Iris Ng and Sarah Polley (holding the camera) during the making of the film Stories We Tell, directed by Polley in 2012.

Directing/Co-Producing with NFB’s English Program

Who We Are

The National Film Board of Canada is the nation’s public producer and distributor of distinctive and audacious audiovisual content. For over 70 years our mandate has been to engage Canadians and the world through the production of artistic and innovative media that reflects our country and Canadian points of view.

We are looking to work with a wide range of creators — filmmakers and other media artists — in the production of POV documentaries, auteur animation and original interactive digital content for all platforms including mobile and the Web.

The NFB’s English Program is a unique creative laboratory, providing artists and storytellers with an opportunity to develop new forms of artistic, imaginative and socially relevant media.

As creative producers, we work closely with directors, artists and co-producers to build collaborative teams around projects and help shape conditions for success.

Selection Process and Criteria

Some ideas for the projects we produce come to us as pitches.  Some are generated internally.  Others are borne out of extended conversations with like-minded creators. All are measured against our overall programming criteria, which includes:

  • talent and vision of the creator/director
  • originality of concept and approach
  • creative excellence
  • great storytelling
  • innovation in form
  • clearly articulated sense of the intended audience
  • social relevance and impact
  • viability of project (in terms of access, timeframe and budget)

We produce projects from across the country: from a wide range of communities, on a wide range of topics and reflecting a diversity of voices.  We want to tell stories that aren’t being told elsewhere and from perspectives that are underrepresented in the media.  Ensuring our mix of projects reflects this balance means we consider some additional factors when deciding which projects to produce/coproduce:

  • Genre balance (documentary, animation, new media)
  • Diversity of stories/topics (for example, even if all the stories were very original, it’s unlikely we’d  produce six films on a given topic—say the environment– at the same time)
  • Diversity of filmmakers
  • Aboriginal voices
  • Regional reflection
  • Gender ratio
  • Target audience
  • Formats (including multiplatform and educational)
  • Ratio of productions vs co-productions vs international co-productions

As a niche producer focused on the high-end of the production spectrum, we are very selective about the projects we produce and coproduce. We complete between 40-50 productions a year: a mix of POV documentaries, auteur animations and original digital projects.

Our resources are finite. Unfortunately we can’t produce every good story, but we strive continually to nourish a creative climate that allows such work to flourish.

Production/Co-Production Models

There are three main models for working with us:

100% NFB productions

These productions are financed entirely by the NFB.  These projects are sometimes initiated internally.  Sometimes the idea is brought to us by a creator.  NFB retains 100% of the copyright and also holds the distribution rights.

National co-productions

These productions are produced in partnership with independent Canadian production companies.   NFB English Program is involved as minority co-producer. NFB distribution rights are subject to negotiation based on strategy/goals for the production.

International co-productions

Generally, these productions involve an independent Canadian production company, an international production company and NFB English Program (as a minority co-producer). NFB distribution rights are subject to negotiation based on strategy/goals for the production.

Basic Co-Production Terms

  • In general, the NFB’s financial contribution will not exceed 49% of the production budget.
  • The private producer and NFB producer share decision-making regarding key partners, artistic elements, stakeholders, financing and budget.
  • Both partners agree on the human and technical resources provided by the NFB, as well as the marketing strategy.
  • Division of the copyright is established pro rata among the partners according to the contribution of each to the co-production, with NFB retaining an undivided copyright interest in the production in the same proportion as NFB’s financial participation in the co-production.
  • Each partner recoups its investment according to the recoupment schedule, pari passu and pro rata to their financial participation in the co-production, according priority to private investors.

Eligibility and Deadlines

Anyone who is a Canadian citizen or landed immigrant is eligible to work with us.  There are no deadlines or application forms and we accept proposals throughout the year.  We have 7 production studios across the country.  Proposals should be submitted by e-mail or regular mail to the contact in the studio nearest you.

What to Submit

For directors (100% NFB productions)

  • A brief summary  (8-lines) outlining focus of the project;
  • A synopsis (two or three pages) detailing subject matter, approach and point of view.
  • Overview of intended audience
  • CV (including a list of previous projects) and samples of previous work
  • In the case of animation, an art portfolio including sketches of representative artwork
  • Key project details (duration, format, genre, etc.)

For co-producers (national and international)

  • Basic information on the production company and brief CVs of the key partners already involved or envisaged
  • A brief summary  (8-lines) outlining focus of the project;
  • A synopsis (two or three pages) detailing subject matter, approach and point of view.
  • In the case of animation, an art portfolio including sketches of representative artwork
  • List of previous films/work on similar subject matter (optional)
  • Overview of intended audience
  • A development budget indicating the main sources of financing either confirmed or planned;
  • An idea of the size of the production budget;
  • Agreements showing that the producer holds the copyrights needed to move into  production;
  • Key project details (duration, format, genre, etc.)

Where to Send Proposals

Atlantic Centre
National Film Board of Canada
Cornwallis House
201 – 5475 Spring Garden Road
Halifax, Nova Scotia B3J 3T2
Executive Producer : Annette Clarke
Producer: Paul McNeill
Phone: 902-426-7351
Fax: 902-426-8901
Email: atlantic@nfb.ca

Animation Studio
National Film Board of Canada
3155 Côte de Liesse Road
Montreal, Québec H4N 2N4
Executive Producer : Michael Fukushima
Producers: Maral Mohammadian, Jelena Popović
Phone: 514-261-1650
Fax: 514-283-3211
Email : animation@nfb.ca

Quebec Documentary Centre
National Film Board of Canada
3155 Côte de Liesse Road
Montreal, Québec H4N 2N4
Executive Producer: Annette Clarke
Producer: Kat Baulu
Phone: 514-827-5048
Fax: 514-283-5487
E-mail: quebeccentre@nfb.ca

Ontario Centre
National Film Board of Canada
150 John Street
Toronto, Ontario M5V 3C3
Executive Producer:
Producers: Anita Lee, Gerry Flahive, Lea Marin
Phone: 416-973-0904
Fax: 416-973-9640
E-mail: ontarioinfo@nfb.ca

Prairie Centre
National Film Board of Canada
300 – 136 Market Avenue
Winnipeg, Manitoba R3B 0P4
Executive producer: David Christensen
Phone: 204-983-3160
Fax: 204-983-0742
E-mail: prairie@nfb.ca

Northwest Centre
National Film Board of Canada
10815 104th Avenue, Room 100
Edmonton, Alberta T5J 4N6
Executive Producer: David Christensen
Producer: Bonnie Thompson
Phone: 780-495-3013
Fax: 780-495-6412
Email: northwest@nfb.ca

Pacific & Yukon Centre
National Film Board of Canada
250-351 Abbott Street
Vancouver, British Columbia V6B 0G6
Executive Producer: Shirley Vercruysse
Producers: Selwyn Jacob
Phone: 604-666-3838
Fax: 604-666-1569
E-mail : pacific@nfb.ca

What Happens Next

You’ll hear back from us within a week to confirm that we received your submission and giving you a timeline for hearing back from us.

At least once a month, our production centres hold production meetings to discuss projects currently under consideration.  Projects that seem to have the strongest creative potential and make the best fit with English Program’s current mix of projects in production and development will typically be put into a formal development stage.

The final decision on whether or not to move ahead with the production of any project rests with the Director General of English Program.