Hacking Story at ITVS

By Karim Ahmad
ITVS Senior Digital Content Strategist, @the_karachi_kid

ITVS recently hosted four producer teams who were greenlit by the organization’s newly developed ITVS Storylab initiative. These producer teams met with ITVS staff and external mentors to gain intensive consultation in the areas of story development, user experience mechanics, and producing multi-platform content. 

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In early April, ITVS rekindled its love affair with the hackathon. And while we’ve hosted hackathons before, this was something different. This time, we weren’t coding anything. We were hacking story. Not a totally new concept, our process was inspired by our good friends at StoryCode, who’ve run a couple story hackathons in the past – events borrowing from the software development world’s rapid prototyping process to create digital multi-platform stories at breakneck pace. And that’s exactly what we did. We selected a handful of immensely talented indie storytellers with ideas for immersive webseries concepts, and locked them in a room for two days to conceptualize, scope, and paper prototype them for ITVS.

And why? To answer that, let me back up a few steps.

Call it what you like – immersive storytelling, cross-platform, cross-media, or the now-seemingly-dreaded “T-word” (aka transmedia) – if you’ve had a conversation with me about it in the last couple years, you know I have a real obsession with it’s applications to creating impactful and artistic fictional storyworlds. Interactive docs are awesome. But as I said at our recent SXSW panel on the very same subject, i-docs are officially everywhere – including here at ITVS – but if you ask me, the real wild west of transmedia storytelling right now is in fiction.

Look at most narrative webseries and you’ll find they mimic a broadcast paradigm – either the episodic serial or the anthology, like FUTURESTATES. And while I love these stories, I’ve long felt that the new opportunity with web series is to create one that doesn’t feel like a broadcast series – one that really unleashes the user experience potential of web to tell a nonlinear story in serialized form. Our upcoming and final season of the FUTURESTATES series is exactly that. The first act of this narrative is unfolding right now on Twitter and Tumblr. And on May 14, 2014, we’re taking it to a whole new level. It’s a multi-platform futuristic mystery, with you at the center of it all. Stay tuned, you won’t want miss it. Continue reading

ITVS Snags Four Peabody Awards!

Administered by the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, the George Foster Peabody Award is one of the most prestigious honors in electronic media.

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Independent Lens programs The House I Live InHow to Survive a Plague, and The Invisible War, in addition to the ITVS-funded Latino Americans series, were among the films honored with a Peabody Award this year.

Congratulations to the filmmakers on this incredible achievement! This brings the total of Peabody awards for ITVS films to 29. Continue reading

In Loving Memory of Patrick Baroch

We have lost a beloved colleague and a dear friend. Patrick Baroch, ITVS’s National Engagement Consultant in Seattle, passed away last week in Port Orchard, Washington.

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The loss to ITVS and the world-at-large is immeasurable. In his role organizing Community Cinema screenings in the Pacific Northwest for the past nine years, Patrick cultivated a vibrant community of partners who collaborated with him to present memorable events that left a lasting impact on those who participated. Beyond his work in the Northwest, Patrick guided and supported 20 other ITVS partner organizations across the country in producing local engagement activities inspired by our documentaries. He approached his work with creative zeal, warmth, intelligence, and humor. Words cannot express how much he will be missed. Continue reading

#ITVSSXSW: A Preview

By Elisabeth Copper
ITVS Social Media Manager, @eacopper

altthumbITVS is packing up and heading out to Austin for what is going to be our busiest and most memorable SXSW yet! We’ll be in the Lone Star state on Thursday to meet with filmmakers, innovators, and storytellers, as well as eat some BBQ… lots and lots of BBQ.

If you have a film or interactive badge, you won’t want to miss the first of our Saturday panels, “New Narratives: Building an Interactive Storyworld.”  ITVS, Murmur, Storycode, and Ted Hope will be on hand to discuss the emerging genre of interactive narrative film, as well as provide attendees with ways to create immersive storyworlds.

Our second Saturday session, “Meet the Insiders: Funding and Special Organizations,” will provide independent filmmakers with a plan of action to help get their passion projects funded. Expert panelists – featuring Independent Lens Series Producer Lois Vossen and ITVS Senior VP of Content Jim Sommers – will present best practices when trying to get your project off the ground, review funding options, and shed light on what makes a funding proposal really stand out.

For filmmakers in town on Monday, don’t miss the chance to join Vossen at the “Meet the Mentors: Distribution, Documentary” event. She will be on hand to give advice and answer your questions about distribution for documentary films.

The ITVS crew will be around for the duration of the festival, so if you see us at the SXSW Film Opening Party or chowing down at Stubbs, make sure you stop by and join in on the fun. We’ll be sharing all things Austin on Instagram and Twitter, so if you aren’t already, be sure to give us a follow!

Celebrate Women’s History Month with #SheDocs!

March kicks off the second annual #SheDocs, an online film festival showcasing 12 documentaries highlighting extraordinary women and their accomplishments in celebration of International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month. The festival is presented by ITVS’s Women and Girls Lead campaign and sponsored by Eileen Fisher, Inc.

Female protagonists in film are few and far between. According to the Annenberg Public Policy Center, women have been consistently underrepresented as main characters for at least six decades. In 2013, females accounted for only 33% of all characters in the top 100 grossing films and only 11% featured women in leadership positions.

