Please read the NSI Drama Prize guidelines below prior to completing the application form.

As part of your application, we ask for a production budget. If you wish, you can download this budget template from Telefilm.

Submission deadline

**This call is now closed**

Application fee

$100 non-refundable fee per application. Payment is processed through PayPal.


$1,500 non-refundable fee per selected participant. Due one week after acceptance into the course.


Email or phone: (204) 956-7800 or (800) 952-9307 

What does NSI Drama Prize offer?

NSI Drama Prize is an ambitious training program for producer/writer/director teams looking to make their first or second dramatic short. It provides emerging filmmakers with a year of professional support and training in the various stages of filmmaking while they develop and produce a short film (up to 10 minutes). Up to four teams of aspiring Canadian filmmakers will be selected.

During the course you will:

  • work with an experienced story editor to polish your script;
  • receive customized training delivered by industry experts in writing, directing and producing;
  • receive up to $10,000 in cash to go toward making your film;
  • receive approximately $20,000 in services to go toward making your film which includes lighting equipment, film stock,  post-production facilities, closed captioning, script clearances, insurance and legal counsel;
  • receive air travel and accommodation to attend the week-long boot camps in Winnipeg;
  • explore the world of social media marketing, transmedia and multi-platform strategies and find out how they can extend your personal brand, generate buzz for your film, help you fundraise and expand your audience, and;
  • receive access to an established industry professional who will act as your mentor, offering advice, expertise and support.

What is the course format?

NSI Drama Prize is comprised of three distinct phases. Each phase must be completed in full for a team to qualify for the next phase.

Phase one – workshops – March 4 to 16, 2014 (subject to change) 

NSI Drama Prize teams will be selected and notified in December 2013. Successful teams will fly to Winnipeg in March 2014 to participate in intensive training sessions with industry professionals.

The NSI Drama Prize training course will pay for your flight and hotel accommodation in Winnipeg while you attend training. Food and ground transportation will not be provided by NSI.

Specific dates for the workshops are subject to change but, tentatively, the writers’ boot camp will be from March 4 to 9, 2014.  The directors’ and producers’ boot camps will run simultaneously from March 9 to 16, 2014.

  • March 4 to 9, 2014  writers work with story editor Shereen Jerrett on a script rewrite bringing it to a final draft. The directors and producers join the writers for one day before starting their week long boot camps.
  • March 9 to 16, 2014 – producers work with facilitator Brendon Sawatzky and will be instructed on the finer points of producing such as contracting, insurance, budgeting, financing, pitching, marketing and distribution.
  • March 9 to 16, 2014 – directors work with Sean Garrity to learn about directing including breaking down a script to prepare it for shooting, casting, working with actors and crew, doing the final post production.  They will shoot and edit a two-page scene from their script under Sean’s watchful eye working with experienced actors, DOPs and editors. Directors will receive an assignment to be submitted prior to the training session.

Each team member must attend their specific week-long training session and participate in all training workshops and seminars applicable to their role on the team (writer, director and producer). If you decide not to participate in the training, you and your entire team must withdraw from the course.

Phase two – assignment – March 21 to April 25, 2014 

Following the workshops, participants return home where they will have one month to complete an assignment which will require delivery of the following materials:

  • final shooting script;
  • budget and financing scenario;
  • project timeline;
  • letter of commitment from a mentor candidate or a list of three possible mentor candidates;
  • list of key creative personnel and their resumes (director of photography, production designer, editor) and;
  • other requirements which may arise during the training week.

Assigned work will be reviewed to determine which teams are ready to proceed to production. NSI reserves the right to provide cash and services for the production phase of the course only to teams which have successfully completed their assignment in a timely manner. All teams will not necessarily move forward following assessment of assigned work.

Phase three – production – May 6, 2014 to March 31, 2015 

On approval of the assigned deliverables, and once your team has been green-lit, you can start preparing for principal photography.

