Hot Docs

At Hot Docs, we are proud of our mandate to advance the creative imprint of documentary film. We achieve this by facilitating the development of and public access to non-fiction media through an annual 11-day Festival, and also by facilitating production and networking opportunities for filmmakers.

Our Story What We Do

History of Organization

Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival is North America’s largest documentary festival, conference and market, held annually in Toronto at the end of April. Each year, the Festival presents a selection of more than 200 cutting-edge documentaries from Canada and around the globe. Through its industry programs, Hot Docs also provides a full range of professional development, marketing and networking opportunities for documentary professionals.

Over the past few years, Hot Docs has created a distinct role for itself within the documentary world and has established itself as a key cultural event. Our international list of supporters and participants represent over 50 countries. Year after year, Hot Docs has witnessed significant increases in film submissions, public attendance, youth participation, media coverage and industry delegate registrations. 

In 2012, Hot Docs and the Blue Ice Group partnered to revive the historical Bloor Cinema, located in Toronto’s vibrant Annex neighbourhood. Operated and programmed by Hot Docs, the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema is now a year-round home for first-run Canadian and international documentaries, as well as special documentary presentations and showcases. Continuing its longstanding role as a community cinema, it is also host to many of the city’s independent film festivals, offering audiences diverse repertory and specialized programming.

Accolades and Accomplishments

  • Hot Docs is North America’s largest documentary festival, conference and market, with an annual public attendance of over 200,000. The 11-day event features 450+ public screenings of 200+ films on 17 screens across Toronto;
  • The Bloor Hot Docs Cinema has a regular audience of 400,000 per year, and over 4,700 Cinema members;
  • Youth participation in our Docs for Schools program engages over 87,000 students from 450+ schools across Ontario;
  • Hot Docs provides $152,000 worth of free tickets for daytime screenings to students and seniors throughout the duration of the Hot Docs Festival;
  • The Doc Shop enables leading film and television buyers to screen over 1,500 docs on an online interactive platform created by Hot Docs;
  • Hot Docs has a dedicated volunteer base of over 700 passionate documentary fans with a 50.1% return rate;
  • To help access new communities, Hot Docs works with over 40 community partners to co-present films throughout the Festival. Similarly, the Cinema hosts many smaller independent film festivals in Toronto, engaging an even wider demographic;
  • Hot Docs presents the monthly screening and discussion series Doc Soup to audiences in Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, and Winnipeg, providing year-round opportunities to view and discuss contemporary documentaries;
  • Hot Docs provides over $6,000,000 in production funds though initiatives such as the Shaw Media-Hot Docs Funds, Hot Docs-Blue Ice Group Documentary Fund and the CrossCurrents Doc Fund. The Shaw Media-Hot Docs Fund has supported 137 Canadian documentary projects with over $3,000,000 in grants and no-interest loans to date. The Hot Docs-Blue Ice Group Documentary Fund has provided 32 African projects with a total of $501,000 in development and production grants. Since its inception in 2014, the CrossCurrents Doc Fund has awarded $20,000 to filmmakers from historically underrepresented or marginalized communities;
  • Hot Docs has been selected as a finalist for the Premier’s Award for Excellence in the Arts  in 2007, 2011, and 2012.

Our Programs How We Do It

Hot Docs is dedicated to increasing community engagement and offering a wide variety of programming that attracts audiences of all ages and background.  The following three programs are a source of pride for our organization as they contribute to increased community outreach, audience involvement and social impact:

1) Docs for Schools

Nine years ago, in recognition that youth lacked the highly transferable skills developed by studying  the arts (such as creativity, high-order rationale, problem solving, and thinking “outside-the-box”) Hot Docs developed Docs For Schools. This program is aimed at providing youth with the opportunity to view excellent documentaries as learning tools in subjects as diverse as art, English, drama, history, economics, science, politics, health, physical education and social sciences. The program outreaches to youth in Toronto’s most under-served communities, as identified by the City of Toronto and United Way. Today, Docs for Schools is a free program that reaches more than 87,000 youth across Ontario.

During the Festival, a selection of 10 films are presented at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema for students in grades 7-12. Educators are able to preselect films based on Hot Docs’ subject grid, which indicates a film’s curriculum links. Following each screening, guest filmmakers and film subjects partake in informative Q&A sessions with the students. Back in the classroom, educators are able to continue the discussion through complimentary corresponding education packages that include creative lesson plans and links to the Ontario curriculum.

The Docs for Schools In-School component takes documentaries across the province. A catalogue of 12 films are selected from the previous year’s festival and are made available for educators to rent for free to curate their own in-class festivals. Complimentary corresponding education packages are mailed with each film, which include rigorous discussion points and links to a range of subjects in the Ontario curriculum.

