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Advanced Film Productions: Documentary

Media Arts (Film)

Non-Fiction Advanced Film Production Pitch Packet

Non-Fiction Advanced Film Productions (AFP) are peer-mentoring environments provided by the Media Arts Department and initiated by Media Arts majors. While the student initiating a Non-Fiction AFP assumes the primary responsibility for interacting with the Department, the process is collaborative. These advanced projects are generally culminating experiences at the end of a student’s undergraduate work (similar to a senior project). Each Non-Fiction AFP comes with associated coursework, class credit, and departmental supervision.Non-Fiction AFP also receive a large amount of departmental support, through equipment access and funding.


The applicant pitching the project must be in good academic standing, on track toward graduation, and must have a strong record of collaboration and citizenship.

Additionally, applicants pitching a Non-Fiction AFP must have completed the following prerequisite classes: TMA 105, 114, 185, 187, 273, 394

DPs (and 2nd Camera operators if needed) must have taken or be concurrently taking TMA 394 to participate in the project.

Editors must have taken or be concurrently taking TMA 273 to participate in the project.

It is preferable that Production Sound students have taken, or be concurrently taking, TMA 273, however, it is not required as long as they have taken TMA 185.

Project Size and Scope:

Non-Fiction AFPs must conform to a total runtime of at least 8:00 but no longer than 26:46.

Non-Fiction Advanced Film Production Process:

Step 1: Getting Started
Step 2: Pitch Your Project
Step 3: Development
Step 4: Faculty Review Pitch
Step 5: Production
Step 6: Post-Production
Step 7: Distribution Policies

All Non-Fiction AFPs start with a documentary concept, and with a project applicant. Generally, the applicant must be a Director or Producer. The initiation of the project by the project applicant also designates this individual as the liaison between the project and the department. This capacity is slightly different than his or her actual crew role on set, and the task of Project Liaison is in addition to the student’s specified crew responsibility. The Project Liaison is responsible for making certain that the peer mentoring environment is maintained and that the project complies with the departmental conditions placed on the Non-Fiction AFP process—from start to finish. The Project Liaison should find and commit additional crew members as early as possible in the planning stages.

Here’s a few things to keep in mind as you plan your documentary concept:

  • Scope of project must be filmable in one term (either Fall or Winter 2nd term). This may eliminate extensive travel or overly complicated content.
  • Majority of story must be filmable within driving distance of campus
  • Project should be one where you can feasibly get access to the people/organizations you need
  • Total runtime may not exceed 26:46
  • Content needs to stay within the guidelines set forth by the TMA Viewing & Creation Policy
  • Your subject must have given permission to be featured in the film.
  • You must have already talked to and received verbal commitments from your proposed crew members

This first approval step is called the Development Pitch, which occurs on the last Thursday of Winter semester for the Fall project rotation, and the last Thursday of Fall semester for the Winter rotation (you will be scheduled between 3 and 5pm). For this pitch, you need to prepare a proposal no longer than 4 pages which includes the following:

  1. Project synopsis & background, including confirmation that subjects have agreed to be in the film
  2. Discussion on project theme, format, structure, style, and point of view (a quarter-to half page long on each of them)
  3. Intended audience and distribution
  4. Proposed crew members
  5. Source material. Bibliography.
  6. List of reference works (from cinema, television, web, etc) with brief description (1-2 sentences each) on how your project is similar or different from each

Applicants are welcome to ask individual faculty members to review their proposal before the pitch. This must be done in the month before.

To prepare for the pitch:

  1. Finalize a proposal.
  2. By the last weekday of March or November, email a copy of your proposal, along with the filled out cover sheet (Download Here) to the Media Arts Program Coordinator at, who will distribute it to faculty.
  3. All proposals will be evaluated by Media Arts faculty. Following this evaluation, students will be notified by email and informed regarding the status of their proposals. If the department passes on a proposal, it is not approved to move forward. If the proposal is approved, the individual initiating the project will be invited to attend the Development Pitch.
  4. At the pitch date, the Project Liaison will have a scheduled presentation with the faculty.  The presentation may be scheduled between 5-15 minutes depending on the number of projects pitching that semester. Your verbal pitch should include:
    • Synopsis of the idea/story 
    • Why you think your project should be considered
    • How it might be executed
    • Reasons the project is appropriate for BYU & TMA (see the 4 Aims of a BYU Education and the TMA Mission Statement)
  5. Be prepared to answer questions regarding project scope, distribution, as well as your graduation plan.

