New Multi-Platform Strategy to Showcase Independent Lens on PBS

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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.

On broadcast, PBS will pursue a new programming strategy for independent film. In addition to the Monday at 10 p.m. broadcasts of INDEPENDENT LENS and POV on most PBS stations—including THIRTEEN New York—PBS will create a number of programming events tied to independent films over the course of the 2015-2016 broadcast season. These events will pair an independent film from INDEPENDENT LENS or POV with thematically related programming to optimize audience flow throughout the night—a strategy that has been used successfully across the PBS schedule over the past few years. These films will also receive social media promotion and marketing support to help drive awareness and tune-in. Films featured in these programming events will be announced as INDEPENDENT LENS and POV finalize the titles in their respective upcoming seasons.

“PBS and our local stations are the home for independent film, presenting a variety of viewpoints and perspectives on important issues, which are fundamental elements of public media’s mission. After months of constructive discussion with the independent film community, we are pleased to present a new strategy that we believe will better support this important work and help us reach the younger, diverse audiences who are among the most passionate fans of indies,” said Beth Hoppe, Chief Programming Executive and General Manager, General Audience Programming for PBS.

To support all INDEPENDENT LENS and POV films during the 2015-2016 broadcast season, PBS will launch a coordinated, targeted outreach effort across its major social media channels to connect with independent film fans, allow for conversation about the issues highlighted in these films and promote independent films in the pipeline. PBS also plans to create additional promotional tools for its member stations to help them reach independent film fans in their own markets.

Building on the primetime broadcasts of independent film, PBS will maximize its growing digital platforms to distribute and promote independent film content. The Webby Award-nominated PBS Online Film Festival will return for a fourth year June 15-July 17, 2015, and will feature more than 20 short-form independent films from POV and a broad spectrum of public media stations and partners, including the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM), Latino Public Broadcasting (LPB), National Black Programming Consortium,National Black Programming Consortium (NBPC) Pacific Islanders in Communications (PIC),  Wisconsin Media Lab and Vision Maker Media.

PBS is also re-launching its independent film website, pbs.org/indiefilms, which will serve as both an archive of all feature-length and short-form independent film streaming on PBS.org and a platform to preview upcoming films that will broadcast on PBS. PBS has also created “Indie Film” playlists on its over-the-top (OTT) channels, including those on Apple TV and FireTV, so that users of these platforms can more easily find and enjoy independent film content.

PBS and its distribution arm, PBS Distribution, also plan to support several theatrical releases of independent films. In fall 2015, PBS Distribution will bring the INDEPENDENT LENS film “The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution” to movie screens across the country. The theatrical distribution, when combined with its broadcast on PBS stations, VOD and home entertainment distribution, will enable this critically acclaimed documentary by renowned filmmaker Stanley Nelson to reach a broad and diverse audience.

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Independent Lens film “The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution”

In addition, PBS Distribution has entered into a licensing agreement with Indieflix, a subscription-based streaming service for independent film. Starting in May 2015, more than 85 PBS films will be available to Indieflix’s growing subscriber base. Among the titles included in this agreement are “Soul Food Junkies,” “Art & Copy” and “Spies of Mississippi,” all from INDEPENDENT LENS.

PBS LearningMedia, a free media on-demand service from PBS and WGBH used by 1.6 million educators and reaching 30 million students, frequently offers independent film content to K-12 classrooms as an instructional tool. As part of the new strategy to support independent film, PBS, ITVS, POV and WNET will collaborate with PBS LearningMedia to create a curriculum for a non-credit college course on documentary film that highlights films from INDEPENDENT LENS and POV, along with other documentaries in the PBS broadcast schedule.

“This new strategy is an important statement of PBS’ commitment to independent film as a core part of its programming offerings,” said Simon Kilmurry, Executive Director of POV. “Filmmakers and the public alike will benefit from ensuring that the voices and viewpoints in independent films can be seen by the widest possible audience, which in turn will increase their impact.”

