Authentic Storytelling Toolbox
As an organization that celebrates the art of storytelling, Telefilm invests in ambitious and impactful feature films of the highest quality that advance cinematic expression and resonate with audiences.
Authentic Storytelling is key to depicting life experiences on screen in a sincere and honest way. Telefilm encourages industry members to adopt best practices in Authentic Storytelling to support underrepresented groups, challenge stereotypes and eliminate prejudices.
Depictions, in both real and fictional stories, should feel true and respectful, showing the nuances and realities of those who embody these identities daily. While the practice of authentic representation applies to everyone, it is particularly important for underrepresented individuals and groups. Their stories may be told or shaped through a lens that can result in stereotyping, false narratives, erasure, and dehumanization.
How do I start?
Authentic Storytelling is a long-standing and evolving practice in the cultural sector. There are organizations and research dedicated to supporting screen-based content creators in learning best practices for rich and authentic content.
Below is a list of resources to further support Authentic Storytelling practices. These organizations are not affiliated with Telefilm Canada.
When working with Indigenous peoples, stories and communities, filmmaking teams are encouraged to consult the Indigenous Screen Office’s page, On-Screen Protocols & Pathways: A Media Production Guide for Guidance on Working with First Nations, Métis, and Inuit communities.
Canadian and International Resources
- Being Seen (Canada, available in both English and French)
- Media Smarts-Habilo Médias (Canada, available in both English and French)
- Centre for Scholars and Storytellers – Storytelling Resources and Tip Sheets (United States, English only)
- Storyline Partners Readers and Resources (United States, English only)
- Think Tank For Inclusion & Equity – Factsheets Expanded Glossary and Terms (United States, English only)
- Observatoire des images – Focus (France, available in French and English)
How does Telefilm consider Authentic Storytelling in its programs?
Telefilm looks at Authentic Storytelling in the greater context of the creative material, and considers the unique worlds, voices and perspectives of the characters depicted. No score is assigned to Authentic Storytelling itself.
Where needed, applicants should demonstrate that they have done appropriate research and had meaningful consultation when depicting the world(s) of underrepresented communities, which is why the Community Engagement Plan is essential to the evaluation of the creative material.
Community Engagement Plan
The Community Engagement Plan is a required document for all of Telefilm’s development and production programs. It is considered in conjunction with all creative materials (script, Director’s Statement, Promotion and Marketing Plan, Summary of Audience Reach, etc.) as outlined in the Essential Information Guide. The Plan is an opportunity for applicants to highlight their approach to working with the communities featured in their project. It also helps to address potential questions that Advisory Committee members may have about the team’s approach to the content and its potential impacts. The scope of the Community Engagement Plan varies based on the content of the film, the knowledge and experiences of the team, and the territories and communities being represented on screen, as well as the territories and communities where the film is shooting.