Remembering Sybil Hippolyte

Sybil Hyppolite, longtime ITVS colleague, posing behind a purple pattern

On Friday we received the sad news that our beloved colleague and friend, Sybil Hippolyte, had passed away.

Sybil was an amazing person. Her smile will always be something we remember. She had a courageous and joyous spirit that shined through any time you were in her presence. We are grateful to have experienced the radiance and shining light that was trademark Sybil. We will be eternally grateful for her hard work, commitment, resilience, and fighting spirit, but most of all to have known such an exceptional person.

She was a bright light for all of us. We will miss her so much, and we will keep her — and her family — in our hearts.

A few ITVS colleagues shared remembrances of Sybil (and we’ll add more to this in memoriam page as they come in): Continue reading

ITVS Celebrates 25th Anniversary at IDA Getting Real 2016

ITVS to Host Reception Celebrating 25 Years of Fostering Independent Films that Fuel Social DialogueITVS 25th anniversary postcard

This year ITVS celebrates 25 years of taking creative risks as one of the leading investors and incubators of independent documentaries in the US. As we look to the future, we want to honor the filmmakers and partners who continue to share the bold stories of a diverse, global community. What better occasion than the International Documentary Association’s Getting Real Conference, where doc makers from around the world will gather to share insight, expertise, and inspiration about our field. Join us Wednesday evening, September 28th for our 25th anniversary party. Eat, drink, and play with fire.

IDA’s Getting Real 2016 runs Sept. 27-29th. Find ITVS at three special panel presentations open for filmmakers and industry professionals registered for the conference:

  • Here’s What Really Happened: (T)ERROR — co-director Lyric Cabral and Independent Lens‘ Lois Vossen take us on a privileged journey through the ups and downs and back alleys of the first film to document an active FBI counterterrorism investigation; moderated by filmmaker Robert Greene.
  • Here’s What Really Happened: The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution — filmmaker Stanley Nelson and PBS’s Marie Nelson take us inside the intense decision-making process that made Black Panthers one of the most impactful documentaries of the past year.
  • Here’s What Really Happening: The Force — featuring the producers of The Force, a film about the Oakland Police Department currently in production, including director Peter Nicks (The Waiting Room) and ITVS’s own David Eisenberg; the panel, moderated by ITVS’s Noland Walker, will offer a candid discussion as the filmmaking team reconcile their shifting understandings of community, consequence, and the imperatives of making their film.

“I’m incredibly proud of the work ITVS has done over the past 25 years,” said Sally Jo Fifer, President and CEO of ITVS. “In 1991, Congress charged us to produce creative documentaries that give voice to underserved communities and distribute them to the public for free, and we have fulfilled that charge. Just last week, we won our 28th Emmy in the News and Documentary Category. We will continue to build on our success and produce films that reflect society and inspire thoughtful conversation, well into the next 25 years and beyond.”


Meanwhile, the ITVS 25th Anniversary reception at Le Jardin (1430 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Los Angeles) on Wednesday, September 28, 5-7 pm, will feature opening remarks by ITVS President Sally Jo Fifer, and will be emceed by producer and star of Meet the Patels Ravi Patel. 

ITVS was the first and original supporter of Meet the Patels when we started this journey almost eight years ago,” said Ravi Patel. “They believed in us when nobody else did, and continued to support us in the six years we spent making this thing, and again now during our nationwide release on PBS. I’m sorry they have to put up with me for one more night.”

Oh yes, and there will be fire eating.

We’re celebrating our 25th year with a new look, new logo, and new digs — come check out ITVS HQ in San Francisco next time you’re in town.

Want to be part of the ITVS team? We’re hiring! Go online and find out how to apply:

Open Call Webinars: How to Craft Work Samples, Treatments, and Budgets

In the lead up to the Open Call deadline on August 5th, ITVS is hosting a series of webinars to provide support, insight and tips for upcoming applicants. This post will be updated with taped webinars for reference, but we’d love to answer your questions in real time. Please RSVP at the links below!