WNET Vice President of Programming Stephen Segaller said, “The Listening Tour has ultimately proved to be a worthwhile endeavor, as it affirmed the value that filmmakers place on PBS. As PBS’ flagship station in New York, we’re enthusiastic about participating in this new strategy in the hope that independent films will secure the greater audience they deserve. Pairing specific films with similar or related programming makes sense — to boost tune-in, strengthen online support and increase distribution on diverse platforms. We look forward to helping to promote the work of independent filmmakers on our channels, and we’re optimistic that this new plan will be a great success.”

 

ITVS 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.

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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 PBS.org, 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 itvs.org/funding.

ITVS at SXSW 2015

By Elisabeth Copper, @eacopper

Social Media Manager

It’s that time again! We’ve packed our bags and are heading out for the craziness that is SxSW. We’ll be running around town participating in panels, attending screenings, and meeting with filmmakers, storytellers, and innovators. Will you be joining us in Austin? If so, here are some of the places we’ll be.

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Film Screenings

We couldn’t be more thrilled that three ITVS-support documentaries will be showing at the film festival this year. If you have a Film, Gold, or Platinum badge, here’s your chance to preview the documentaries before they appear next season on our Emmy Award-winning series Independent Lens.

T-Rex (World Premiere)

T-Rex is an intimate story about a new kind of American heroine. For the first time, women’s boxing is included in the 2012 Olympics. Fighting for gold is 17-year-old Claressa “T-Rex” Shields. From the streets of Flint, Michigan, Claressa is undefeated and utterly confident. Her fierceness extends beyond the ring. She desperately wants to take her family to a better, safer place and winning gold could be her only chance.

Welcome to Leith

Welcome to Leith is chronicles the attempted takeover of a small town in North Dakota by notorious white supremacist Craig Cobb. As his behavior becomes more threatening, tensions soar, and the residents desperately look for ways to expel their unwanted neighbor. The unsettling underpinning of the film is how we wrestle with our democratic principles when they’re pushed to the limit.

Best of Enemies

Best of Enemies is a documentary about the storied debates in 1968 between two great public intellectuals, liberal Gore Vidal and conservative William F. Buckley Jr. Intended as commentary on the issues of their day, these vitriolic and explosive encounters came to define the modern era of public discourse in the media, marking the big bang moment of our contemporary media landscape when spectacle trumped content and argument replaced substance.

PBS will be hosting meet-and-greets with these filmmakers at the PBS Anywhere Lounge. Best of Enemies and T-Rex will in the Lounge on Saturday at 4pm, and Welcome to Leith producers will be in attendance Monday from 4:30pm-5:30pm.

 

Panels

Finding a TV Partner in a Digital World

Monday, March 16th 12:30pm-1:30pm

In the digital era of Netflix, Hulu, Vudu, and many other OTT portals, how valuable is a broadcaster for your doc? Come find out at this panel moderated by Elizabeth Sheldon, SVP Kino Lorber, along with Lois Vossen from Independent Lens, Jill Burkhart of EPIX Documentary Programming, Cynthia Kane of Al Jazeera, and Jennie Morris from Participant Media.

Tool-Kit for Crafting an Interactive Documentary

Monday, March 16th 12:30pm-1:30pm

Filmmaker Andrew Beck Grace and Toronto-based Helios Design Labs worked remotely for six months to produce the interactive documentary essay “After the Storm.” By using this project as a test-case, this session, featuring Cathy Fisher from ITVS, will present a tool-kit of ideas for other creators in the medium while exploring the how and why of interactive, web-native nonfiction storytelling.

Doc Distribution: Get Up to Speed with PBS Indies

Tuesday, March 17th 11:00AM-12:00PM

Are you a filmmaker interested in showcasing your film on PBS? Then you don’t want to miss this panel. Filmmakers Byron Hurt, Yance Ford, and Marshall Curry will be joined by Donald Thoms (VP Programming/General Audience; PBS) and Liz Cheng (GM; World Channel) to share why public media might be the distribution channel you’ve been searching for.

What’s the Value of Your Digital Rights?

Tuesday, March 17th 12:30pm-1:30pm

Learn from industry experts, including ITVS’s Isaac Hager, how much digital rights are worth to filmmakers and distributors launching titles on outlets such as iTunes, Amazon, and Netflix. You’ll walk away from this session with insight into which platforms are winning in the battle for viewer attention, as well as a greater understanding of the deal structures and windowing strategies negotiated as part of these licensing deals.

