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Getting Familiar with Application Form: Docs By The Sea Form
With the COVID-19 outbreak we are facing globally, Docs By The Sea team wishes for your well-being to face this dire situation we are in right now.

If you happen to be able to continue your project submission, here are some more tips, if you are not 100% sure or not familiar with filling out the submission form.

Which Lab would you like to attend?
Docs By The Sea only offers two labs. The Story Development Lab is for projects that are still in-development and production stage, while the Editing Lab is for projects that are in rough cut stage. One project can only select one lab, because it is almost impossible for one project to have a rough cut while still being in the production stage.

Rough cut stage is achieved when the project has a cut whose length is no more than 120% of the intended final length. Therefore, if you aim for your documentary to be 28 minutes, your rough cut should be close to 35 minutes, and not more. Most editing consultants will not watch a 4-hour “rough cut” when the intended final length is only 120 minutes.

Production stage:
There are several options you can choose:

Development/Research is the earliest stage in filmmaking when you are researching, spending time with your characters to develop your storyline and character in your film. It is advised that you already secured access to the character or story to submit to Docs By The Sea. It means that your character is ready to sign a release to be filmed. No funding can commit to a project that is too early; so your research / development should at least show that your character is committed to the project and you know what kind of story you want to tell. The story can always change, but at least in the time of writing the application, your research leads to one or more potential storylines.


Start Production is when you have just started shooting your documentary while still continuing to develop your story. This stage is marked by ability to show some footage and ability to bring the audience closer to the story and the protagonist.

In Production is when you are in the middle of shooting the documentary. The application will not ask for this, but it is possible that an interested financier at the forum will ask you to provide a 20-min sample scene if you are in this stage.

Early Post-Production is when you might have finished all the shooting process or about 80% of it, and you are trying to create assemblies to check the flow of the story. From this, you can then make adjustments in the remaining shooting process, or even do a reshoot if necessary.

Rough Cut is when you have created the first draft of a rough cut for your film. Assemblies of footage and early edits do not constitute a rough cut. A rough cut should not exceed 120% of the expected final length of the film.

Please state the stage of your project in time of application, not when Docs By The Sea will be conducted. If a project is nominated, we will contact the filmmakers and ask for updates before publishing the selection and printing the catalog, so there are times for updates later when they actually happen.

Budgeting - differences between:
- Total Budget:
This will reflect the total absolute amount that you would need for your project to be completed, from the start throughout the development and research stage to the Distribution stage of the film. An important component to include in this amount is the filmmaker fee to show that you will also be able to work professionally to complete this film.

- Financing in Place:
This will show the amount of funds that you have secured in time of the application. The funding can come from various places such as personal funding, private investors, grants, donations, etc.


- Requested Contribution:
This shows the remaining amount of funds that you need in order to complete your film, from the stage of production that you are at currently. So, it would be what you have calculated in your total budget minus the financing in place.

Visual Supporting Material:
This can consist of a lookbook which is a document filled with images that shows the Director’s vision of what the film will look like. A lookbook can consist of images of the characters, the location where the film will be shot, references of other films/stills of how the film will look like, color palette, images that describe the mood of the film and more.

Or else, you can also upload stills of your film in the visual supporting material.

Although you have a strong lookbook, it is still advised for applicants to submit a teaser/trailer for their film to make their application stronger.

Audiovisual material:

Uploaded here will be your teaser, trailer or even a scene from your film. A strong pitch/application trailer will give the selection committee a sense of how they can expect the completed film to be like, in terms of style, tone, subject portrayal, etc. It is essential that the visual material you provide tells the truth about the project and how it will be told by you as a filmmaker.

We have written an article for you previously about what makes a good pitch trailer. To read more, click on the link below:
Making the Pitch Trailer Link

Rough Cut material:
A rough cut is a draft edit of your film, full with synced picture and sound, temp or some actual music in place and any other elements needed to show the audience the expected feel and flow of the completed film. Submit a rough cut only when you have one. If you don’t have any because you are still in research or production, you don’t have to fill it in.

We have written an article for you providing essential lessons by Niels Pagh Andersen on the art of editing to help you cut your rough cut. To read more, click on the link below:
Creating an Emotional Arc in editing: An Editing lesson from Niels Pagh Andersen



Logline: (Maximum 30 words)
One or two sentences description of the film that best summarize the essential dramatic narrative in the film. It also introduces the main subject of the film and the trigger or situation surrounding the subject that drives the story. It is used as an emotional hook that stimulates interest.


Example from our previous winner:
Diary of Cattle is the story of a 24-hour life cycle of a herd of cows that live and graze on a landfill site in indonesia.

Synopsis: (Maximum 250 words)
The summary of the plot or story in your film. The synopsis would have a more detailed description of your main subject, what do they want? Where does the story take place? Why are they pursuing this? How are they pursuing this goal?

Too often this entry is filled with all the background, data, or factual information that’s the fruit of the applicant’s research. Unless it will be shown in the film and intertwined to the film’s narrative point, or significant to the subject’s journey, the background should be put into the Project Description instead.

Project Description: (Maximum 1000 words)
This is where you write both the treatment of your film and details on the topic of your film. In this section, you would want to paint your character clearly to the decision makers reading your application. It is more detailed and specific than the synopsis in the previous section. The treatment will show how you as a filmmaker will tell this story.

Explore these questions there:
How will we see the story of your character on screen? Or what will the audience see on the screen?
From what perspective will this story be told?
Why is this story important and needs to be told now?
Why should you and your team be the one telling this story?
Why is this story/perspective different from any other stories on the same subject?

After creating a strong logline and synopsis, further hook the selection committee with your vision of the film. This section should be more on how you will tell the story visually and how you will bring the freshest perspective in the most profound way. You can summarize the historical, socio-political background of the story, interesting contexts, and the backstory of the protagonist, but those elements should not dominate the Project Description. When the Project Description does not show enough clear signs of how the story will play out visually on the screen, it can raise doubts on the feasibility of the project.

Filmmaker’s Profile
Last but not least, the selection committee also would like to know the team behind the project. Sometimes overlooked, it’s a pity when we find the bio to be filled out with a list of achievements, or mini-version of your CV. We’d like to know more of you as a filmmaker and as a person—how you connected with film, what kind of films you have made/involved in, what other things you do that related to the project, or any information that can back up why this particular project has to be made by you and your team.

Closing Note
It helps a lot to spend a good time creating the application, to get friends who are strong writers to review and edit, to get feedback on the trailer, and to ask for advice before submitting the application. An application is most effective when it can project the great potentials of your project and the filmmakers behind it.