Applying for the Peabody Awards: What You Need to Know

Peabody Trophy

Every year, the Peabody Awards recognize those who excel in radio, television broadcasting, and online media in America. The judges review over a thousand documentary entries and only a select few are awarded the prestigious gold medallion. With such stiff competition, what makes a film stand out? Earlier this week we hosted a webinar featuring Dr. Nate Kohn and Matt Shedd of the George Foster Peabody Awards at the University of Georgia who gave us the inside scoop.


The Peabody Awards honor a diverse range of stories across radio, television, and digital media. To qualify, documentaries must have appeared online or on local or national television. Films with minor theatrical releases (art houses, indie theaters) are eligible but those with large-scale theatricals (Friday night release, available in 3k theaters nationwide) are considered major motion pictures and are disqualified.


When you upload your project for consideration, you’ll be asked to include a short essay. Don’t let this requirement scare you! You won’t be judged on this section, only the project itself. This is your opportunity to tell the judges what the film is about, who was involved in making it, why it’s important, and the impact it’s had. If you have any press reviews or additional content, you can include them in the “Supplementary Material” section. While the film’s reach and impact can be included in the essay or supplementary materials section, it’s what the judges are seeing on screen that matters most.


Although you’ll submit your entry into one of six subcategories, this is just a way for the Peabody Board of Jurors to remain organized. The prizes aren’t awarded by category, nor are there finalists or nominees. When the judges meet face-to-face to determine the winners, they have only one criteria on their minds: excellence. They’re looking for stories that matter and documentaries of substance. Films aren’t compared to one another, they’re judged only against themselves. The jurors must unanimously agree on the films that they choose to recognize.

This is just some of what we covered in our conversation with Dr. Nate Kohn and Matt Shedd, For additional tips on making your submission shine, watch the recording below. ITVS-funded films and Independent Lens broadcasts have won 30 Peabody Awards to date. This webinar is the first of several awards-related webinars presented for free to all filmmakers. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter for more info!


San Francisco Film Society’s New Doc Stories Series

We’re absolutely thrilled that our friends at the San Francisco Film Society (SFFS) have added a new documentary series to their autumn programming. An essential element of the organization’s year-round celebration of contemporary world cinema, the Fall Season spotlights international film cultures and now features Doc Stories, a brand-new showcase exhibiting some of the year’s best nonfiction films.


With numerous filmmakers in attendance, Doc Stories (November 5-8 at the Vogue Theatre) will give audiences opportunities to see the movies that will likely define this year’s awards season while engaging in in-depth conversations about critical contemporary issues with some of the most talented documentary storytellers. From intensely personal essays to hard-hitting topical investigations into urgent global issues to examinations of some of culture’s most fascinating figures, there is something for everyone with an interest in the world around them in this inaugural festival.


With films like What Happened, Miss Simone? and Cartel Land — movies already available streaming — the key difference brought to Film Society viewership will be the illuminating and thought-provoking onstage discussions with filmmakers and other special guests in attendance for each screening. SFFS will host directors for nearly every film in the program, putting them in dialogue with key cultural critics.

We’re so excited for this new series to get started. Don’t miss your chance to see the ITVS funded film  Thank You for Playing  on November 8th, and more at:

ITVS Announces Diversity Development Funded Films

ITVS is pleased to announce 10 projects have been selected for development funding out of 158 submissions through the ITVS Diversity Development Fund. The Diversity Development Fund (DDF) provides up to $15,000 in research and development funding to producers of color to develop single documentary programs for public television. The next round of DDF funding opens October 9th with an application deadline of November 6th. For rules and how to apply click here.

From the strange world of Chinese online showrooms to an exploration of African-American masquerading practices in New Orleans, these films speak to the ITVS mission of tackling complex issues and reflecting the concerns of the diverse society that we live in.

We are proud to welcome the following filmmakers to the ITVS family:

Millennium Island, by Lulu DeBoer, follows a young I-Kiribati woman returning home to her ancestral islands in the south Pacific, only to find that global warming has threatened the existence of her people.