Who’s Going to Fund Your Webseries?

Tuesday, March 17th 12:30pm-1:30pm

Meet the industry leaders, including ITVS’s Karim Ahmad, developing, funding, and supporting independent web series in new ways, paving the way for creators of bold new episodic content online. We’ll discuss what they look for, how their programs work, and talk with veteran creators about their development strategy, and what are the opportunities for web series in today’s digital landscape.

 

PBS Party at the Parish

The annual PBS party is one we look forward to every year. On March 15th at 9pm, come help us celebrate independent film on PBS with drinks, BBQ, and live music by Best Coast.

Can’t make it to Austin this year? We’ll be capturing all of the madness on Twitter and Instagram so be sure to follow along!

PBS Listening Tour: Next Stop, Chicago

PBS LIstening Tour in Chicago

On March 23, 2015 from 3 PM to 6 PM Central, POV, along with PBS, ITVS, WNET, Independent Lens and the Indie Caucus, will be in Chicago for the third and final stop in the National Listening Tour for Independent Films. The event, hosted by the Indie Caucus and Kartemquin Films, will be held here:

Chicago Cultural Center
GAR Hall and Rotunda
78 E Washington St
Chicago, IL 60602 (map). RSVP now >

More background:

In keeping with its commitment to independent film and filmmakers, PBS leadership is hosting a series of open forums around the country with independent filmmakers, PBS series producers, and other public media and community partners. At each event, participants are invited to voice their priorities and innovative ideas on how all can work together to strengthen distribution, viewership and community engagement through Independent Lens, POV and all kinds of independent films.

Watch highlights from San Francisco, the first stop on the tour in January, and here’s a report from the New York City event in February.

PBS Listening Tour Comes to New York City: A Report

This post was originally published on the POV blog 

PBS Listening Tour

A National Listening Tour on Independent Film on PBS came to New York City on February 23, 2015 at SVA Theatre in Manhattan.

PBS, ITVS, POV, Independent Lens, Indie Caucus and WNET hosted a full house on the Independent Film on PBS Listening Tour on Monday, February 23 at the SVA Theatre in Manhattan.

Building on the conversation that began last month in San Francisco, a panel of PBS leadership, series producers and independent filmmakers heard from an audience of more than 400 filmmakers, local and national independent film organizations, public media advocates, educators and community leaders, and shared and discussed their perspectives on PBS’s role as a provider and platform for independent documentary films.

On stage, Beth Hoppe, Chief Programming Executive and GM and General Audience Programming at PBS, laid out new potential strategies around marketing initiatives, live events and theatrical distribution of independent films, while Marie Nelson, Vice President of News & Public Affairs at PBS, continued to welcome innovative ideas to promote larger viewership. Stephen Segaller, Vice President of Programming at WNET, further explained WNET’s reasoning for wanting to experiment with scheduling times for POV and Independent Lens, and was receptive to the concern of the New York City audience at the event.

Moderator Mikel Ellecessor did his best to drive the conversation to a new phase, urging speakers to move on from discussing proposed scheduling changes for POV and Independent Lens, towards bringing forward alternative suggestions to ensure that PBS provides independent film to its largest audience.

Simon Kilmurry, Executive Producer of POV, Sally Jo Fifer, President and CEO of ITVS and Executive Producer of Independent Lens, and Lois Vossen, Deputy Executive Producer of Independent Lens, provided their perspectives as representatives and funders of the two largest showcases for independent film on public television, while Marcia Smith, President of Firelight Media, and Dawn Porter, Director/Producer of Gideon’s Army and Indie Caucus representative, offered their experiences working with the series, and advocated for their continued prioritization by PBS locally and nationally.

PBS Listening Tour Panel NYC

From left to right: Simon Kilmurry, Executive Producer, POV; Dawn Porter, Director/Producer, Indie Caucus Representative; Marcia Smith, President, Firelight Media; Lois Vossen, Deputy Executive Producer, Independent Lens; Sally Jo Fifer, President and CEO, ITVS and Executive Producer, Independent Lens; Beth Hoppe, Chief Programming Executive and GM and General Audience Programming, PBS; Marie Nelson, Vice President, News & Public Affairs, PBS; Stephen Segaller, Vice President, Programming, WNET

Attendees waited in the aisles of the theatre to share their experiences, perspectives and concerns, touching on issues around the visibility of independent films on television, accessibility of programs in low-income neighborhoods of New York City and representation of the diversity of the city in programming decisions and scheduling. Speakers on the mic included POV and Independent Lens filmmakers, partners and founders.

