SBS wants your documentary series ideas, with $50k funding up for grabs

$50k in funding is on the cards for documentary makers looking to tackle social inequality in a new series.

The search is on for a new documentary series ‘unlike anything seen on Australian screens before,’ SBS announced yesterday at the Australian International Documentary Conference (AIDC).

With up to $50,000 in development funding on offer, the national broadcaster is looking for ‘daring’ and ‘unflinching’ factual pitches that could be developed into longer TV and streaming series.

The focus of the funding will be on documentary series that explore inequality and social cohesion, and ‘tackle the fault lines of Australian society today’. How that topic is approached is up to individual interpretation, but SBS made it clear at yesterday’s conference that they are looking to ‘take risks’.

‘You hear a lot about taking risks in our industry, but what does that really mean?’ said Joseph Maxwell, Head of SBS Unscripted. ‘At SBS, we want to genuinely break new ground in ways we haven’t seen before. 

‘This first-of-its-kind initiative in Australia is an opportunity for creatives across the country to reach for new levels of courageousness in their craft and redefine what cutting-edge means, while creating what could be a new, channel-defining factual format for SBS.

‘We want the biggest, boldest, and bravest ideas that get the nation-talking, and to challenge audience expectations. Surprise and even scare us through inventive approaches to help SBS unpack issues we face in society, and create must-see, talk-about TV that can create real impact.’

This funding announcement followed a similar move by the ABC, which has opened up entries to its new Australian Features strand, which focuses on new locally-made documentaries.

Read: ABC iview launches new Australian documentary strand

Entries are now open, with SBS emphasising that entrant ideas should have the SBS charter ‘at their core’, and be able to demonstrate ‘scale, boldness and ambition’ in their approach to documentary series. The format can be anything from three to six (one hour-long) episodes.

Entries to the SBS factual series search will close on 5 May 2024. 

Silvi Vann-Wall is a journalist, podcaster, and filmmaker. They joined ScreenHub as Film Content Lead in 2022. Twitter: @SilviReports