Hail to the Queens, by Brian Nelson, showcases the New Orleans connection to the African diaspora through African-American masquerading practices.

Listen to My Heart Beat, by Nyjia July, explores the cultural currency of Washington, D.C.’s regional music called Go-Go, a blend of funk, rhythm and blues, and early hip-hop, and the politics of poverty and violence that influenced its sound.

My Tiger Mom, by Debbie Lum, follows Asian American mothers and their daughters as they relentlessly pursue their greatest aspiration: getting into an elite American university.

Bound by Blood: Reconciliation and Reparations, by Llewellyn Smith, recounts the brutal massacre of black sharecroppers by white citizens of Elaine, Arkansas in 1919 and shows reverberations lingering through lives of descendant families, white and black, today.

A Woman’s Work, by Yu Gu, chronicles the fight of NFL cheerleaders to receive fair wages.

Triad of Us, by Angela Chen, follows the filmmaker’s journey to piece together her estranged family ultimately shattered by an assassination of an alleged triple spy.

Wisdom Gone Wild, by Rea Tajiri, at 93, Rose Tajiri has dementia. Guided by her mother’s “crazy wisdom”, Rea and her mother Rose journey together to find meaning at the end of life.

Por La Situación, by Nina Alvarez, shows Salvadorans fleeing military and death squad persecution during El Salvador’s civil war as they fight the U.S. government for recognition of their rights as political refugees.

People’s Republic of Desires, by Hao Wu, journeys into a uniquely Chinese internet phenomenon—an exploding virtual entertainment world where performers earn as much as $50,000 a night singing karaoke or doing talk shows for tens of thousands of people.

Help Bring ITVS to SXSW!

Public voting for SXSW 2016 is officially underway. Check out ITVS’s three panel proposals and vote for your favorites – hurry, voting closes September 4th!

ITVS is proud to be part of three proposed panel discussions for next year’s SXSW festival in Austin. Highlighting topics ranging from navigating digital distribution to bringing films from festival to broadcast, ITVS is eager to share the insight of industry experts and veteran filmmakers. We may be biased but we think all three of our panels are worthy of inclusion, so check out the panels below and head over to the Panel Picker to give us a thumb’s up!


Filmmakers and journalists each play a vital role in informing the American public. While journalists excel at breaking news, filmmakers illuminate the personal, human stories behind the headlines. In our panel “New Partnerships in Digital Storytelling”, major players in the dynamic media landscape will discuss the challenges and opportunities of this new model of in-depth storytelling, and provide insight on how journalists and filmmakers can work together to strike up critical conversations.

Thanks to the shift towards digital distribution, there’s more opportunity than ever for filmmakers to reach viewers and monetize their films. While video-on-demand has become an invaluable option, it also presents its own share of challenges. At “Demystifying Digital Distribution,” industry experts will tell you what you need to know about launching titles on platforms such as Netflix, iTunes, and Amazon. Attendees with walk away with insight into common deal structures and windowing strategies, what factors distributors consider when negotiating a licensing deal, how much your rights are worth and which ones you should consider retaining or exploiting.

Last but certainly not least, “From Festival to TV: What Filmmakers Need to Know” will provide tips and strategies for filmmakers interested in making the most of their festival runs. Filmmakers Erika Cohn and Tony Vainuku will share their experience bringing “In Football We Trust” to the big screen, what they wish they’d done differently, and how they successfully landed a broadcast distribution deal. Independent Lens Deputy Executive Producer Lois Vossen will also be on hand.

Voting closes on September 4th, so take a moment to explore all the panels on the SXSW PanelPicker site and be sure to cast your vote before the deadline!


ITVS Receives 16 Emmy Nominations


ITVS was excited to learn that we received 15 nominations for the 36th annual News & Doc Emmys, including Best Documentary noms for The Trials of Muhammad Ali, Bully, and American Promise. There were seven Independent Lens films to receive Emmy nominations along with three ITVS-funded POV films. This is in addition to the Independent Lens documentary The Great Invisible receiving a Primetime Emmy Award this week.