Throughout this phase each team will work together under the guidance of NSI and their chosen mentor to work through the various stages of pre-production, production and post-production of their film.

Each NSI Drama Prize team must deliver the final digital master of their final film to NSI no later than March 31, 2015.

The NSI Drama Prize training course culminates with delivery of the completed film on March 31, 2015. NSI reserves the right to present the completed film at a showcase event, on its website and in its online film festival, if it so chooses. 

What do I have to commit to the course? 

You must make considerable time available for the course. While project and professional development plans will be created with maximum flexibility, attendance at the week long training session in Winnipeg in March 2014 is mandatory for all participants. The tentative dates for the boot camps are from March 4 to 16, 2014.

You will work with the NSI Drama Prize program manager to plan delivery dates for project development work, and those deadlines must be met. NSI Drama Prize is a training course, not a funding program, and by applying you are agreeing to meet the deadlines identified under the course.

A contract will be signed with each team outlining the professional development plans, the team commitments to the course and NSI, and NSI’s commitments to the team.

Who can apply?

This course is aimed at two or three person producer/writer/director teams wishing to develop and produce their first or second short film.

Eligible teams include the following combinations: writer, director, producer (three person team) OR writer/director, producer or writer/producer, director (two person team). You cannot apply as both the producer/director.

If there are two writers attached to a script the second writer may attend the training, but all costs associated with their participation must be covered by the team. Additionally, you must convince the selection committee that creative development of the project would suffer if the co-writer is not in attendance. Failure to include a letter referring to this will result in the co-writer’s absence from consideration.

Preference will be given to strong creative teams who are passionate and invested in the creative development of the project and can demonstrate the team has sufficient craft and technical experience to realistically be considered capable of producing a film.

Please note that your project will become ineligible and support will be revoked if any of the team members identified on the application form change at any point after selection (at the discretion of the program manager).

Previous participants of the NSI Drama Prize course cannot re-apply.

You may submit more than one application but you must complete a separate application form along with an additional $100 application fee.

In order to be eligible applicants must:

  • have a minimum of one year’s experience working in the film and television industry;
  • not have more than two hours of on-screen, produced credits in the discipline applied for (not including student productions). For example, if you have produced documentaries but never drama (or less than two hours of drama) you are eligible to apply. However, if you’ve produced and received more than two hours of on-screen credit for a dramatic production, you cannot apply as a producer to NSI Drama Prize but you could apply as a writer or director;
  • own the rights to the story and script. This includes ownership of, or option on, all underlying rights (if any);
  • maintain creative and financial control over the project. NSI reserves the right to disqualify any team that does not fully own the rights in and to the project (except for such approvals as are customary in the industry from distributors, broadcasters, financiers, investors, etc.);
  • have determined ownership and decision-making control between themselves. Must identify which team member/s officially own the project;
  • be a Canadian citizen or landed immigrant over the age of 18;
  • have a production company located in Canada or must be willing to set up a production company in Canada before going into production;
  • not be a participant in any other training course that would conflict with your ability to commit to the NSI Drama Prize course; 
  • not be currently enrolled in any full-time school or university program.

If you feel you would benefit from the course despite your experience level (lack of, or wealth of), please include a letter explaining why the selection committee should consider you for the course. This letter is in addition to the deliverable ‘letter of expectation.’ 

Can inter-provincial teams apply?

Yes, but you must explain how you plan to work together given the distance.

Can I apply with more than one proposal per year? Can I resubmit a proposal?

Yes, provided you complete a separate application form along with an additional $100 application fee.

You may apply twice with the same project within a three year period.

Which projects are eligible?

Projects will be selected based on their creative potential.

  • Scripts must be advanced to at least second-draft stage and no longer than 10 minutes to be assessed for production potential.
  • Projects must be narrative (animated, experimental and documentary films are not eligible). 
  • Projects can be completed on any medium provided it meets standard broadcast requirements.
  • Theme and subject matter are up to the applicants. NSI will not accept any project that contains excessive violence, sexual violence or sexual exploitation.
  • Commissioned works are ineligible.

