39th Annual IDA Documentary Awards Call for Entries
The IDA Documentary Awards is the world's most distinguished event dedicated exclusively to the documentary genre, celebrating and honoring the year’s best nonfiction films, series, audio documentaries, and programs. It seeks to represent excellence in the documentary field from around the world, by emerging and established docmakers.
The 39th IDA Documentary Awards submissions are closed. If you have requested a deadline extension and got confirmation, you will receive the passcode in an email to submit late until August 25, 12:00 PM (Noon) Pacific Time. Please fill out this form if you would like to request a late extension.
For all inquiries, please contact us at Awards@documentary.org.
1. The submission window. The Call for Entries is closing later this year to allow filmmakers to submit for a window of two months. Join or renew as an IDA Member (Doc Maker and up, corporate, institutional or organizational) to get the best pricing, including our Special *MEMBERS ONLY* Early deadline discount. As a member, you also receive the exclusive opportunity to screen and vote on the Best Feature and Best Short categories. You can find the detailed deadline and fee schedule in the Rules and Regulations section 4.4. See submission key dates below:
- Rules & Regulations Announced: June 12, 2023
- CFE Opens: June 13, 2023
- Special *MEMBERS ONLY* Early Deadline: June 23, 2023, 12 PM PDT
- NON-MEMBER Early Deadline: June 30, 2023, 12 PM PDT
- MEMBER & NON-MEMBER Regular Deadline: July 7, 2023, 12 PM PDT
- MEMBER & NON-MEMBER Late Deadline: July 20, 2023, 12 PM PDT
- Final Deadline: Tuesday, August 8, 2023, 11:59 PM PDT
- Deadline Extension: Friday, August 18, 2023, 11:59 PM PDT
2. The eligibility period. Projects can submit to the awards competition if they were completed or scheduled to premiere between September 1, 2022 and December 31, 2023. Documentary series entries are eligible for the awards if the majority of their episodes were broadcast or uploaded/premiered in this new eligibility period.
3. Best TV Feature Documentary or Mini-Series. Submissions in this category may be a feature documentary or mini-series that was produced with the intent to broadcast or stream on a distributor/platform and was not intended to be released in theaters. This category is distinct from our Multi-Part Documentary category, which represents a series with four or more episodes of over 30 minutes in length. You can find full details on this change in the Rules and Regulations section 3.4.
4. Required supplemental material. You can find full details on this change in the Rules and Regulations section 6.
- There will be a required statement for the Best Curated Series category. Entries in this category are required to provide a brief statement (up to 500 words) in which the credited producers explain the curatorial process.
5. Episode eligibility for series categories. You can find full details on this change in the Rules and Regulations section 3.3.
- For the Best Curated Series, episodes must be 40 minutes or more in length.
- For the Best Short-Form Series, a documentary series must comprise 4 or more episodes of 30 minutes or less in length.
- For the Best Multi-Part Documentary, a documentary series must comprise 4 or more episodes, of 30 minutes or more in length.
6. Closed captions and transcripts are required. You can find full details on screener submission guidelines in the Rules and Regulations section 5.
- All English language entries in categories other than the David L. Wolper Student Documentary Award must include closed captions for the deaf and hard of hearing. Audio documentaries must provide a transcript or link to a closed-captioned video file. All non-English language entries must be subtitled AND closed captioned in English.
7. Fee for application updates. An additional $100 fee will be added to applications with links or materials that have to be updated more than twice. You can find the detailed deadline and fee schedule in the Rules and Regulations section 4.4.
8. We are launching a collaboration with The Podcasting, Seriously Awards Fund. The Fund supports independent BIPOC, Queer and Trans audio professionals in submitting their work to media/journalism awards. The Fund accepts reimbursement applications on a rolling basis year-round and is committed to supporting 200+ independent producer award submissions each year.
2023 Rules and Regulations
- 1. Eligibility
1.1 The eligibility period includes any film, series or audio documentary completed or scheduled to premiere between September 1, 2022, and December 31, 2023. Series entries are eligible for the awards year in which the majority of their episodes were broadcast or uploaded/premiered.
1.1.1 Please note that "Public Release” is defined as broadcast date, theatrical release date or film festival premiere date. Whichever one of these comes first takes precedence.