PBS launched “Independent Film on PBS: A National Listening Tour” in partnership with ITVS, POV, Independent Lens, and WNET. The Indie Caucus and Kartemquin Films will host the next stop in Chicago in March, date TBD.

ITVS Appoints Shaady Salehi as Managing Director of Distribution and Audience Development

headshot2Independent Television Service is excited to announce that Shaady Salehi, previously Executive Director of Active Voice, has been appointed Managing Director of Distribution and Audience Development.

As the newest member of the ITVS senior leadership team, Salehi will be responsible for developing and executing strategies for multi-platform distribution, thematic campaigns, station relations, and community engagement and impact. She will also serve as a senior ambassador for the organization, representing ITVS-funded programs and services to the public television system, and expanding and strengthening the connections between local public television stations and the communities they serve.

Salehi has collaborated with myriad filmmakers, distributors, and media companies to increase the reach and social impact potential for their films. Among the many ITVS-funded titles she’s worked with are American Promise, The New Black, The State of Arizona, Welcome to Shelbyville, and Detropia.

“We are thrilled to welcome Shaady to ITVS,” said Sally Jo Fifer, President and CEO. “With more than a decade of experience in media arts, community impact, and strategic communications, she brings deep knowledge of the ways in which audiences engage with independent film. Her expertise and commitment to social interest content promise to strengthen the reach of ITVS to a range of audiences.”

Salehi comes to ITVS after serving 11 years at Active Voice, a pioneering organization that uses film to advance social change. She joined the organization as a researcher, and in 2012 was named Executive Director, succeeding founder Ellen Schneider. Salehi is a 2014 Aspen Institute Fellow, serves on the advisory committee of the Arab Film Festival, and on the board of Let It Ripple, a nonprofit that experiments with collaborative filmmaking for the common good. She also holds a master’s degree in strategic communications from Columbia University.

Independent Film on PBS: The National Listening Tour Comes to New York City

This post was originally published on the POV blog 

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On February 23, 2015 from 2 PM ET to 5 PM ET, POV, along with PBS, ITVS, WNET, Independent Lens and the Indie Caucus, will be in New York City for the second stop in the National Listening Tour for Independent Films on PBS at the SVA Theatre in Manhattan. RSVP now »

In keeping with its commitment to independent film and filmmakers, PBS leadership is hosting a series of open forums around the country with independent filmmakers, PBS series producers, and other public media and community partners. At each event, participants are invited to voice their priorities and innovative ideas on how all can work together to strengthen distribution, viewership and community engagement through Independent Lens, POV and all kinds of independent films.

Watch highlights from San Francisco, the first stop on the tour last month. The Indie Caucus and Kartemquin Films will host a third stop in Chicago in March, date TBD.

 

ITVS Receives Funding from MacArthur Foundation to Foster Collaborations Between Journalists and Filmmakers

Independent Television Service (ITVS) announced today a new project supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to pioneer innovative collaborations between journalists and independent filmmakers.

“While journalists excel at breaking news, independent filmmakers illuminate the personal, human stories behind the headlines,” said Sally Jo Fifer, President and CEO of ITVS and Executive Producer of the PBS primetime documentary series Independent Lens. “If we can combine the journalist’s drive for immediacy and accuracy with the filmmaker’s knack for character, that’s an opportunity to create something new and strike up conversations on the essential issues of our time.”

ITVS is partnering with news organizations to distribute the videos and experiment with new models of in-depth storytelling. The Washington Post is among the first of those partners, and will select and offer ITVS videos on PostTV, as well as periodically suggest content themes for the video pipeline.

“Documentaries play an increasingly vital role in informing the American public,” said Kathy Im, Director of Media, Culture, and Special Initiatives at MacArthur Foundation. “It is our hope that documentary storytelling paired with journalism outlets can help humanize and contextualize serious, timely stories all over the world.”