How do I apply?

Only complete applications will be considered. This means you must fill out all required sections of the application form and must include all the documents listed below as one PDF.

Your application will be disqualified if any of the sections are incomplete or missing. A check list has been provided for your use on the application form.

  • Synopsis: a one-paragraph pitch summary.
  • Second draft script: projected running time must not be longer than 10 minutes.
  • Script notes: writer’s notes on your proposed plan for subsequent drafts.
  • Director’s notes: provide detail on stylistic approach, overall tone, etc.
  • Preliminary marketing plan: demonstrate a clear idea of the film’s target audience and your understanding of its market potential.
  • Proposed production budget: a preliminary production budget. Please use the budget template provided on the application form. List your proposed and/or confirmed sources of revenue for financing the project including cash, deferral and in-kind service amounts. NSI will provide up to $10,000 in cash and approximately $20,000 of in-kind services.
  • Proposed financing structure: your proposed sources of revenue for financing the project, i.e. arts grants, provincial support, personal contributions, deferrals.
  • Chain of title documentation: i.e. option agreement, transfer of rights agreement and/or publisher’s agreement. Please include a writer’s agreement regarding underlying rights acquisition (if any) and screenplay. The option agreement must include proof of ownership.
  • Resume for each applicant clearly stating production experience: include your role on the production and the following information about each project: the writer/producer/director, genre, if it was a student film, final running time, any broadcasts/theatrical release/festivals played, is it in development, production, post or completed.
  • Letter of expectation from each team member: a paragraph from each team member describing what you hope to gain by participating in the NSI Drama Prize course.
  • Letter of reference for each team member: this letter should identify why the writer feels you are qualified to take this course.
  • Description of formal relationship between team members: outline ownership and decision-making control between yourselves. Have you incorporated a company? How long have you known each other? Have you worked together before? How confident are you that you can work together on this film?
  • Evidence of development funding to date: if you have previous or current development funding from other sources, please submit copies of commitment letters. Note: you do not need other development funding in order to apply to NSI Drama Prize.
  • Online link (YouTube or Vimeo) of support material for director: examples submitted should complement the style/genre of the submitted project. Two films maximum.  Do not send demo reels.
  • Additional letters (if applicable): required for applicants needing to demonstrate their suitability to participate in the course because they don’t meet eligibility criteria. Also required for teams wishing to apply with more than one writer.
  • $100 non-refundable entry fee: each team must submit a $100 application fee. Payment is processed through PayPal.

 How will teams be selected?

Projects will be selected based on the strength of their creative and commercial appeal. Both the project and team must be suitable for the course (it is possible to have a good project but a team who is not yet ready to produce a short film, or a great team with the wrong project.)

  • All applications will be assessed for eligibility and completeness. Incomplete applications will be rejected.
  • The NSI Drama Prize manager and advisor will read each proposal and create a shortlist.
  • The shortlist will be distributed to a jury made up of industry representatives with senior level experience in the film industry.
  • Based upon the strength of the script, team members and support documentation, the jury will select up to four teams to participate in NSI Drama Prize 2013. 

When will we know if we’ve been selected?

Short-listed applicants will be notified by mid-November 2013. Final selection of teams will be complete by mid-December 2013. Only teams selected for NSI Drama Prize will be contacted by phone. Unsuccessful applicants will be notified by email no later than the end of January 2014 .

Who is the NSI Drama Prize manager? 

Elise Swerhone

Elise is an award-winning producer, director and writer.

In 2010, she directed TuTu Much, a theatrical feature documentary about aspiring ballerinas, which won awards in China and Chicago and was shown theatrically in Canada and around the world including the Cannes International Film Festival.