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 date. 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 on a one-time only basis.
1.3 IDA determines the final eligibility of the submission, including any interpretation required of specific rules or submission criteria.
1.3.1 If questions arise about the documentary ethics of a project – including but not limited to the duty of care to subjects and viewers, authorship, representation and informed consent – IDA reserves the right to determine a submission's eligibility.
- 2. Submission
2.1 Entries are accepted from June 13, 2023, through August 8, 2023. Projects expected to be completed after August 7, 2023, but before December 31, 2023, that wish to be considered in 2023 may request a final deadline extension. Final deadline extension requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis, no later than Friday, August 15, 2023, by completing this form.
For questions and updates about final deadline extension requests, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. A fee of $150 will be added to all submissions, regardless of member status, accepted after August 8, 2023. Projects provided an extension 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-November. If judges cannot access your link because the link or password has expired, your entry may be deemed ineligible for consideration. An additional $100 fee will be added to applications with links or materials that have to be updated more than twice.
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 at documentary.org/awards/submit. You may request accommodations to complete your submission by emailing email@example.com with the subject “Accessibility Request” by July 7th.
2.5 All non-English language entries must be subtitled AND closed captioned in English.
2.6 All English language entries in categories other than the David L. Wolper Student Documentary Award must include closed captions for the deaf and hard of hearing. Audio documentaries must provide a transcript or link to a closed-captioned video file. If submitting a captioned version before the deadline isn’t possible, please note why you cannot provide a captioned file on the submission form where requested. Shortlisted projects MUST be prepared to provide a captioned version to be considered for nomination.
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,VideoSource Award, and Creative Recognition Awards for Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Original 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 (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.
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 40 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 4 or more 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. Asian Americans, City So Real).
3.3.4 Best Short-Form Series: A documentary series that comprises 4 or more 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, sequential story or may intend to continue indefinitely as an anthology or curated series.
3.4 Best TV Feature Documentary or Mini-Series: A feature documentary or mini-series that was produced with the intent to broadcast or stream on a distributor/platform and was not intended to be released in theaters (i.e. jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy; The Beatles: Get Back). The TV feature documentary may be a feature-length episode (more than 40 minutes in length) of a longer TV series or a TV mini-series conceived and constructed with a beginning and an end with up to three episodes that must be viewed sequentially to tell a complete story. The projects may have streamed or broadcast with commercial breaks or uninterrupted from beginning to end.
3.5 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.
3.5.1 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.
3.5.2 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).
3.6 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 Music Score creative recognition category.
3.7 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.
3.8 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.
3.8.1. 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
3.8.2 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.
3.8.3 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.
3.8.4 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.
3.9 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.
3.9.1. VideoSource Award: This award recognizes a feature documentary that uses news footage as an integral component of 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. 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 Documentary category and then check "VideoSource" in the special awards section.
- 4. Deadline and Fees
4.1. Deadlines are subject to change
- Rules & Regulations Announced: June 12, 2023
- Call For Entries Opens: Tuesday, June 13, 12 pm PDT
- Special *MEMBERS ONLY* Early Deadline: June 23rd, 12 pm PDT
- NON-MEMBER Early Deadline: June 30th, 12 pm PDT
- MEMBER & NON-MEMBER Regular Deadline: July 7th, 12 pm PDT
- MEMBER & NON-MEMBER Late Deadline: July 20th, 12 pm PDT
- Call For Entries Final Deadline: August 8, 2023, 12 PM PDT
- Submit your Final Deadline Extension Request by August 15, 2023, 12 PM PDT
- Final Deadline Extensions are granted *by Permission Only*. Final deadline extension requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis, no later than Friday, August 15, 2023, by completing this form.
- Shortlist Announcement: Mid-November
4.2. 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 13, 2023, 12PM PDT.
4.4 Fees by Category and Deadline
Please note that “Doc Lover” IDA members are not qualified to receive Awards submission discounts.
4.5 Screeners submitted through a password-protected link must remain active until the shortlist announcement in mid-November. If judges cannot access your link because the link or password has expired, your entry may be deemed ineligible for consideration. An additional $100 fee will be added to applications with links or materials that have to be updated more than twice.
