NETFLIX Documentary Talent Fund – BFI NETWORK Answers Your Questions

Bought to you by WDW Entertainment, Doc Society & BFI NETWORK 
Many UK filmmakers have been drawing up plans and applications over the last few weeks for the enticing Netflix Documentary Talent Fund. The funding offers documentary proposals a budget of up to £40K to make a short film, twelve minutes or less, that tells a story about Britain.

BFI NETWORK South West and our partners decided to set up a Zoom for all the aspiring UK-based Herzog’s to ask any questions they had to our panel, and written a round up of the best bits you might have been curious about. Read through to find out.

Two black and white images side by side. First on left is a clockwise grid with head shots of panellists. Clockwise from top left: Dr Mena Fombo, Shianne Brown, Lindsey Dryden, and Elisabeth Hopper. Image 2 on right: Graphic of Netflix Fund 'Britains Not Boring and Here's a Story'


It’s a really interesting question, because what is Britain? Your Britain is different from someone else’s Britain.
Every community is different, and that is what is amazing about the UK. The theme speaks to parts of UK that have not been represented before.
There’s a lot of hidden stories, but also the stories of people’s everyday lives; they’re not hidden to them. They’re very much living and breathing their reality. We’re looking at what it means for them to have these uncomfortable conversations about a person’s past and how it is defining our present, and how it could define our future.


  • Logline: This is just one or two sentences that draw people in. The snappier and concise the better
  • Synopsis: This should be a brief paragraph, which demonstrates and explains the structure of the story. Of course, Documentaries are naturally subject to change, so keep it open; steer towards the story you want to tell
  • Creative Statement: About you, your vision, your team, a sense of who you are. What are your goals? Why are you the right person to make this film? How is this story important now?
  • Extra bits: any extra links – such as mood boards or links to previous work – should be labelled clearly, online is preferable. If you don’t have those things, do not worry.
  • Mood Boards: Should be focused, not just ones you like, they should convey the visual language. Not essential to your application – the idea is what we want!



  • If you are at present a one-person production, and your idea is good and successful, do not worry as this can be sorted. Bear in mind you probably can’t have Brad Pitt directing.
  • We won’t give you one that you have no say in that are not right, we will introduce you to the right people to make things happen
  • For those of you with a team: brilliant. Bring them along.
  • If you are in a team, trust each other, nominate a lead to each application. Not wise to flood the commissioner with multiple submissions of one idea.



Watch them actively! Watch as many as you can!

Ask yourself how you feel and what you are thinking as you watch. Contemplate what change the characters go through, what effect sound and image has on you. Watch things that have done well at festivals and awards, watch what has not done well. Articulate your thoughts and feelings. Repeat.



 Here you can dig into what you believe in capturing, your vision, and creativity.

Think classic beginning, middle, and end.

  • How do you want your audience to think and feel at each point?
  • Where will this journey lead them, what in this world that you create will effect them?


BONUS: In digging deep into the core, you will also get closer to your Logline 

The opportunity to have conversations can bring things to life. Layers are uncovered and true understanding comes from listening. Listen to your story, your crew, your subjects, your intuition.



  • You can get an important story told in a short time – consider what is effective and what is not
  • Aim high, regardless of any limitations.
  • What is not so interesting, is somebody who has an idea for a feature length documentary and wants to cram that whole idea into eight to 12 minutes. ,
  • Being able to craft a story in eight to 12 minutes is as much of an art form as being able to craft a feature length documentary.



New and emerging does not just mean young, say if you have taken time away and are looking to get back into the industry it is for you. New talent covers 18 up to 89 – and the rest.

People with a learning difference or additional needs can be supported at each stage. Appropriate mentors and measures are put in place suitable for each applicant and film.



Animators: Animation is A-Ok! But again – be realistic about your capabilities and access

Mockumentaries: Bring your best

Dramatics: reconstructions and artists films are of interest and encouraged to apply too.



  • Be reasonable, as long as what you want to cover is realistic please apply (e.g. nothing filmed from inside number 10 downing streets’ kitchen)
  • If your story takes filming abroad, think very carefully and responsibly about overseas travel. It is not wise to travel internationally if that will put citizens of other countries, at risk. Also bear in mind, whilst vaccines are being rolled out in the UK, not all countries are fully COVID-19 secure.
  • Remember, the brief is looking for British stories!
  • A great idea is a great idea, we are open to everything, as long as you have ethical access to your subject



 Retail all rights to the film. All filmmakers will retain rights to the film.



  • Deadline for applications: 31st January 2021
  • Unfortunately, if your application is unsuccessful you will know by 31st March 2021
  • Delivery for those Successful: January 2022


It is a big opportunity which feels like pressure in itself. So breathe!

Even if your application is not the right fit: Remember, if you are not selected: You come out of this with an application that you’ve written and have really thought through how to tell your story. This means you are moving further along in your own process!

Ready to apply? Click here for the Netflix Documentary Talent Fund Website

Please note the Netflix Documentary Talent Fund is not a BFI NETWORK scheme, if you have questions about the application process please contact the WDW Entertainment team by following the link to their website

With thanks to our Panellists:


Dr Mena Fombo
SOMINA aka Dr Mena Fombo is co-founder of  Blak Wave Productions  one of the only black owned production  companies in the South West. A director, passionate about telling character led stories and exploring issues particularly centred on black womxn, most recently creating  Home Carnival Queen  for BBC Arts.

Shianne Brown 
As a Producer/Director, Shianne Brown has gone to specialise in making films exploring gender, race and class with integrity and honesty. This year, her directorial debut for Channel 4,  Respect Me, I’m a Doctor  documented the experiences of black female doctors who face racism whilst trying to save lives, and their support for the Black Lives Matter protests. Her credits also include the Grierson nominated documentary  Angry, White & American  presented by Gary Younge and Amazon Prime’s major series  This is Football.

Lindsey Dryden
Lindsey is an Emmy®-winning Producer, Director, Writer and Executive Producer whose credits include Oscar shortlisted  Unrest, Trans in America  and  Lost And Sound,  amongst others.  Lindsey is the founder of  Little By Little Films  - an organisation led by underrepresented voices that prioritises storytelling by and about LGBTQ folks, women, and D/deaf and disabled people. She’s also a proud founding member of  Queer Producers Collective  and  FWD-DOC.

Elisabeth Hopper

Elisabeth is a producer of the Netflix Documentary Talent Fund. She is also Exec and Producer of the Female Film Force – an initiative offering grants to filmmaking talent across the UK, Ireland, France and Germany. Winning the HBO shorts competition at the American Black Film Festival this year along with Best Documentary at TMFF, Underwire and Kino London. Elisabeth is a co-founder of shorts focused production company Visual Goods, where her work has been selected for BFI Flare’s Five Films for Freedom (supported by the UN), nominated for the Iris Prize and 1.4 Awards. Elisabeth is also an actor and writer – having worked extensively in TV for the BBC, ITV, Sky, C4, Netflix and in Film and Theatre internationally.

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