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NZFC and NZ On Air fund to join the Docs

A new funding scheme out of the virtual agency Screen NZ, Doc Connect offers up $1 million and seems at first glance a lite version of a previous doco-funding collaboration, the Joint Documentary Fund.

The money on offer is smaller, both in terms of the size of the pot and the amounts intended for individual projects. However, the criteria have been loosened up to create what NZFC CEO Dave Gibson calls a “deliberately flexible” opportunity.

The preference is to find projects that will have both theatrical and television releases. However, if the total budget is less than $200,000 the NZFC and NZ On Air may accept an online outcome along with an innovative strategy on reaching that audience.

The JDF floundered a little in trying to disburse its $2.5 million, unable to easily find projects with the requisite theatrical potential and interest from broadcasters.

Announced in March 2013, it took 15 months and two rounds of applications to support three productions.

In keeping with a point Gibson has emphasised in interviews since turning gamekeeper, applicants to the Doc Connect scheme “will need to show that they understand their target audience and have a plan to connect”.

NZ On Air CEO Jane Wrightson echoed the point, saying, “The Doc Connect approach is about ensuring film-makers have researched their audience and have a plan to reach them.”

Although the scheme will give preference to those projects pursing a “traditional” big-screen to small-screen distribution plan, “if a project is creatively strong the agencies may consider alternative distribution plans to reach audiences”.

That might suit lower-budget documentaries, such as some of those awarded under the NZFC’s Te Whai Ao scheme last year.

Applications close 8 August, with the RFP available from both the NZ On Air and NZFC websites.

There’s a note that “Representatives of the successful projects may be required to pitch their idea and their connection strategy to a general industry audience” and the announcement that the successful projects will be announced 27-28 September.

Put together, it’s possibly the first (albeit veiled) announcement of something that will be on offer at this year’s Big Screen Symposium, which runs on those dates.

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