Submission Guidelines


Feature-length documentaries, two-part documentaries, and short-form documentaries are eligible for nomination if first released commercially between January 1 to December 31, 2021. Any titles released in late 2020 that missed last year’s submission window may request to be considered. Documentaries may be delivered to audiences theatrically and/or by broadcast, cable, or online apps and services.

Note: nonfiction and documentary series of three episodes or more, whether limited or ongoing, are eligible for the Critics Choice Real TV Awards in the Spring.  

Critics Choice Documentary Awards categories are:

  • Best Documentary – Feature-length or two-part nonfiction films with contained narratives and/or reporting.
  • Best Director – Directing of nonfiction features or two-part documentaries. 
  • Best First Documentary – Nonfiction films in which the director or directors makes their feature-length debut. 
  • Best Sports Documentary – Nonfiction features or two-part documentaries about sporting events, athletes, and/or sportscasters.
  • Best Political Documentary – Nonfiction features or two-part documentaries focused on political subjects, including political issues and persons involved in politics.  
  • Best Music Documentary – Nonfiction features or two-part documentaries involving music performers, musical performance, or the music industry. 
  • Best Archival Documentary – Nonfiction features or two-part documentaries in which a majority of the visual material is from previously shot footage produced for other use.
  • Best Science/Nature Documentary – Nonfiction features or two-part documentaries focused on science-related subjects, including technology, wildlife, nature, environmental issues, and histories of scientific innovation.
  • Best Historical/Biographical Documentary – Nonfiction features or two-part documentaries chronicling the history or life story of their subject. 
  • Best Cinematography – Cinematography in a nonfiction feature or two-part documentary.
  • Best Editing – Editing of a nonfiction feature or two-part documentary.
  • Best Music Score – Original music scores composed for a nonfiction feature or two-part documentaries. 
  • Best Narration – Writing and performance of voiceover narration for a nonfiction feature or two-part documentary. 
  • Best Short Documentary – Nonfiction films with a running time shorter than 40 minutes. 
  • Most Compelling Living Subject in a Documentary – Recognizing human persons in a nonfiction feature or two-part documentary. No submission required. Selection will be made by the CCA membership.

Category Submission Instructions:

One fee required for each documentary submitted. Simply enter all the pertinent information for the documentary, pay the one submission fee for that title, and our nominating committee leaders will recommend consideration in all the appropriate and eligible categories. Submitting companies may request an up-to-date CCA Documentary Branch membership contact list in order to send FYC information directly to members. Contact David Freedman at [email protected]

Submission Materials:

Entrants will submit the following materials:

  • Basic information about the Submitter and the Entry (including submitter contact info, entry title, production company, network, premiere date, etc.).
  • A logline of up to 50 words that describes the submission. 
  • Not required but suggested: An essay of up to 300 words regarding the submission, as a guide for judges. The essay may be used to call attention to factors which make the entry worthy of recognition.  It can address such points as the creative and production goals of the entry, techniques used to achieve these goals, any challenges that were met, and the impact of the work.  The essay will be seen by judges alongside the video.
  • A representative photo.  For all entries, a promotional film still, with no text or logos.
  • A video of the entire documentary
    • Video content must be in the same form as originally released, without enhancements.
    • All submitted video content must have premiered during the eligibility period, January 1, 2021 to December 31, 2021.  

      Video requirements:

      Video: 1920×1080 progressive
      Codec: H.264
      Bit Rate: 6-8 MB
      Audio: AAC, stereo, 192-320kbps, 44-48 kHz
      MP4 format is preferred
      No timecodes
      No bars & tones
      No commercials, a few seconds of black is optional
      Slate is optional but preferred
      The file should be under 4GB
      File name must include: Film title, name of entrant if applicable, and category.

Entry Fee:

For all categories

Entry Fee
By Friday, September 3
(early discount)
By Friday, September 24
(submission deadline)