4.6 All materials must be provided in order for the project application to be complete and move to the jury process. If an application is submitted with missing information making the submission difficult to assess accurately, we will not provide a refund.
4.7 For applicants in the Audio Documentary categories: The Podcasting, Seriously Awards Fund supports independent BIPOC, Queer and Trans audio professionals in submitting their work to media/journalism awards. Launched by LWC Studios, with AIR, Pacific Content, Acast, Triton Digital, and Sounds Profitable as fund partners, the Fund helps independent U.S., U.K., Canada, and Australia-based audio professionals submit work to key U.S., U.K., Canadian, and Australian competitions by covering submission fees for independent producers, editors, and other creators. The Fund accepts reimbursement applications on a rolling basis year-round and is committed to supporting 200+ independent producer award submissions each year. To date, the fund has raised over $40,000 to cover entry fees for competitions such as The Ambies, The Webby Awards, Podcast Awards, Tribeca Film Festival, and The Third Coast International Film Festival, among others. Reimbursement applications can be submitted to the fund at any time of the year, and eligible applicants can be based anywhere in Canada, the United Kingdom, United States, or Australia. This Fund is not affiliated with the IDA Documentary Awards or the International Documentary Association. For more information and to apply for funding, visit the Podcasting, Seriously website here.
- 5. Screener Submission
5.1 You will be asked to upload your screener via our submissions platform, OpenWater. OpenWater uses Amazon Web Services for hosting. Amazon Web Services handles uploads for Netflix and other major video streaming services and is fully compliant with the MPAA's guidelines for digital media security. (For information and details: https://aws.amazon.com/compliance/mpaa/)
5.2 File Uploads must be in any of the following formats:
MP4 container with H.264 video and AAC or MP3 audio WebM container with VP8 video and Vorbis audio HLS using an MPEG-2 TS container to house H.264 video and AAC or MP3 audio Smooth Streaming using an fmp4 container to house H.264 video and AAC audio MP3 container with MP3 audio: MP4 container with AAC audio OGG container with Vorbis audio
5.3 No physical DVD screeners or DCP will be accepted.
5.4 All non-English language entries must be subtitled AND closed captioned in English.
5.5 All English language entries in categories other than the David L. Wolper Student Documentary Award must include closed captions for the deaf and hard of hearing. Audio documentaries must provide a transcript or link to a closed captioned video file. If submitting a captioned version before the deadline isn’t possible, please note why you cannot provide a captioned file on the submission form where requested. Shortlisted projects MUST be prepared to provide a captioned version to be considered for nomination. An additional $100 fee will be added to applications with screener links or materials that have to be updated more than twice.
- Note: We do not support reading Apple ProRes files or raw camera formats like ARRI and RED at this time.
- 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 Curated Series Category: Entries for the Best Curated Series category must provide a brief statement (up to 500 words) in which the credited producers explain the curatorial process. Areas for exploration may include:
Identifying specific high-level themes, topics, artistry, or global issues that guide the curation process.
Outlining the episodes and overall vision and creative approach for the series.
6.3 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:
6.4 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.
6.5 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.
6.5.1 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.
6.5.2 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.
6.5.3 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.
- 7. Jury Process
The IDA Documentary Awards would not be possible without the 200+ filmmaking, journalism, podcasting and documentary industry professionals from around the world who screen and evaluate 700+ entries in 17 categories. Each year, we coordinate the selection of a diverse and international group of category-specific committee Chairs and Jurors. The jury process is overseen by committee Chairs who assemble and lead teams of Jurors in their assigned categories. Committee Chairs make final decisions, in consultation with IDA Staff, about the Jurors that will take part in their committees. Led by the Chairs, the committees review and evaluate all submissions through a rigorous and thorough screening and jury process. The committees, working independently of one another, screen all qualified entries within their category and select the nominees. The nominees in the Best Feature Documentary and Best Short Documentary categories are then voted on by IDA Members. For all other awards, the committees diligently work to select award-winners from the nominees.
IDA Staff, Leadership and Members of the Board of Directors do not participate in the selection of the IDA Documentary Awards winners except as Members of IDA with the same individual voting privileges for the Best Feature and Best Short categories as other IDA Members. IDA Staff provide administrative support and operational guidance for the jury 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 rare cases, staff members may 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.
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.
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.
- 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.