• Gordon Quinn celebrates 2015 IDA Career Achievement Award with friends

  • Ava DuVernay and honoree Norman Lear at the 2016 IDA Documentary Awards

  • 2015 host Tig Notaro

  • Jane Fonda and Andie MacDowell at the 2006 IDA Documentary Awards

  • Barbara Kopple and Robert Redford at the 2014 IDA Documentary Awards

  • Morgan Freeman at the 2006 IDA Documentary Awards

  • Werner Herzog presents Career Achievement Awards to Les Blank at the 2011 Documentary Awards

  • 2017 host Maz Jobrani

The IDA Documentary Awards is the world's most prestigious event dedicated to the documentary genre, celebrating the best nonfiction films and programs of the year.

Call for Entries Now Closed.

BECOME AN IDA MEMBER TO VOTE IN THE AWARDS


Timeline

May 6: Call for Entries open

June 10: Early deadline

June 28: Regular deadline

July 8: Extended deadline

October 9: Shortlist and honorees announced & Early bird ticket on sale

October 23: Nominees announced

November 4 - December 2: IDA members vote for Best Feature and Best Short

December 7: IDA Documentary Awards ceremony

(Dates subject to change)


Rules & Regulations

Eligibility

  1. The eligibility period begins October 1, 2018 and includes any film, series or audio documentary completed or scheduled to premiere on or before December 31, 2019. Series entries are eligible for the awards year in which the majority of its episodes were broadcast or uploaded.

  2. Projects may be submitted 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. However, once the project is accepted into the competition, it is no longer eligible for submission in subsequent years.

  3. Final eligibility of a submission is determined by IDA, including any interpretation required of specific rules and/or submissions’ criteria.

Submission

  1. Entries are accepted from May 6, 2019 through July 8, 2019. Requests for deadline exceptions for eligible projects expected to be completed after July 8, 2019 are considered on a case by case basis. Requests for deadline exceptions should be made no later than June 30, 2019 to awards@documentary.org.

  2. If the screener is submitted through a password protected link, both the link and the password should remain live until October 30, 2019 or it will result in submission ineligibility.

  3. Only the submitted version of the project will be reviewed by the judging committees. Revised versions are not accepted.

  4. Projects may be entered into only one of the main categories. Single episodes of a series may also be submitted to the Feature or Short category if the individual episode complies with those eligibility requirements.

  5. Submission for all categories must be made on documentary.org/awards.

  6. All non-English language entries must be in their original language and subtitled in English.

  7. Payment may be made by credit card online at the time of submission, or by check to the IDA office, postmarked by July 12, 2019. Non-payment of the entry fee will result in submission ineligibility. Entry fees will not be refunded.

Categories

  1. Feature Documentary: Individual, stand-alone documentary, more than 40 minutes in length. Submissions in this category are eligible for Best Feature, Creative Recognition Awards, ABC News VideoSource Award and Pare Lorentz Award. (see section 4).

  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 Pare Lorentz Award (see section 4).

  3. Documentary Series: We currently don't accept other forms of unscripted programs such as talk shows, reality, competition programs or programs that consist primarily of news reporting.

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

    2. Episodic Series: An ongoing documentary series comprised of 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 a continuity of production supervision and unified through a topic, approach, characters, or narrative (e.g. Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown; Planet Earth II). The series is created without an end in sight, and can return season after season. Programs that consist primarily of news reporting and news magazine-style programs are not eligible.

    3. Multi-Part Documentary: A documentary comprised of 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 in order to create a complete story and/or support a complete theme (i.e. Wild Wild Country; The Defiant Ones).

    4. Short Form Series: A documentary series that is comprised of episodes each 30 minutes or less in length. Series in this category may be available on broadcast, online and/or have been produced specifically for a web portal (e.g. Field Of Vision; The New York Times Op-Docs). The series may tell a complete story, or may be intended to continue indefinitely.

  4. Audio Documentary: We currently accept both stand-alone and documentary series. A stand-alone audio documentary may be either a one-off program or a single or multi-part documentary episode from a series (i.e. The Problem We All Live With from This American Life) that stands on its own as a documentary on a single subject or theme. A series is comprised of multiple episodes, conceived and constructed with a beginning and an end, with all the episodes being listened in order to create a complete story and/or support a complete theme (i.e. NYT's Caliphate, Serial, LA Times' Dirty John, APM’s In the Dark). Radio shows and podcasts that consist primarily of news reporting, interviews and conversational episodes are not eligible.

  5. Best Music Documentary: a feature, short or multi-part documentary that has music as the central character of the film and/or a pivotal component of the storytelling.

  6. David L. Wolper Student Documentary Award: A short or feature-length film or video, produced by registered, degree-seeking student(s). This award recognizes exceptional achievement in nonfiction film and video production at the university level and brings greater public and industry awareness to the work of students in the documentary field. PRIZE: $1,000 cash honorarium.

Additional Awards

Please select one or more additional awards if your project is eligible. In the submission form, the submitter must option to send their film for consideration should it fit the following criteria: Onscreen credit must be given for a film to be eligible for a Creative Recognition Award (E.g. a film without a credited writer is not eligible for the Best Writing award).

  1. Creative Recognition Awards: Please submit your project to the feature category and then check one or more of the creative recognition awards in the special awards section.

    1. Best Cinematography: The IDA Documentary Award for Best Cinematography is given to the credited Cinematographer or Director of Photography who's work represents artistic and/or technical excellence and a notable contribution to the documentary's artistry and storytelling.

    2. Best Editing: The IDA Documentary Award for Best Editing recognizes exemplary editing, and to which the editing is a major contributing factor to the film’s quality.

    3. Best Music Score: The IDA Documentary Award for Best Music Score recognizes exceptional use of originally composed music and scoring in a film. This award is not meant for best use of licensed tracks or to recognize music supervision. The Best Music Award will be 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.

    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 through developing an outline for the film carried out in the editing. The Best Writing Award will be given to the person(s) credited with Written by, Writer, or equivalent credit. A film must contain that credit onscreen to be considered.

  2. ABC News VideoSource Award (Sponsored): A feature documentary that has use of news footage as an integral component in a documentary. "News footage" is defined as factual footage, contemporary or historical, shot for use in context such as newsreels, news specials, magazines or nightly news. "Integral component" is defined as footage that is 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 one of the main categories and then check "ABC News VideoSource" in the special awards section.

  3. 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 by 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.

Deadlines and fees

Click here for fees and dates.

Submission

Amazon Web Services, OpenWater's hosting service for uploading screeners, is the same service that handles Netflix and other video streaming services. As such, AWS is compliant with the MPAA's guidelines for digital media security. (For details: https://aws.amazon.com/compliance/mpaa/)

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

Judging

Judging of the IDA Documentary Awards is based on overall creative excellence. Committees of filmmaking and industry professionals screen all entries and select all nominees. Award-winners in the Feature and Short categories are selected by IDA members from the nominees. For all other awards, blue ribbon panels select award-winners from the nominees.

Best Feature and Best Short: Nomination and Member Voting

Nominees for Best Feature and Best Short agree to provide a copy of their film to be uploaded to IDA’s secure server for viewing by the IDA members in voting for winners of Best Feature and Best Short, and materials needed to create 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:

  • 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.

Acceptance of rules

Your digital entry form constitutes full acceptance of the IDA Documentary Awards rules and regulations detailed here. The person listed as 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.