For more than 30 years, MacArthur has supported the production of documentary films and participatory web-based documentaries that combine exceptional filmmaking with in-depth journalism to examine important social issues.

ITVS Heads to the Sundance Film Festival

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By Elisabeth Copper

ITVS Social Media Manager, @eacopper

With parkas, scarves, and boots in tow, we’ve hit the road for what’s going to be an incredible week in Park City, Utah! A couple of us have already arrived at Sundance to meet with storytellers and directors, participate in panels, and preview some of the year’s most buzzed about films, which includes five ITVS supported documentaries. If you’re in town, you definitely don’t want to miss the following screenings:

WILLIAM BUCKLEY;GORE VIDAL

William F. Buckley & Gore Vidal in the film Best of Enemies. (Photo courtesy of Sundance Institute; ABC Photo Archives)

Best of Enemies by Morgan Neville and Robert Gordon

Legendary nationally televised debates in 1968 between two great public intellectuals, Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley, defined a new era of public discourse in the media, the moment TV’s political ambition shifted from narrative to spectacle.

The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution by Stanley Nelson

Whether they were right or wrong, whether they were good or bad, more than 40 years after the Black Panther Party was founded in Oakland, California, the group, and its leadership, remain powerful figures in our popular imagination. This film weaves voices from varied perspectives who lived this story — police, FBI informants, journalists, white supporters, and detractors, those who remained loyal to the party and those who left it.

In Football We Trust by Tony Vainuku and Erika Cohn

In Football We Trust chronicles the journey of young Polynesian-American men in Utah, as they transform out of their adolescence, striving to take warrior culture to the next level, through American football. 

(T)ERROR by David Sutcliffe and Lyric Cabral

(T)ERROR is the story of S****  a 62-year-old former Black Panther turned counterterrorism informant for the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Welcome to Leith by Michael Nichols and Christopher Walker

Welcome to Leith offers a glimpse into a North Dakota town struggling for sovereignty against one man’s extremist vision. Filmed during an 8-month period documenting a white separatist’s arrest for terrorizing the townspeople on an armed patrol, and his subsequent release from jail six months later.

The ITVS crew will be around for the duration of the festival so if you see us around, make sure you stop by and say hello. Here’s to a great week and we can’t wait to see you on the slopes!

 

Listening Tour Kicks Off in San Francisco: A Report

PBS Listening Tour in San Francisco

On Saturday, PBS, ITVS, POV, Independent Lens, and WNET together led the first in a series of events to ignite conversations about the importance of independent documentary films — and the need to provide a prominent platform for indies.

More than 225 Bay Area filmmakers, local and national independent film organizations, public media advocates, educators, and community leaders turned out at the San Francisco Public Library to share and hear testimonials and ideas on how to build the visibility, reach, and impact of independent films by and about diverse, underrepresented communities on public broadcasting.

Their audience? PBS programming leaders Beth Hoppe and Marie Nelson, WNET’s Lesley Norman, ITVS’s Sally Jo Fifer, KQED’s Kevin Martin, Independent Lens’ Lois Vossen, POV’s Simon Kilmurry, filmmakers Orlando Bagwell and Tracy Droz Tragos, and community leaders Esta Soler of Futures Without Violence and Kin Folkz of Spectrum Queer Media.

The line to the microphone snaked up the auditorium aisle as attendees stepped up to tell the panel of “listeners” onstage about their experiences in making and using independent documentary to engage citizens of all ages in social issues, from poverty and homelessness to youth and women’s empowerment to LGBQT rights and gender-based violence. Many filmmakers expressed their hope for POV and Independent Lens to maintain a prominent position on the programming schedule amid recent headlines in trade press.

See a few highlights from the event here:

See coverage on Saturday’s event in Current: “Filmmakers push for common carriage at first stop in public TV ‘listening tour‘.”

PBS launched “Independent Film on PBS: A National Listening Tour” in partnership with ITVS, POV, Independent Lens, and WNET. WNET and POV will organize the next event to be held on February 23, 2015 in New York City, location TBD. The Indie Caucus and Kartemquin Films will host a third stop in Chicago in March, date TBD.