The Channel 4 x Sheffield DocFest - First Cut Pitch

The Channel 4 First Cut Pitch is back! Once again we’ll be offering five new directors the chance to pitch at the festival and one winner will walk away with a commission from Channel 4 for their first 60’ film.

First Cuts exist to launch the careers of new factual directors with this career-defining strand, and we want to find and work with the next generation of story tellers.

Deadline: The deadline to apply was midnight Sunday 1st May 2022 and we are now closed for applications.



The successful director will receive the following:

  • A 1 x 60’ First Cut commission offer in 2022/2023
  • One month fully paid development and mentorship with an indie (£5,000 development cash) to further develop your own idea OR you can choose to develop an idea put forward by the indie, paid for by Channel 4, which supports new talent and creative diversity.
  • One week’s NFTS training (plus wages for that week) paid for by Channel 4.



  • Applicants will need to submit an up-to-date CV, answer three questions about their career and their documentary influences and passions and, finally, submit a one-page treatment for a First Cut doc idea that they could see broadcast on Channel 4 (more details available on the application page).
  • The aim of this stage is to understand where applicants are in their career, get a better sense of their documentary sensibilities and assess their understanding of what a Channel 4, post watershed documentary might look and feel like.
  • Applicants for the Channel 4 Sheffield Pitch must be available to attend Sheffield DocFest, 23rd - 28th June 2022. If you cannot make this commitment, you are not eligible to enter the pitch competition.
  • Five finalists will be selected from the application stage and will progress to ‘The Pitch’ at Sheffield DocFest (more details below). The five shortlisted directors will be announced within two weeks of the closing deadline.
  • All five finalists will be given a day delegates pass to the festival and up to £50 towards travel.
  • For details on how to apply, please click here for more details.



Five shortlisted directors will vie to prove that they are ready to take on the challenge of an hour-long, post watershed doc for Channel 4 by presenting a three-minute documentary film that answers an editorial brief set by Channel 4 for this event. These short docs will be a unique opportunity for the directors to showcase their ability to tell a captivating factual story, find and develop great contributors and work effectively in an edit.

Each director will introduce, show, and discuss their films in front of the audience and a panel of executive producers, established directors and Rita Daniels, Commissioning Editor for First Cut. Together they will decide – in front of the Sheffield audience - who they think is the most promising director and award the prize at the end of the pitch event.

In the interests of fairness, Channel 4 will support each shortlisted director with a £600 production budget and one day with an editor at a post- house of Channel 4’s choosing to polish their films. The brief will be announced along with the finalists.

We anticipate this will be an in-person live pitching event at Sheffield DocFest, however in the unlikely event that an in-person is no longer possible, we reserve the right to cancel the pitching event.



  • This is not an entry level pitch. A commitment and passion for television documentary needs to be clearly evident and ideally also experience of working in television production at the DV Director/ Senior AP level. You must be UK-based, and be able to take up a freelance placement with a production company of Channel 4's choice.
  • Anyone working within factual television who has not directed their own documentary hour on network television – for clarification this means BBC, (including BBC3), ITV, Channel 4 and Five – is eligible.
  • Because of their house-style nature, those with director credits for single episodes of returnable series such as 24 Hours in A&E may be considered.
  • Directors who have directed hours for a regional broadcaster such as BBC Northern Ireland or Scotland but have not had their film broadcast across a network are also eligible.
  • Recent film school graduates or those from alternative background such as editors or photographers will be considered but they will need to prove their passion and technical skill to the same standard as those who are more experienced or conventional backgrounds.
  • Applicants who are applying for directors’ schemes for other terrestrials should not apply.



  • Unless the applicant is in a staff role at a production company, each applicant will be considered a freelancer with no particular affiliations with an indie until formally agreed with Channel 4.
  • The winning individual should tell Channel 4 of a preferred independent production company with whom they would like to make their film.
  • Applicants who are in a permanent staff role at a production company may complete the development period at their production company if developing their own idea, but this does not guarantee that this is where they will produce the final film.
  • The development portion of the prize has been costed at £5000 including one month’s fulltime work at a rate of £800/week. This can be adapted to suit the project and filmmakers’ other commitments but there will be a 4 month greenlight window to get the First Cut film commissioned.
  • In the event that the prize-winner has an idea that Channel 4 would like to commission, they will develop and produce the film with an indie to be agreed with the Channel.
  • Should the prize winner NOT have an idea for their First Cut commission they will either develop an idea already successfully pitched to First Cut by an indie or have 4 months in which to develop their own idea in close consultation with Channel 4 and an indie.

Contact Us

If you have any queries, please contact