2016_FB_OpenCall_1200x628_c (1)

Writing the ITVS Treatment
We break down the ITVS program description requirements and see excerpts of successful treatments.
Speaker: N’Jeri Eaton, Content Development & Initiative Manager
Guest Speakers: Reuben Atlas (Director/Producer of Brothers Hypnotic)


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.
Speaker: N’Jeri Eaton, Content Development & Initiative Manager
Guest Speakers: Sabrina S. Gordon (Producer of Quest: The Fury and the Sound)


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, Associate Director of Production


Open Call Live Chat
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: David Eisenberg, Associate Director of Production

Diversity Development Fund Live Chat
Our DDF team tells you everything you want to know about the DDF funding initiative, from the type of projects funded to appropriate budget expenses…and more!
Moderator: Jennifer Samani, Project Manager
Speakers: Erica Deiparine-Sugars, Managing Director of Programming & Production, and Jannet Nuñez, Programming & Production Project Manager

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

In Remembrance of Filmmaker Roland Legiardi-Laura

Roland Legiardi-Laura

By Cathy Fischer, Digital Supervising Producer

It is with great sadness that we say farewell to independent filmmaker, poet, beloved teacher, activist and storyteller, Roland Legiardi-Laura who died April 20, 2016.

We welcomed Roland into the ITVS family in 2008 with his documentary To Be Heard, which he co-directed and produced with Edwin Martinez, Deborah Shaffer, and Amy Sultan. To Be Heard tells the story of three high school poets from the Bronx who use their words to change their lives and impact the world. A gentle force of nature, Roland changed the lives of many through his storytelling, mentorship, and loving support.

With the assistance of ITVS and BAVC, and as an extension of the film To Be Heard, Roland created Power Poetry, the world’s first mobile poetry community for youth. At poets share their work, comment and collaborate, get action guides, writing tips, and even college scholarships. As the website says: “Power Poetry isn’t just about poetry. It is about using poetry as a tool, a weapon, if you will, for personal change and social engagement.”

In Roland’s own words:

“As a doc filmmaker, I have always produced my films with the intention of making the storytelling not only emotionally and narratively compelling but socially impactful as well….

[In just three short years, Power Poetry] has changed the lives of young writers in our country. They come from all 50 states…. They come from all backgrounds: The vast majority are young people from families of very modest means. They now have a national platform allowing them ‘to be heard’, and we have given voice to youth whose urgent and beautiful cries for personal transformation and societal change echo across the entire country.”  

A mentor and believer, enthusiastic, patient, and wise, Roland made sure that young people led the charge behind the scenes as well. With a small, young but able team, Power Poetry has grown to a community of 250,000 poets who truly believe their words have power.

Roland’s legacy lives on through Power Poetry and the teacher training Power Writers program (including this new free online course “How to Teach Poetry”). He created the To Be Heard Foundation to keep his work going. 

Roland will be deeply missed by many. On his Facebook page, students, colleagues, and friends leave their heartfelt remembrances and tributes. From Power Writers co-founder Joseph Ubiles:

“…A warrior of the word has passed. an intellectual, humanist, classicist, modernist, dreamer and believer in the humanity of us all. A trickster rabbit, a sage. Returned now to starlight. Your place in our circle remains, a sly grin, a haunted chair, a demand for courage and compassion. A warrior recedes into the oceans of stars….”


ITVS Hires Inaugural Director of Development

unnamedITVS has brought in Alberto Villaluna as the organization’s inaugural Director of Development, to lead ITVS’s fundraising strategies in an effort to grow its visibility and diversify its financial resources. Villaluna comes with over 15 years of experience establishing successful relationships with individual donors, foundations, and corporate partners, including creating dynamic models to increase board and volunteer committee engagement within mission-driven organizations. He most recently served as Corporate Relations Consultant with the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA, where he focused on strategies to increase corporate partnerships.

Prior to CHM, Villaluna spent five years as Vice President of the Senior Fellows Network at American Leadership Forum (ALF) – Silicon Valley. During his tenure, Villaluna worked closely with the ALF Board of Directors, the Campaign Cabinet, Network Development and Fellowship committees to increase ALF’s funding. His work with ALF Board and Committee leadership resulted in record increases in tuition revenue, ALF Fellows joining the program, and Senior Fellows engaged with the ALF Network. Leading the ALF fund development campaign, his team raised $4M and his direct efforts led to the largest amount of individual donors giving at the major gift level.  Prior to ALF – SV, Villaluna also held the position of Executive Director of the Page Mill YMCA of Silicon Valley.

Alberto Villaluna is an ALF – SV Senior Fellow (Class XXV). He serves on the nonprofit boards of ALearn, an organization committed to helping underprivileged students get to and succeed in college, and FACES Silicon Valley, an organization dedicated to building an inclusive community, free of bias and bigotry through educational programs.

ITVS Nominated for Two Webby Awards

ITVS nominated for 2 Webby Awards

Two ITVS projects have been recognized by the Webby Awards, the leading international awards for excellence on the Internet, which were called “the Internet’s highest honor” by The New York Times. The nominees, selected by members of the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences, include the newly relaunched website for Independent Lens, the Emmy Award-winning weekly television series on PBS, and After the Storm, an innovative interactive web project. The public may vote for the People’s Voice Award on the Webby site from now until April 21st. (So, needless to say, we encourage every one of our viewers and readers to vote for us as soon as you can!)