Following the Development pitch, faculty will select no more than one non-fiction proposal to continue into project development. Applicants will be notified within a week of the pitch.

Non-Fiction Advanced Film Production Pitch Cover Sheet


If the project is not approved, the applicant may continue to rework the proposal or another proposal and apply again at the next semester’s Development Pitch.

If approved, the project will continue to the Project Development phase. This phase includes further development and pre-production. The process entails:

  1. Applicant should revise the proposal, particularly based on comments from faculty during Development Pitch.
  2. Finish assembling any new key crew members that will enroll for credit.
  3. Project liaisons should register for the TMA 474 class, and all other key crew members should register for the class corresponding to their roles (see grid under step 3).
  4. At the beginning of the 1st Term, the Producer is required to attend a financial meeting with the TMA Business Manager and the Media Arts Administrator. At this meeting the project will be given a BYU financial account and initial funding of $2000 for development and eventually production.
  5. The project prepares for the second pitch, or the Faculty Review Pitch.
  6. The team should begin applications for CFAC Film and Digital Media Funds (FDMF).

Begin Forming Your Team.


Key Crew Members should be advanced students with some production experience, as well as vetted academic eligibility. You may also wish to invite lesser-experienced students in the program to join your team, either in supporting roles of Key Crew if they have taken the pre-requisites.


If you are pitching during fall semester, you must have all key crew members committed and listed on your Cover Page, and indicate which have taken TMA 185, TMA 273 and/or TMA 394. If you are pitching winter semester, you only need to have Director and Producer committed, and on the cover page you will list potential key crew members. You should still talk to them and get commitments if possible, but given the amount of time between the winter pitch and the beginning of the project’s 1st term the next fall, we recognize there may be more variables until fall semester gets closer. All key crew positions must still be cleared by your faculty advisor before fall semester starts.

Key Crew Members include: Director, Producer, DP, Production Sound, Editor

Additionally, your project may have need for an Assistant Editor,  Research Specialist, Motion Graphics Specialist, etc.

Applicant and Key Crew Members must be in good academic standing.

“Good Academic Standing” means:

  • Students must be regularly attending class, maintaining at least a 3.0 GPA overall and a “C” grade in each of their TMA classes (this includes during production).
  • Students will be required to register for an amount of class credit corresponding to the amount of commitment and time required to fulfill each role. See grid below.
  • Involvement in this project must move Key Crew Members toward graduation. If the applicant or Key Crew Members are deemed to be unnecessarily delaying graduation, they will not be approved to serve on the project. Additionally, all access to University resources is terminated upon graduation, and each student must complete their role in conjunction with the project before graduation.

If any faculty member knows of any other reason for specific students not to be involved on a Non-Fiction AFP project, they may need to remove them from the project.


All key crew members that work on a Non-Fiction AFP must register for class credit.  Please see the meeting times for TMA 274, 374, and 474 on the BYU Course Catalogue, and confirm that all your crew are available to meet during those times as they are not changeable. See grid below for guidelines. This serves to reward them academically for their efforts, as well as make their crew responsibilities more accountable through a grading process. Note that while it is discouraged, DP, Editor, and Sound Designer may apply for permission to enroll for credit for multiple advanced productions (fiction and non-ficton) in the same term. You must receive permission to do this from both your team and the faculty advisor. Directors and Producers of Non-Fiction AFPs may not work on a second advanced production simultaneously.

*Do not register for 2nd term credit until after project approval at the Faculty Review Pitch. This means that those needing to fill credit hours for scholarships, etc must find other ways to do so.

*Note on Production Sound and Post-Production Sound Mixer: if you cannot find someone who can do both, the Post-Production Sound Mixer can be a separate person from Production Sound Designer if needs be, though it’s not ideal.

Keep in mind that 1 credit is equal to 50-60 hours of work.

At the beginning of the second term, the project pitches to invited faculty, in the Faculty Review Pitch. The purpose of this pitch is to provide an overview to faculty on the schedule, scope, and status of the project, as well as to listen carefully to their feedback and suggestions.


