extended deadline. There are no Member discounts for late submissions. Individual memberships are intended to provide discounts for individual submissions. Companies wishing to obtain special pricing for multiple submissions should contact email@example.com about corporate or organizational membership opportunities as soon as possible. Companies in violation will be contacted to make up the fee difference.
4.3 Requests for fee waivers based on financial need will be considered on a case-by-case basis. To request a fee discount or waiver due to financial need, complete this waiver request form as soon as possible. No fee waiver requests will be considered after July 21, 2021.
4.4 Fees by Category and Deadline
|Submission Categories||MEMBERS ONLY Early Deadline||MEMBERS Regular Deadline||NON-MEMBERS Regular Deadline||MEMBERS Extended Deadline||NON-MEMBERS Extended Deadline||BY PERMISSION Late Extended Deadline|
|Add on: Creative Recognition Awards per each category||$55||$75||$100||$100||$120||$270|
--all categories except Short-Form Series
|Stand-Alone Audio Documentary||$175||$195||$250||$250||$300||$450|
|Audio Documentary multipart or series||$225||$245||$300||$315||$360||$510|
|David L. Wolper Student Documentary Award||$0||$20||$75||$40||$90||$240|
|Complete submission by 11:59 PM PT on:||June 22, 2021||July 12, 2021||July 12, 2021||July 21, 2021||July 21, 2021||By Special Agreement|
*A previous version of this pricing table had a mistake in the member pricing for the add-on Creative Recognition category. It was corrected on June 5. We apologize for the error. Any questions about pricing should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org
6. Required Supplemental Material
6.1 Required Artistic and Impact Statement - All Categories: Applicants in all main categories must submit an artistic or impact statement of up to 500 words. The statement may address aesthetics, form, practice, technical approach, creative process, artistic or curatorial vision, and how they relate to the submitted work. It may also address your and your team’s inspiration, relationship, or connection to the content or community represented in your work; your practices or approach to working with or collaborating with the people, places or communities featured in your work; and where relevant, the impact of the work on those communities. The statement is only intended to contextualize the submitted work for judges. Entries will not be evaluated on writing fluency or skill.
6.2 Required Statement for Best Writing Creative Recognition Category: Entries for the Best Writing category must provide a brief statement (up to 500 words) in which the credited writer(s) articulates, illuminates, or otherwise explains their distinct creative contribution to the submitted work. Areas for exploration may include:
- Identifying specific challenges or obstacles inherent in the work and how the writer(s) addressed them;
- The writer’s relationship or connection to the content, people, places or communities featured in the submitted work and how it informed or inspired their practice or approach;
- The collaborative process with co-writers or directors (if they are not the director).
6.3 Required Music Cue Sheet for Best Original Score Category: Entries for the Best Original Score category will be required to provide a music cue sheet which will be provided to the Best Original Score Committee. A sample cue sheet and template can be found here.
6.4 Optional but Encouraged Creative Recognition Category Statements: Entries in the following categories have the opportunity to help committees better understand the significance of the submitted work as it relates to the specific craft and its relationship to narrative content. Statements are not required but are encouraged.
6.4.1 Best Cinematography: Provide a brief statement (up to 250 words) from the project’s director and/or credited cinematographer or Director of Photography(DP) that frames the contribution of the cinematography to the work being submitted. You may choose to address the contribution to the project’s artistry and storytelling, as well as address the cinematographer or DP’s connection and relationship to or practices and approach to working with the people, places or communities featured in the submitted work.
6.4.2 Best Editing: Provide a brief statement (up to 250 words) from the project’s director and/or credited editor(s) that frames the contribution of the credited editor(s) work being submitted. You may choose to address the contribution to the project’s form, artistry, storytelling, and/or the applicant’s practices and approach to working with the director. You may also consider how the editor’s relationship or connection to the content, people, places, or communities featured in the submitted work influenced their practice or approach.
6.4.3 Best Music Score: Provide a brief statement (up to 250 words) from the project’s director and/or credited composer that frames the contribution of the composer whose work is being submitted. You may choose to address the contribution to the project’s artistry or storytelling and/or the applicant’s practices and approach to working with the director. You may also consider how the composer's relationship or connection to the content, people, places, or communities featured in the submitted work influenced their practice or approach.
