The cash comes in handy, the prestige is great and there’s more. When your resume includes an RTDNF scholarship win, a news director or manager takes notice. It proves you have done excellent work, judged by their peers.
I've been judging RTDNF Scholarship entries for twenty years. Let me share a few tips on getting your entry noticed, judged properly, and hopefully, named a winner.
What To Enter: The first tip is to make sure you submit ONLY your best work. Don't enter for the sake of entering.
Respect Time Limits: There are strict time-limits, and there's a reason for that. Judges sit down at their computers with dozens of entries. Adhere to the time limits. If it is ten minutes, don't stretch it to 11 thinking they won't notice. They will.
Longer is not always Better: Some of the best pieces are the ones that come in at the mid-range, leaving the judge wanting more and saying, "How good was that?"
Start Strong: Submit something that will grab them and not let go. Your entry must make them want to watch, want to listen.
Use Lots of Sound: If there is one constant among the winners, whether it is a student submission or a submission for a network award, look for opportunities to use natural sound. It is the difference between a good piece and a great piece.
Use good quality sound and pictures to make us experience your story.
Background: Make sure you submit a short written background piece, answering who did what, why you did this work, how you went about it, and the end results. Tell us what you put into it and the challenges you faced. This helps us to know 'you'.
Technical Guidelines: Finally, make sure your entry meets the technical guidelines, and that it is properly uploaded. Review the file to make sure it's there. Every year, judges are frustrated by pieces that were not submitted properly and won't play. I'll bet there are some good stories that would have won scholarships but didn't get to the judge's eyes and ears.
Music: Music can set a mood, but trying to wrap words around songs for the sake of a documentary can be a turn-off. Unless music truly adds effect or contributes to the message, it is often a distraction.
Gerry Phelan is a former President of RTDNA Canada, has served on the board of the RTDNF since 1997 and is the winner multiple RTDNA awards.