The 474 instructor will help prepare students for this pitch. These preparations include:

1. The project should be making substantial preparations to film, including all research, contacts, approvals, and test shoots. Details will be outlined on your syllabus.

2. Filling out the Faculty Review Pitch Cover Sheet (Download here). Attach the cover sheet to the front of your pitch packet.

3. Preparing a pitch packet. In order to help prepare you for formal pitching and fundraising post graduation, we have based ours on guidelines from public television documentary programming (ITVS’ “Open Call” grant specifically). Adapted for our needs, please prepare the following, with as much detail as possible.

PART I (3 pages max)

  • A synopsis of the project
  • A treatment specifying how you will translate your story from page to screen
  • A discussion of theme, format, structure, style, and point of view
  • The anticipated audience for the project. Are there specific communities (for example, defined by geography, ethnicity, class, or generation) who are the target audience for this project?  What is your relationship and access to this community?
  • Reasons the project is appropriate for BYU & TMA (see the 4 Aims of a BYU Education and the TMA Mission Statement)
  • Describe the current status of the project in this development phase.  Has anything changed since the Development Pitch?


  • A comprehensive line item documentary budget (you will be given a template to work with).  This will have much more detail than the one you turned in with your Development Pitch.
  • Production schedule (with any known specific events listed – interviews, verite scenes, etc).
  • Post-production schedule
  • All key crew members’ resumes and deal memos.
  • Any pre-production releases (as needed)

PART III (4-6 pages)

  • Updated references section from Development pitch
  • Comprehensive sections, one from your Cinematographer (1-2 pages), one from your Editor (1-2 pages).  Building upon the “references” section from your Development Pitch where you listed all your research of media with thematic similarities to your project, choose up to 2 or 3 pieces that show visual and stylistic inspirations.  Cinematographer section must include screengrabs from each reference work to complement written descriptions (for Editor it is optional).
  • List specific festivals, student competitions, and any other venues you plan on submitting the finished project (along with their application deadlines and fees).  For some of them it may be helpful to briefly describe why it’s a good fit. As you do this, please review our distribution and film festival policies in Step 7.


The Faculty Review Pitch typically takes place on the first Thursday of the 2nd term of each Non-Fiction AFPs sequence (around the end of February for Winter semester and middle of October for Fall semester.) One week prior to your pitch at the end of the first term, email a copy of your proposal, along with the filled out Faculty Review Cover Sheet to the Media Arts Program Coordinator at, who will distribute it to faculty. For each Non-Fiction AFPs project, the Director, Producer, DP, Editor, and Sound Designer should plan on being part of the pitch.

The Faculty Review Pitch is a 15-minute pitch. You have 10 minutes to pitch your project (time usually split between a Director and Producer), and then another 5 for a question and answer session with the faculty.


Members of the project will continue onto the 2nd term, which includes finishing Pre-Production preparations and moving into Production. Specifically, students will:

  1. Set up a meeting with the Media Arts Production Coordinator in the TMA office as soon as possible. They are the liaison to help set up the transfer of money to your account, schedule shooting days, connect you to Access, MotorPool, etc.
  2. Have all crew members sign up for 2nd term credit immediately, before the 2nd Term Add/Drop deadline.
  3. Continue holding Production Meetings and moving into production.

Non-Fiction Advanced Film Production Funding

Non-Fiction AFP Projects will be funded in the following ways:

  1. Development Funds ($2000). This funding comes from TMA endowment monies, and is transferred into a BYU project account in the TMA Business office after the project has been accepted into the project’s class and project financial policies have been reviewed with the MA Admin and TMA Business Manager
  2. Film and Digital Media Funds (FDMF, up to $3000). This funding comes from TMA endowment monies and requires a separate application.

Please note the following guidelines regarding project funding issues:

  • To eliminate complications with university funding policy, Non-Fiction AFPs will no longer be required to fundraise off-campus.  Raising funds will be directed to on-campus grant sources, for example, FDMF.  All funds coming from any off-campus source must be directed to LDS Philanthropies for review and processing
  • Students are not authorized to use BYU’s name for promotional, representational, and fundraising of any kind
  • Any off-campus project financial accounts are prohibited
  • All financial actions and activities must move through the TMA Business office to ensure proper accounting oversight. University cards will be provided.