Each year we select a diverse group of category-specific committee chairs and members, made up of filmmaking, journalism, podcasting and documentary industry professionals, to view and evaluate all submissions through a rigorous and thorough screening and judging process. Committees screen all qualified entries and select all nominees. Nominees in the Feature and Short categories are then voted on by IDA Members. For all other awards, a blue-ribbon panel selects award-winners from the nominees.
IDA Staff will not participate in the selection of the IDA Documentary Awards winners except as Members of IDA with the same individual voting privileges as other IDA Members. IDA Staff provides administrative support and operational guidance for the judging committees. IDA Staff are responsible for inviting and orienting committee chairs, advising on the formation of committees, assigning work to reviewers, interpreting the rules and regulations, and ensuring that committees act in accordance with the program's guidelines. In some cases, staff members will act as pre-screeners to evaluate submissions, especially late submissions that arrive after the extended deadline, before forwarding qualified competitive entries received to category committees for final consideration.
8. Best Feature and Best Short: Nomination and Member Voting
Nominees for Best Feature and Best Short categories agree to provide 1) a closed-captioned copy of their film to be uploaded to IDA’s secure screening platform for viewing by IDA Members in voting for winners of Best Feature and Best Short, and 2) materials needed to create a nominee clip reel. A clip from each nominated project will be created by IDA for inclusion in the nominee clip reel to be played during the awards show. If your submission is nominated, you agree to provide:
- A textless version of the trailer delivered as a high-resolution QuickTime file.
- Permission to use all delivered materials during the event and for any publicity and promotional purposes related to the IDA Documentary Awards.
Entry in this competition grants IDA, its sponsors, and media partners the right to use clips, photographs, and biographical data from submitted and nominated films for publicity and promotional purposes on all existing and future media platforms throughout the universe, including but not limited to websites, online, streaming, for broadcast, cable and satellite, in perpetuity.
Committees of filmmaking and industry professionals led by committee chairs screen all entries and select all nominees for every category through a thorough and rigorous process. The winners for the Best Feature and Best Short categories are then chosen, from up to 10 nominees in each category, by IDA Members. Voting for the IDA Documentary Awards Best Feature and Best Short categories is an exclusive benefit of IDA Membership. The winners for the craft categories are chosen by blue-ribbon panels made up of editors, writers, composers and cinematographers. For all other awards, category committees select the winners.
While we publicly encourage individuals to join the IDA to vote for the Best Feature and Best Short of the year, we discourage active private lobbying or mass sign-ups after nominations have been announced that are clearly from one production company or distributor designed to skew the voting process. Our goal is to celebrate and recognize the voices of all members of the documentary community. You are welcome to promote the nominations on social and other media. However, we expect that all shortlisted and nominated projects will ensure that their campaigns are transparent and fair to other nominated projects.
How Member voting works: IDA Members agree to our voting terms, then receive online access to a secure judging portal with screeners for Best Feature and Best Short nominees. They are then invited to choose their top three films in each category. A first-choice vote allots 1 point to the film selected, the second choice gets 1/2 point and the third choice gets 1/3 point. The feature and short receiving the highest number of points wins the award.
9. Acceptance of Rules
Your digital entry form constitutes full acceptance of the IDA Documentary Awards rules and regulations detailed here. The person listed as the submitter in the submission form warrants that they are the owners of, or are authorized representatives of the owners of, the submitted production, including the copyright therein, that they have the right to grant IDA the use of the submitted production in each and all of the rights herein granted; that they have or will obtain all required authorizations, consents and releases from others, including but not limited to those who appear recognizable in the submitted production or who rendered services in connection therewith; and that IDA’s use of the submitted production as provided herein will not violate the rights of another person. IDA reserves the right to resolve all questions not specifically addressed here. Any disputes that may arise concerning the IDA Documentary Awards shall be determined according to the laws of the State of California. Failure to comply with these rules will render the entry ineligible. Entry fees will not be refunded.
About the IDA
Documentary storytelling expands our understanding of shared human experience, fostering an informed, compassionate, and connected world. The International Documentary Association (IDA) is dedicated to building and serving the needs of a thriving documentary culture. Through its programs, IDA provides resources, creates community, and defends rights and freedoms for documentary artists, activists and journalists.
Become an IDA Member today to receive discounts on your entry fees and other valuable benefits