Women and Girls Lead is proud to combat these gender stereotypes and misrepresentations with the second annual #SheDocs online film festival, a collection of 12 documentaries highlighting extraordinary women working to close the gender gap and fight inequality. This month-long, free event presents films by prominent independent filmmakers and shines a spotlight on women who are working to transform their lives, their communities, and the world. Continue reading

Fundraising in a New Media Landscape: Three Lessons From Sundance

This year, three ITVS-supported films premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. Filmmaker Thomas Allen Harris showcased both his feature film and transmedia project as a part of New Frontier, a program that showcases multi-media storytelling. These projects inspired ITVS to create a panel focusing on the challenges of fundraising for documentary and transmedia projects.

Kamal Sinclair, Sr. Manager Sundance New Frontier Story Lab; Jim Sommers, Sr. Vice President of Content at ITVS; N'Jeri Eaton, Programming Manager at ITVS; Thomas Allen Harris, Through A Lens Darkly and Digital Diaspora Family Reunion; Shukree Tilghman, More Than A Month and More Than A Mapp app; Kay Shaw, Director of Public Media Corps at NBPC

Pictured (L-R): Kamal Sinclair, Sr. Manager Sundance New Frontier Story Lab; Jim Sommers, Senior Vice President of Content at ITVS; N’Jeri Eaton, Programming Manager at ITVS; Thomas Allen Harris, Through A Lens Darkly and Digital Diaspora Family Reunion; Shukree Tilghman, More Than A Month and More Than A Mapp app; Kay Shaw, Director of Public Media Corps at NBPC

The panel marked ITVS’s first event with the Blackhouse Foundation. For the last seven years, Blackhouse has held a venue at the Sundance Film Festival as a place that both celebrates Black cinema and provides networking opportunities for filmmakers.

The panel was packed with experts in the field who could speak specifically to the challenges facing filmmakers. Panelists included Director of Public Media Corps Kay Shaw from the National Black Programming Consortia; Senior Manager Kamal Sinclair from the Sundance New Frontier Story Lab; filmmaker Thomas Allen Harris of Through a Lens Darkly and its transmedia component Digital Diaspora Family  Reunion, and myself.  The panel was moderated by filmmaker Shukree Tilghman, who also went through the film/transmedia funding gauntlet with his film More Than A Month and the related phone app More Than A Mapp. Continue reading

Your Open Call Questions Answered

ITVS Programming Managers N’Jeri Eaton and Jorge Trelles hosted an informative live chat on Wednesday to answer any questions for the Open Call funding initiative.

ITVS will be accepting applications through Friday, January 17th. While the chat has come and gone, check out the archived conversation for helpful submission tips and insights!

For more information about ITVS funding initiatives, please click here.

Tips & Tools for Open Call Applications

In response to the growing demand for submission resources, the ITVS Programming Department hosted two informational webinars for filmmakers submitting for Open Call funding.

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Throughout the year, hopeful applicants have a tendency to bombard the ITVS Programming Department with questions regarding their submissions to various funding initiatives. This year, Programming Manager N’Jeri Eaton hosted two webinars offering insight on the process and firsthand advice for filmmakers for their treatments and work samples.

The first webinar was devoted to the art of treatment writing, where Eaton was joined by ITVS-funded filmmakers Christine Turner (Homegoings) and Llew Smith (Denial: An American Dilemma).  The filmmakers shared excerpts from their treatments and answered questions from the webinar participants.  You can watch the full webinar below:

Treatment Writing Webinar 12-9-13-vimeo from ITVS_VIDEO on Vimeo.

Next, ITVS hosted an OVEE screening featuring three 10-minute work samples that had been recently funded by ITVS: Samantha Grant’s A Fragile Trust, Juli Vizza’s Nine to Ninety, and Jamie Meltzer’s Freedom Fighters.  Due to clearance rights issues, we are unable to post the work samples, but you can read a transcript of the informative chat here.

And, as an extra bonus, we have a revised edition of our guide to Writing an ITVS Treatment. Continue reading

Diversity Development Fund Announces New Projects

ITVS has announced the eight documentary projects selected as part of the 2013 Diversity Development Fund, a funding initiative that provides research and development funding to producers of color to develop single documentary programs for public television. 

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This year’s selections provide extraordinary access and insight into the daily lives and struggles of people around the world, from Navajo railroad workers in the U.S. to an interracial punk band during the height of apartheid in South Africa.

The productions were selected through a competitive application process, which resulted in 114 submissions.

Check out the complete list of funded projects after the jump. Continue reading

ITVS Celebrates Native American Heritage Month

ITVS and PBS offer viewers the opportunity to explore the rich and vibrant history and cultural contributions of Native Americans throughout the year, but this November offers a special slate of new and encore programs in honor of Native American Heritage Month.

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This November, Independent Lens is shining a spotlight on Native American culture with two new films. Premiering Monday, November 18th, Indian Relay documents an unheralded aspect of modern-day Native American life and what it takes to win one of the more exciting forms of horse racing. From the bitter cold of winter to the heat of summer, this lively documentary follows teams from three different tribes as they compete across a grueling season. Then on November 25th, Young Lakota takes viewers to South Dakota, where abortion politics bring political turmoil to the doorstep on the Pine Ridge Reservation and three young idealists, along with the tribe’s first female president, must decide how far they will go to change politics.

Throughout the month, Community Cinema and Women and Girls Lead continues to celebrate Native American Heritage Month by showcasing additional films featuring outstanding women leaders. These documentaries are available on PBS Video and additional online screenings will be offered using OVEE – the social screening platform for watching PBS content and engaging in meaningful discussions around films. Continue reading