Keep in mind that the maximum budget for Non-Fiction AFPs is $5000.

Non-Fiction AFPS Accounts

Each Non-Fiction AFP will have its own financial account managed in the TMA Business Office, located in 128 WCO. The Producer or UPM of the project is required to meet with the MA Admin and TMA Business Manager to review BYU’s financial policies before the project account is created and any department funds are transferred.

Through your project account, you will have access to:

  1. A purchasing card for your project. This is a credit card maintained by the school, but made available to be checked out for a few hours or few days at a time, to be used by a Non-Fiction AFP project. It is imperative that all receipts be turned in for any purchases made on this card. All receipts need to be original, itemized, and turned in within 1-2 days of purchase. If students do not submit a receipt, they are responsible to reimburse the school for their purchase with their individual funds. It is the producer’s responsibility to ensure that this policy is being followed perfectly.
  2. Reimbursements. In VERY RARE occasions (and only with instructor approval) students may make purchases on their own cards and be reimbursed by the business office. Please note that these reimbursements may take several weeks, and students need to know that they cannot be reimbursed immediately. Once again, it’s crucial that students provide all original receipts. Bank account or credit card statements do not suffice. Students will not be reimbursed for anything they don’t have a receipt for. We do not recommend students using their own funds for project purchases.
  3. BYU purchases through the account number. Purchases made through other BYU departments (such as MotorPool truck rentals, BYU Catering, MPS) will need to go through your project’s account number. Contact the business office for your project’s account code.
  4. Special hiring procedures for Actors and Independent contractors. You will be required to work with the Business Manager when hiring any actors and independent contractors.

Note: Non-Fiction AFP accounts will remain open and accessible for one year after the project’s initial completion date. (for example, projects starting in the Fall semester are projected to be completed on the last day of the Winter semester, Winter’s projects are projected to be completed by the last day of Summer term). After 12 months have passed, the TMA department will review and close the account. Any funds left in the account will be returned to the TMA projects account for use on future student projects. If the project feels they need to keep the account open past this deadline, they must notify and receive approval from the TMA department.


We recommend that your project shoot on no more than 10-12 full shooting days, and aim for a final shooting to edit ratio of no more than 20:1.

We strongly discourage crew members to skip classes for a shoot. However, we recognize that occasionally documentary events happen at times outside of your control. If this circumstance occurs, and you must miss class for your project, ask your TMA 474 advisor to help you obtain an excused absence form for your professors to sign.

Generally, please try to avoid shoot days interfering with holidays, reading days, finals, Sundays, or General Conference.

Additionally, shooting hours should be scheduled to ensure that BYU vehicles (including the truck/grip trailer, if used) are not driven between 12am-6am, and not at all on Sundays.


Every crew member who will be handling departmental equipment needs to be sufficiently trained on all equipment they use. For help in determining eligibility and proper training, feel free to contact Access managers. Every Non-Fiction AFP needs to go through the Access procedures to finalize equipment accessibility.

  1. Two weeks before filming, the Producer and their department heads in charge of equipment on the project should attend Access meeting. (this can be arranged through the Access manager.)
  2. Set up the project reservation through Connect2 with MAL area heads. If any equipment is damaged or lost, please report it immediately as per MAL Handbook rules. The school may ask whoever is responsible for the damage to contribute to help repair the item, or purchase a new one.


With your Non-Fiction AFP, it’s crucial to make sure you have all appropriate releases signed. You should plan on getting specific releases for:

  • Locations (to be signed by locations owner)
  • Personal Releases (to be signed by anyone interviewed or even featured on camera)

With locations, it’s important to be careful of distinguishing what you might need to get city/county approval for, and what is personally owned.

When shooting in large public places, it may suffice to place large notices declaring that you are filming in the area and they give consent when walking through.

You’ll also need deal memos and/or releases from a composer, or anyone whose images, sounds, or other creative property you use.

Risk Management

Every project involves risk in some way. Whether it is shooting at a location, traveling long distances, or working with dangerous props or equipment. It is imperative that each project mitigate the possible risks that could occur during the filming of their project. It is strongly encouraged that each project meet with BYU Risk Management to review the possible risks and solutions.

