Bell Fund launches four pilot programs

The changes come after the fund retired a number of its programs last month following the CRTC's revised policy framework for Certified Independent Production Funds.
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The Bell Fund has unveiled a number of new pilot programs to respond to the CRTC’s overhaul of the framework for Certified Independent Productions Funds (CIPFs) last year.

The fund announced four new programs on Monday, including the Short-Form Digital Series Non-Fiction Program, which will provide up to $150,000 per project to docs, factual and lifestyle and programming. Projects must be a maximum length of 15 minutes per episode and a minimum of six episodes, with the program’s first deadline set for Nov. 13.

Following the non-fiction program, the Bell Fund will roll out the Short-Form Digital Series Fiction Program (geared toward comedy and drama) and a new development-focused program. The latter will be separated into two streams, one geared toward development of web documentaries and the other focused on working with companies to build their development slates. The Bell Fund also announced plans to launch a fourth new program, focused on longer-form TV content, though no further details about the program have been announced at this time.

The changes come just over a year after the CRTC imposed its revised policy framework for Certified Independent Production Funds. Under new regulations “non-programming digital content” (which the CRTC defines as story-driven videogames, interactive web content and apps) can only receive 10% of the annual funding from any given CIPF. Previously, however, the Bell Fund directed approximately 90% of its funding to such content, with the remaining 10% going toward the TV project itself, according to chair Suzanne Guèvremont. The revision of the policy framework, she added, has essentially meant that the Bell Fund now puts 10% of its funding into digital media projects, down from 90% previously.

Last month the fund announced via its website that it was to retire its convergent production and development programs, in addition to its performance accelerator and TV development online programs. The decision to retire the programs came after the CRTC denied a request from the Bell Fund to increase the 10% cap imposed on CIPFs for the funding of non-programming digital content. Prior to the regulation changes, funding for non-programming content that was associated with a TV program was uncapped.

Guèvremont said the new pilot programs were created after eight months of consultations with industry stakeholders and that, going forward, the fund’s board will evaluate the success the new programs and continue to consult with the industry on how to improve them.

The changes are the latest to affect the funding ecosystem after the Harold Greenberg Fund last month said it would stop operating its production equity-investment program and instead focus solely on development. “The changes allow the Harold Greenberg Fund to return exclusively to its core business and original mandate, and deliver resources where they are needed the most,” said Bell Media’s VP of communications, Scott Henderson in a statement to Playback Daily.

In 2015-16, HGF invested $1,974,799 in total on English-language projects and $764,000 (39%) of HGF’s funding went into its equity investment program, while $859,300 (43%) went toward script development, $74,999 (4%) went toward story optioning and $276,500 (14%) went toward other industry initiatives. A total of 10 projects were funded through the equity investment program, including Xavier Dolan’s The Death and Life of John F. Donovan and Jason James’ Entanglement.

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