All told, PBS nabbed an Emmy-leading 57 nominations in the News and Doc awards alone, including for the series FRONTLINE, American Experience, and Nature, as well as many excellent stand-alone programs.

Here’s the full list of ITVS’s Emmy-nominated films:

American Promise (directors Michèle Stephenson and Joe Brewster)
– Outstanding Coverage of a Current News Story-Long Form
– Best Documentary
– Outstanding Editing: Documentary and Long Form

National Academy  of TV Arts & Sciences Emmy Award statuette logo Fallen City (director Qi Zhao)
– Outstanding Informational Programming-Long-Form

When I Walk (director Jason daSilva)
– Outstanding Informational Programming-Long-Form

Independent Lens:
The Trials of Muhammad Ali (director Bill Siegel)
– Outstanding Historical Programming Long Form
– Best Documentary
– Outstanding Editing: Documentary and Long Form

Bully (director Lee Hirsch)
– Best Documentary
– Outstanding Informational Programming Long Form

The State of Arizona (directors Carlos Sandoval & Catherine Tambini)
– Outstanding Investigative Journalism Long Form

Medora (directors Andrew Cohn & Davy Rothbart)
– Outstanding Business and Economic Reporting Long Form

Muscle Shoals (director Greg “Freddy” Camalier)
– Outstanding Arts and Culture Programming

Happiness (director Thomas Balmès)
– Outstanding Cinematography: Documentary and Long Form

Blood Brother (director Steve Hoover )
– Outstanding Music & Sound

Congratulations to all the filmmakers on this list, as well as to all the excellent programs and directors receiving an Emmy Award. We’re once again in very fine company.

Open Call Webinars: How to Craft Work Samples, Treatments, and Budgets that Get Your Film Funded

In the lead up to the Open Call deadline on August 7th, ITVS is hosting a series of webinars to provide support, insight and tips for upcoming applicants.


Creating Competitive Work Samples 

Learn how to craft strong work samples that will make your project competitive for Open Call. Watch several successfully funded work samples and ask the filmmakers about their editing process.

Moderator: N’Jeri Eaton, Content Development & Initiative Manager

Guest Speakers: Robert Gordon (Director/Producer of Best of Enemies), Kate Trumbull-LaValle & Joanna Sokolowski (Directors/Producers of The Ovarian Psycos)

Read the full chat transcript from Creating Competitive Work Samples


Writing the ITVS Treatment 

We’ll break down the ITVS program description requirements and see excerpts of recently funded treatments.

Moderator: N’Jeri Eaton, Content Development & Initiative Manager

Guest Speakers: blair dorosh-walther (Director/Producer of Out in the Night), Lacey Schwartz (Director/Producer/Writer of Little White Lie)

Open Call 2015, Round 2: Writing the ITVS Treatment


Basic Budgeting for ITVS 

Hear how to craft a budget for ITVS that will get your film finished on time and pay everyone an equitable salary.

Speaker: David Eisenberg, Senior Production Manager

Open Call 2015, Round 2: Basic Budgeting Presentation


Open Call Live Chat – July 28th at 10am PT/1pm ET

From application troubleshooting to distribution, and everything that falls in-between, the Open Call team will be on hand to answer any last minute questions before the deadline.

Moderator: Alex Cantin, Programming Coordinator

Speakers: N’Jeri Eaton, Content Development & Initiative Manager

David Eisenberg, Senior Production Manager

Update! Archived Open Call chat is now available here from ITVS_VIDEO:


Make sure to connect with us on Twitter and Facebook for important updates on Open Call. For more information about Open Call visit:


Behind the Scenes with the Makers of the Interactive Documentary After the Storm


After the Storm, co-created by Andrew Beck Grace and Helios Design Studios, is an immersive personal essay created for online, tablet, and mobile viewing. Recently launched through a partnership with Independent Lens and The Washington Post, it tells the story of what happens after the storm passes, the media leaves town, and the adrenaline subsides.