Elise’s more recent documentary Mysteries of the Deep was part of the award-winning series One Ocean shown on the CBC’s The Nature of Things, Discovery US and National Geographic in 2010. Surviving The Teenage Brain was shown on The Nature of Things in 2012 winning a Golden Sheaf in 2013.

Her body of work includes Ballet High, a feature-length documentary about the graduating class of the professional school at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet made for BRAVO!; The Science of the SensesHearing and Drug Deals for the CBC’s The Nature of Things. She also directed Restitution (about the return of Nazi-looted art) and Me, My Brother and My Father’s Van Gogh for CBC’s Witness.

Elise has written, directed and edited episodes for the Gemini award-winning series Recreating Eden.

Her dramatic credits include episodes for the Adventures of Shirley HolmesMiss ManitobaNow & Then and The Mayor of Odessa. She directed the MOW My Mother’s Ghost from the novel of the same name and One of Them, a film about homophobia, for the National Film Board.

Elise is an alumna of NSI DramaLab.

Who is the NSI Drama Prize advisor and director facilitator?

Sean Garrity

The press has referred to Sean Garrity’s work as “possessing a dark, twisted beauty” (Janet Smith, Georgia Strait) and has compared his work to that of David Cronenberg (The Globe and Mail), Atom Egoyan (MacLean’s) and even Luis Buñuel (Steve Palopoli, San Jose MetroActive).

His first feature film, INerTia, was awarded best first feature at the 2001 Toronto International Film Festiva, and netted him best director at the 2001 FilmCan Festival. The Globe and Mail named him one of three ‘Canadian filmmakers to watch’ in 2002 and Northern Life announced “Sean Garrity is the new wave of Canadian cinema.”

His second feature film, Lucid, was one of the top 10 most popular Canadian films at the 2005 Vancouver International Film Festival where it also won the Citytv award for best Western Canadian feature; it was an audience award pick at Cinefest; and an official selection at more than 25 film festivals around the world including Shanghai, Mannheim, Singapore and Toronto.

His third feature, Zooey & Adam was shot entirely without crew or budget: a one-man film. It was awarded best experimental film at the Pollygrind festival in Las Vegas and nominated at the Vancouver International Film Festival for the CanWest award for best Canadian feature film. It enjoyed a successful festival and theatrical release across Canada and the critical response, so far, has been the best of Sean’s career.

Sean’s fourth feature, My Awkward Sexual Adventure, premiered at the 2012 Toronto International Fillm Festival where it was selected as one of the TIFF Top Ten, it won the public choice award at the 2012 Calgary International Film Festival and the audience award at the 2012 Whistler Film Festival. It was selected at festivals from Taiwan and Mar Del Plata to Santa Barbara and New York; nominated for best feature film by the Director’s Guild of Canada; and dominated the Canadian Comedy Award nominations for 2013, getting a nod in almost every category. The film is being distributed in 24 counties, translated into 15 different languages, and there are official remakes slated for France, Lithuania and South Korea.

His fifth feature, Blood Pressure, one of only six Canadian films selected to the prestigious Busan International Film Festival where it was singled out as one of Screen International’s ’10 Hot Films,’ was also selected for the Shanghai, Beijing and Champs Elysées festivals, and nominated for the coveted Borsos Award at the 2012 Whistler Film Festival. It was tremendously well reviewed and stayed in Canadian theatres for over four months, playing 25 cinemas in 22 cities.

In 2008, Sean received the jury prize at the Brussels International Short Film Festival for his film ReOrder. In 2006, he received the special jury prize by the Don Haig jury at Toronto’s Hot Docs Film Festival. The cash award is presented to a filmmaker whose work is not only outstanding but has also bridged the documentary and fiction genres.

Who is the NSI Drama Prize story editor?

Shereen Jerrett 

Shereen has filmed everything from vampire castles in Romania to Leila’s Hair Museum in Indiana. She has made films about neurotics, nerds and family members. She works both in indies and commercial venues and her award-winning work has screened at festivals around the world.