Risk management does require certain forms or training on specific risk related items, these are:

    • Injury, Incident, and Claim Reporting: Any time there is an injury or accident (including BYU vehicles/trailers) on a BYU project, a report must be filed with Risk Management. You can find the report forms here: You should also report any injury or accident to your faculty advisor immediately
    • Student Health Insurance Statement: All crew members must sign this agreement stating that they have personal health insurance, and that their personal insurance will be primary in case of accident or injury. You can download this form here: General Student Health Statement. The Producer should keep this form with the crew deal memos
    • Field Trip Insurance: If your crew is traveling some distance for a film shoot, you are required to fill out Field Trip Insurance for the project. You can do this at (Insurance Tab -> Field Trip Insurance)
    • Use of Personal Vehicle for BYU Travel: If you are traveling more than 150 miles for a film project and choose to use your own vehicle, you must fill out one of the following forms: Use of Personal Vehicles Waiver or Riding in Personal Vehicles Waiver. The Producer should keep this form with the crew deal memos.
    • Liability Insurance Certificate: If an non-BYU entity requires an insurance certificate, you may request one from BYU Risk Management at (Insurance Tab -> Student Film Shoot)
    • Van and/or Dual Axel Truck/Trailer Training: If you are planning on using a 15 Passenger Van from BYU Motor Pool, or using the Grip Trailer from the MAL, you will need to have your Transpo crew trained by risk management. You may sign up for these trainings at (located in the catalog) or call Risk Management at 801-422-4468
    • Drone Photography: You must have a licensed and BYU approved drone operator to do any drone photography for a BYU project. For a list of approved operators and more information, contact Risk Management at 801-422-4468

After production, some of your crew will be done with the Non-Fiction AFP project. You need to make sure you keep their paperwork, including Crew Deal Memos. You also need to make sure they have completed all paperwork with the department, including their evaluations and paper for their 387, 372R, or 215R class.

The project has 1 term to complete its post-production processes, including picture lock, ADR, foley, color correction, music composition, final sound mix, final exports, and final deliverables due.


The TMA Department offers certain facilities to qualified eligible students for Post-Production. access to some of these areas will need to be approved/scheduled in the MAL Access Meeting:

  • Open Lab: contains basic post-production and editing software (open to all)
  • The Pocket: contains a sound booth, and can be scheduled to record ADR, Voice Over, or Foley
  • The Bunker: includes high-end editing, color-correcting, and other software needed for post-production and distribution


  • Faculty member that leads the course will be credited as “Executive Producer,” “Faculty Instructor,” or both (faculty member will decide).
  • Credit Kyle Stapley as “Media Arts Program Administrator”
  • Credit Brian Olson as “Business Manager” or “Finance Manager.”
  • For all the various support MAL provides credit them thusly: Production Support: BYU Media Arts Lab
  • Ira and Mary Lou Fulton should have their own “Special Thanks To” or “Very Special Thanks to” credit, not shared with others.
  • The end credits should finish with this BYU TMA logo (in black or white, depending on your background) along with the words “©20__ Brigham Young University, all rights reserved”.  Do not use any other logo and do not use it at beginning (ie: “BYU Theatre & Media Arts Department presents”).

(Final closing credits must to be approved by your faculty advisor.)

Prior to finishing the film on DVD/BluRay and before using the University’s name with relationship to your film, please review your distribution plans with the TMA Department. This may require additional meetings with BYU Creative Works, and others. Talk to the Media Arts Production Coordinator to set this up.


Ultimately, the project needs to submit all deliverables to the Media Arts Production Coordinator, at the end of each corresponding production phase. All materials need to be turned in the last day of finals of the Post-Production Term.

  • A copy of your faculty review pitch materials
  • Final budget (with all purchases and balances)
  • Copies of signed Release Forms, Crew Deal Memos, and Locations Agreements
  • All other licenses and clearances (for music, must include royalty-free, unlimited use in synchronization with the Project in perpetuity)
  • Final crew list
  • HD Master Quicktime file (to be on the XSAN, then put on an LTO tape)
  • 3 Blu-rays of final cut of film
  • Any behind-the-scenes videos or high resolution still photographs (for promotional purposes, TMA Website, etc.)