The Webby Awards recognize excellence in websites, online film and video, advertising and media, mobile sites and apps, and social. This year’s competition received nearly 13,000 entries from nearly all 50 states and 65 countries worldwide. Winners will be announced April 26 and honored at the 20th annual Webby Awards ceremony on May 16 in New York. Continue reading

Applying for the Primetime Emmy® Awards: What You Need to Know


Over the past few months, ITVS has hosted a series of webinars for filmmakers interested in submitting their projects for major awards. Our latest installment featured the Primetime Emmys presented by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (ATAS). We were joined by Dr. John Leverence, Senior Vice President of Awards, and Daniel H. Birman and Shari Cookson, representatives from the Board of Governors for Documentary Programming, who were kind enough to walk us through the process and answer audience questions. Here are some of the key takeaways from the conversation.  

What’s the difference between the Television Academy and the National Academy?

The Television Academy honors primetime programming. It is comprised of 29 “peer groups” whose work is aired nationally and whose members are eligible to vote for the Emmy Awards. Peer groups are based on areas of expertise, from network executives to hair stylists; from performers to cinematographers.

The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences [NATAS] honors national daytime, news and sports programming. The National Academy is member-based and has affiliated chapters in US cities and regions that award Emmys for local programming.

When it comes to submitting a documentary, it’s helpful to understand that the Primetime Emmy Awards are more specific to docs that don’t come from news departments. For example – 60 Minutes is a CBS News production and is therefore eligible in the NATAS news and docs Emmys, whereas American Masters is not a news department production and is eligible in the Television Academys documentary/nonfiction competition.

What is the Exceptional Merit in Documentary Filmmaking Jury Award?

This award was created in 2005 to honor documentaries that may not be considered “popular” but still meet the Exceptional Merit criteria. This award is selected by a nominating and voting jury and is not part of the overall ballot. The chances for winning are not predicated on a theatrical release, network involvement, awards department, or marketing budget. Instead, the judges look for social impact, innovation, and mastery of the craft.

If a film is broadcast on a series, can the producers submit it to the Emmys independent of that series?

You can’t “double dip” – only a single Emmy for a single achievement. You can enter it either as a series or as a single episode, (which then makes the series not eligible). However, you can enter into the Exceptional Merit category, which is the one exception!

Will a theatrical run make a film ineligible for the Outstanding Nonfiction award?

Theatrical has to be a complement to a project that was designed for broadcast. If your project was designed as a theatrical release and then brought to TV, it does not qualify. That being said, the Academy allows for film festival runs and theatrical exhibitions intended solely for the purposes of Oscar qualification.
For additional tips on how to make your Emmy® Award submission the best it can be, watch the webinar recording, below. And if you’re interested in more filmmaker-focused webinars, follow us on Facebook or Twitter for more info!

MacArthur Foundation to Expand Support of Documentary Filmmakers through Partner Organizations

ITVS is a proud partner organization of MacArthur, and is sharing the following announcement originally posted here:

Beginning in 2016, the MacArthur Foundation’s Journalism and Media Program will discontinue direct support of individual documentary projects, but will increase its overall support of documentary filmmakers and nonfiction media producers through new and existing partner organizations.

Since the mid-eighties, MacArthur has supported over 300 documentary projects: a cumulative investment of $50 million. View a list of documentary film projects supported through previous Open Calls.

At the same time, the Foundation has supported and strengthened a number of partner organizations that provide more comprehensive support to filmmakers, from production funding, editorial advice, and professional mentorship, to broadcast, distribution and public engagement.

Going forward, the Journalism and Media program will reinforce and expand its support of documentary filmmakers and nonfiction media producers exclusively through partner organizations. These organizations, as a whole, support hundreds of filmmakers each year, and help to diversify the field and raise the artistic achievement and social impact of documentary storytelling.

The Foundation will no longer accept applications for individual documentary projects. This decision reflects a continuing commitment to the documentary community and a desire to deploy MacArthur resources in a way that will allow many more filmmakers, artists and technologists to find the support they need to tell stories that inform, engage, and compel viewers to make changes in themselves or their communities for a more just, verdant and peaceful society.

Filmmakers currently seeking production funds are encouraged to explore the funding opportunities offered by MacArthur’s partner organizations:


Firelight Media

Independent Television Service (ITVS)

Sundance Documentary Fund

Tribeca Film Institute