Shereen’s recent work includes writing a dramatic feature film script for APTN; writing/directing an hour-long documentary on Mardi Gras with Buffalo Gal Pictures; directing episodes of the Gemini winning X-Weighted III series; and she has produced, written, shot and edited the doc TV series Flat City Stories for MTS television.

She works as a freelance script editor and has been a reader and writer facilitator for NSI Drama Prize since 2001. She also teaches various filmmaking courses at the University of Winnipeg and University of Manitoba.

She is currently in production on two new media projects (a documentary and a non-linear drama) and editing season two of Flat City Stories.

Who is the NSI Drama Prize producer facilitator?

Brendon Sawatzky

Dividing his time between a number of different roles in the film and television industry, Brendon has primarily focused on producing.

In addition to producing four made-in-Manitoba feature films: INerTia, Who Loves the SunEuphoria and Hunting Season, Brendon co-produced a television series for The Comedy Network called House Party.

More recently Brendon worked as a producer on Bunks, a Family Channel movie of the week; Mr. Hockey: the Gordie Howe Story, a CBC movie of the week; and the television specials CBC Short Shots 1, 2 & 3. As a producer for the National Film Board, he has produced a number of projects including At Home/Chez Soi Winnipeg.

He has previously held positions with the National Screen Institute and the Winnipeg Film Group. He is also the chair of Film Training Manitoba. In his spare time he has managed to direct and produce five short films, four of which he wrote.

What are the exact dates of the course?

NSI Drama Prize is a year-long training course. Phase one training sessions (boot camps) take place in Winnipeg from March 4 to 16, 2014 (subject to change). The rest of the work will be done according to a schedule developed by the teams and program manager. The final film must be delivered by March 31, 2015.

What rights does NSI have on the project?

All copyright in the project remains with the applicants. NSI reserves the sole right to disqualify any team that does not fully own the rights in and to the project.

NSI will retain the right to exhibit and/or stream (non-commercially) completed productions for promotional purposes and will use best efforts to notify the producer of any such screening prior to its occurrence.

NSI Drama Prize and NSI Drama Prize investors require a tail credit on all copies of the film (key investors will also receive a head credit) as well as a prominent credit on all publicity and promotional materials developed with respect to the project.

A contract will be signed with each team outlining the commitments and responsibilities of the team and NSI under the course. 

We have financing/deals lined up – how does that affect our application?

An application that can demonstrate deals already made in the marketplace is clearly a viable project, however this does not guarantee it will be selected for the course.

All creative and financial control must remain with the team (except for such approvals as are customary in the industry from distributors, financiers, investors, etc.)

What financial assistance will I receive?

Teams will have their airfare and accommodation covered for the training session in Winnipeg. They will also receive up to $10,000 in cash for the production of their film as well as approximately $20,000 in services for their production. 

What is the relationship between NSI and the applicant?

The relationship between the applicant and NSI shall not be deemed to constitute a partnership or joint venture. The applicant shall not have the right to incur any debts nor make any commitment of or on behalf of NSI. 

Can I submit my application by fax or email?

No. All applications must be provided using the online form.  

**This call is now closed**

I have more questions. Who do I contact?

Email your questions to or call us at (800) 952-9307 

NSI Drama Prize 2013 was made possible by Presenting Sponsors Telefilm Canada and Shaw Media; Program Partner The Brian Linehan Charitable Foundation; Boot Camp Presenting Sponsor Manitoba Film & Music; Award Sponsors The Brian Linehan Charitable Foundation, Rogers Group of Funds and Telefilm Canada; Provincial Sponsor Film & Creative Industries Nova Scotia; Service Sponsors William F. White International (exclusive lighting and grip sponsor), Deluxe, Kodak, Eastern Script, Line 21; Sponsor The Brian Linehan Charitable Foundation.