After the completion of the project, the department will help schedule a Cast & Crew Screening for your film in the term following Post-Production as well as a TMA Forum Screening which will feature a discussion with critical studies faculty as well as your advisor. Neither of these events are considered a Premiere, so they will not conflict with film festival submissions that require a premiere at their festival.


We invite Non-Fiction AFPs to submit to our own BYU annual film festival, Final Cut. This festival is held in the fall, with submission deadlines usually in October.

BYU Student Film Website

After your film has its festival run, the department would like to place your film on the webpage. You may post your film online and share a link with the department to embed into the site, or, the department can host the film. Please notify the MA Coordinator when your film is ready to be posted.

Non-Fiction Advanced Film Production Promotion/Festival Policy

Instated Fall 2015

Showing a film is as important as its creation, and students should be encouraged to think about and plan for finding ways for varied audiences to see their work. TMA supports local screenings through Final Cut and other on-campus opportunities; however, students should be participating in the broader festival venues. TMA is not in the position to support every project’s wish to attend every potential festival, thus we believe that the following policy provides is measured and equitable.

TMA Film Festival Funding Principles/Policy

  1. Note that Non-Fiction AFPs business accounts stay open for one year after completion of film to allow for submission to festival, creation of deliverables, etc.
  2. Submitting and attending a festival is highly recommended as long as it is weighted against the student’s educational experience. Experience in promotion and festival attendance is valuable to student learning; it should be student initiated and driven and be closely connected to project planning.
  3. Promotional plans should be put in place during the project development and budgeting phase. Students are responsible for developing a promotional plan and identifying festivals (i.e. a rationale regarding best festivals, costs, etc. should be put in place; this festival is more viable and valuable than that one, etc.). This is the student’s responsibility and connected to his/her educational experience. Faculty mentors should be consulted and counseled with, but it is not the responsibility of the TMA department to provide a plan or function as the student’s agent.
  4. Department support for festival or promotional funding should be accounted for in the project’s final proposed budget.
  5. If a project is accepted into a festival, students should use any remaining funds from their project budget. Next they may request travel funds from the department by submitting a student grant proposal . Their proposal will be vetted by the Executive Committee. They may be asked to submit a grant proposal to the Non-Fiction area as well. The festival size, prominence, and distance will be weighed against the students learning experience.


Projects using a department P-card to submit their projects to film festivals must do it in the TMA office or TMA Business office and turn the receipt in immediately after submission No department P-Cards should be saved and used on a student’s personal Film Festival Submission accounts (filmfreeway, withoutabox, etc.) outside of the TMA or Business offices. When a student uses a P-Card to submit, they should delete the card from their account immediately after submission. If a student would like to submit via the department’s Film Festival accounts, they may do so by talking with the Media Arts Administrator. If the person submitting cannot come to campus, they must use a personal card and submit for a reimbursement from their project account. Reimbursement receipts must be turned in within 30 days of purchase or the receipt will not be reimbursed.

Distribution and Promotion of Non-Fiction Apps

In some cases, students may want to distribute/monetize their student film through online streaming, television, DVD sales, Screenings, etc. Prior to initiating any negotiations, students must contact the BYU Creative Works office and work any distribution agreement with them. See STUDENT OWNERSHIP OF INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY policy below.

Student Ownership of Intellectual Policy

Students (a “student” is a person enrolled in BYU courses for credit) who independently develop intellectual property arising out of their participation in programs of study at the university will retain the ownership rights to such property when the intellectual property does not result from their employment at BYU and/or where there is no written agreement to the contrary. Students employed by the university will be treated in the same manner as similarly situated university personnel. However, any student not employed by the university, but either (i) engaging in research or development of intellectual property under the supervision and direction of a faculty member in connection with a program or activity subject to this policy or (ii) using substantial university resources in connection with a research program or activity agrees to grant and hereby does grant to the university, as a condition of being allowed to participate in the project and/or use university resources, a non-exclusive, perpetual, royalty-free, paid-up, irrevocable license to exploit, use, and sublicense the resulting intellectual property. Faculty using students, whether volunteer, non-employed, or employed, in their scholarly work projects should have the students sign a “Student Assignment of Ownership and Nondisclosure Agreement” form, available from Intellectual Property Services.

If in the event that either the Student or the Department would like to distribute a student’s project with the purpose of gaining revenue, the two parties will meet to discuss how revenue is distributed or shared.