In 2013, Hot Docs expanded Docs for Schools to become a monthly program that would feature seven screenings during the school year. Programmed by Hot Docs’ Education & Youth Programs Manager, in consultation with the Teacher Advisory Council, Docs for Schools Monthly features screenings that parallel special themes or events throughout the year. Since its launch, the Docs for Schools Monthly program has hosted over 4,400 students from 102 schools across Ontario.

Docs For Schools Festival is generously supported by lead sponsor Scotiabank, and exclusive education partner Humber School of Media Studies & Information Technology. Additional support is provided by the Toronto Arts Council, the S.M. Blair Family Foundation, the Beth and Andy Burgess Family Foundation, the Hal Jackman Foundation, Deluxe, and through contributions by individual donors.

2) Volunteer Program

Hot Docs is seen throughout the Ontario cultural sector as a leader in volunteer management and community engagement. In the past year, over 700 volunteers have contributed their services to the Hot Docs Festival and the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema. We have initiated key projects to help increase outreach and volunteer engagement, as well as improve volunteer resources throughout the community.

In 2014, Hot Docs began the Volunteer Resources Development project by identifying the needs and areas of improvement for the volunteer sector in local non-profits. Surveys were created and sent out to over 100 non-profit organizations across Ontario to gather valuable feedback on which resources are needed most for their volunteer management. From the information garnered through this research, Hot Docs began to create a volunteer management best-practices manual.  

The Volunteer Management Manual allows Hot Docs to provide organizations with a foundation for training strategies and workshops. The manual allows for collaborations amongst non-profits in their approach towards volunteer recruitment and sustainability. Organizations will be able to expand their volunteer network and improve upon recruitment strategies to allow for stronger volunteer management practices.

Hot Docs has also partnered with WorkInCulture and the Toronto Fringe Festival to create the “Volunteer in Culture” recruitment fairs. During each fair, 7-10 non-profits are invited to give a five-minute presentation on their organization to an audience of potential volunteers. Participating organizations have reported seeing a surge in new volunteers following these events.

The Volunteer Resources Development project is generously supported by the Toronto Foundation and the Government of Ontario.

3) Free Screenings for Students and Seniors

The Free Daytime Screenings for students and seniors program is one of the Festival’s highest profile programs that creates community goodwill. Throughout the Festival, students and seniors are given free access to all screenings before 5pm. Hot Docs takes great pride in maintaining its accessibility by offering a dedicated portion of our capacity to students and seniors. Last year, $152,000 worth of tickets were given out as part of this program. In the past two years we’ve seen participation in the program increase by over 150%. We hope to inspire love and appreciation for documentary cinema through audiences of all ages and demographics.

The Free Daytime Screenings for students and seniors is generously supported by the documentary Channel.

Community Partnerships

Hot Docs also reaches out to members of our community who have not traditionally been involved in the activities we offer. To date, Hot Docs has been able to diversify and expand our public audience through niche marketing and free ticket offers to our database of over 500 Toronto-based community organizations, social service agencies, ethno cultural groups, Aboriginal organizations and/or youth focused agencies. In turn, these agencies have reached thousands of individual community members who were unaware or unable to access the Hot Docs festival.

What You Can Do

Support for Docs for Schools Festival will enable:

  • Increased outreach to our database of schools across Ontario;
  • Increased outreach to Toronto’s priority neighbourhoods and underserved geographic areas;
  • Enhanced complimentary educational resource kits and expanded servicing;
  • More filmmakers and special guests to attend post-screening Q&As;
  • Hot Docs to maintain offering all our youth education programs for FREE;
  • Creative learning experiences that youth may not have access to through their community or school arts programs or otherwise.

Support for our Volunteer Program will enable:

  • Increased outreach and volunteer engagement;
  • Improved volunteer resources within our organization and throughout the non-profit cultural sector;
  • Volunteers to receive the most out of their experience  and to create meaningful relationships with their peers and community;
  • The creation and maintenance of the Volunteer Management best-practices manual;
  • Increased recruitment efforts such as the Volunteer In Culture fairs;
  • Torontonians to become increasingly involved in arts and culture within their city.

Support for Hot Docs Free Screenings for students and seniors will enable:

  • Hot Docs to continue to offer students and seniors  free access to world-class documentary cinema from Canada and around the world;
  • A growth in appreciation for documentary cinema from audiences of all ages;
  • Increased outreach and information about the program to schools, universities and colleges, and senior facilities throughout Ontario.


Megan Kotze
416.203.2155 x293
Charitable Number: 895921880RR0001

Finance & Governance


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