ITVS Senior Content Producer Cathy Fischer asked filmmaker Andrew Grace and Creative Technologist Mike Robbins about the process and for some tips for filmmakers working in the emerging area of interactive documentary. 
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ITVS Digital Open Call Now Accepting Submissions


The Independent Television Service (ITVS) is excited to announce a new open funding initiative designed to expand public media’s presence in the digital sphere by funding independent filmmakers to develop and pilot original web series for public media’s digital platforms, including, PBS branded YouTube channels and others. ITVS has long supported the development and production of independently produced interactive media projects and web series. And after several years of thematic-specific requests for proposals, ITVS is proud to be opening a pipeline for producers to propose independently-conceived digital series projects for R&D and potential production.

“The digital space has become the critical place to engage younger viewers and viewers of color. ITVS, as stewards of diversity in public media, wants to do so much more. We want to support makers of digital series who will invite those voices into the public discourse around current social issues with envelope-pushing, innovative, genre-bending stories designed specifically for online and mobile audiences.” – Karim Ahmad, Senior Digital Content Strategist at ITVS 

The deadline to apply is July 1, 2015and the online application is now live at the ITVS website, where prospective applicants can also learn more about eligibility and submission requirements. Applications for web series in any genre are eligible, whether nonfiction or fiction, episodic or anthology in structure, and may incorporate interactive or transmedia elements, such as those found in the final season of the ITVS series FUTURESTATES released last summer. Selected applications will contract with ITVS to receive $10,000 to $50,000 in R&D funding to develop and pilot their web series over the course of a six-month term.

For further questions or inquiries about the ITVS Digital Open Call, please contact Programming & Production Coordinator, Clementine Briand, at

Apply Now

New Multi-Platform Strategy to Showcase Independent Lens on PBS


In collaboration with PBS, Independent Television Service (ITVS) is proud to announce a new strategy to increase the reach and visibility of INDEPENDENT LENS on PBS member stations. The strategy will draw on strategic scheduling, digital content and distribution, social media and marketing to shine an even brighter spotlight on this important mission-focused content.

“We are very happy that the important work of independent filmmakers will continue to have a prominent place in PBS’ broadcast schedule, and that PBS is also bolstering the visibility of these films through this new multiplatform strategy,” said Sally Jo Fifer, President and CEO of ITVS, which produces INDEPENDENT LENS.

The announcement of the multi-platform strategy follows a several-month, multi-city listening tour during which leaders from PBS, ITVS, POV and WNET held town hall-style meetings with members of the independent film community to discuss how best to present ITVS’ INDEPENDENT LENS and POV on PBS and ensure that the series reach the widest possible audience.

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ITVS Announces New Digital Open Call

The ITVS team just wrapped up a great week of sessions, film screenings, and networking with fellow storytellers and filmmakers at the annual SxSW Festival in Austin, Texas. While we were there, in conjunction with a panel that ITVS’s own Karim Ahmad, Senior Digital Content Strategist, participated in called “Who’s Going To Fund Your Web Series,” we made a big announcement about our new digital open call.


This newly launched initiative is designed to help film and media makers develop new indie web series projects with funding support and distribution on public media’s digital platforms. Proposals may include web series of any genre, both nonfiction and fiction, episodic or anthology, and selected applicants will receive $10k – $50k in R&D funding to develop a web series pilot over a six month term. Pilots will then be considered for production funding, with the eventual goal of distribution on digital platforms such as, Independent Lens platforms, PBS-related YouTube channels, or other digital partnerships currently in development.

In addition to announcing this new digital open call, Karim’s panel was a lively discussion with a host of other influencers and thought leaders who have broad experience working in the web series space. Other panelists included Amy Dotson (Deputy Director & Head of Programming at IFP), Jay Bushman (Founder of the Horizon Factory and producer of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries), and Marc Hofstatter (Head of Film for Indiegogo). Each offered their unique insights to a room full of aspiring web series producers on how to get their ideas off the ground. From discussions on how to use multiple channels and platforms to tell a story, to the importance of building communities around projects, to knowing your audience and how to reach them, to why you have to be committed to a project before you look into crowd-funding, each panelist brought a unique perspective as to how to get a project up and running.

More info on our digital open call and how to apply can be found at