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

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.

Independent Film on PBS: A National Listening Tour


In keeping with its commitment to being the “home to indies,” PBS programming leadership will travel throughout the country over the next few months to meet with independent filmmakers, PBS independent film series producers, PBS station programmers, and other public media and community partners. Listening Tour co-hosts will include ITVS, POV, Independent Lens, and WNET, among others.  At each stop, event participants will voice their priorities, concerns, and ideas on how all the stakeholders can work together to strengthen audience and community engagement with social issues storytelling.

San Francisco will be the first stop on the tour on Saturday, January 17. The event will be hosted by PBS, WNET, ITVS, Independent Lens, and POV, with co-sponsors:

The Listening Tour hosts will announce additional stops in New York and elsewhere as they are confirmed. ITVS looks forward to building a roadmap with our partners for the long-term success of independent film on PBS.

If you have any questions, please contact us at

PBS, WNET, ITVS, Independent Lens and POV Statement

PBS, WNET, ITVS, Independent Lens and POV are working together in partnership over the next four months to develop a national strategy to raise the profile for independent film on public television and to reinforce PBS as the home for indies.

Together, we will be hosting a listening tour with independent filmmakers across the country to engage producers, stations and other stakeholders in the process.

While these discussions are underway, WNET will continue its broadcast of Independent Lens at 10 PM on Mondays on THIRTEEN.

The Interrupters’ Ameena Matthew Battles Leukemia

Ameena in The Interrupters

Those of you who have seen the critically lauded documentary The Interrupters, an ITVS-funded film by Steve James (Hoop Dreams; Life Itself) that aired on PBS’s FRONTLINE last year, will be saddened to hear that its main subject, Ameena Matthews, is battling leukemia and lymphoma. While Ameena is no longer an employee of Ceasefire, the violence prevention organization featured in The Interrupters, she has been a vital part of Chicago’s efforts to help reduce its epidemic of gang warfare. Via our friends at Kartemquin Films, you can be proactive in lending a hand to Ameena’s fight by contributing to a campaign to cover her medical costs.

The Interrupters is also currently available to watch online for free via PBS Video.

ITVS and Independent Lens Receive 13 News and Documentary Emmy Nominations

The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences announced this year’s nominees for the 35th annual News & Documentary Emmy® Awards, which recognizes outstanding achievement in broadcast journalism and documentary filmmaking. And ITVS is proud to say that nine of our documentaries received 13 nominations for 2013!


PBS received a total of 43 nominations — the most of any network — including 10 nominations for Independent Lens, 11 nominations for FRONTLINE (two for the ITVS-funded Outlawed in Pakistan), and six for POV (including Reportero), so it’s a great day all around for public media documentaries! The News & Documentary Emmy Awards will be presented on Tuesday, September 30th, 2014, in New York City.

“These Emmy nominations are a testament to the expemplary journalism that independent documentary filmmakers practice,” said Lois Vossen, Independent Lens Deputy Executive Producer. “They reflect the extraordinary vitality and diversity of our vibrant independent documentary community.”

And without further ado, here are the ITVS films receiving Emmy honors: Continue reading

Maya Angelou: The People’s Poet (In Memoriam)

Maya Angelou to Be Featured in First Documentary About Her Life, on PBS’s American Masters

At the time of Maya Angelou’s death, May 28, 2014, she was participating in the first feature documentary about her life for the American Masters series, Maya Angelou: The People’s Poet. Co-directors/producers Bob Hercules and Rita Coburn Whack last interviewed Dr. Angelou this past January and production on the film continues. American Masters  looks forward to her taking her rightful place in the series, albeit posthumously.

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Our Tribute to Robert West


In addition to co-founding his own extraordinary organization, Working Films, Robert West worked for ITVS in the late 1990s as one of our field organizers in what was then our Community Connections Project (later rebranded and significantly enhanced as Community Cinema). During the years that Robert was a part of the ITVS enterprise, he brought a level of commitment and sophistication to the art of community engagement – or as he later dubbed it “reel engagement.” Those of us who had the great pleasure of working with Robert during those years saw first hand his deep commitment to supporting social issue documentaries and connecting people and organizations in a way that resulted in creating real change. He was an unstoppable force then, and he remains one today.

Robert has been a visionary and a leader in the intersections of media and public engagement. Last fall, he was diagnosed with Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM), an aggressive and terminal brain cancer. We at ITVS and Independent Lens, along with countless colleagues who have been beneficiaries of his work, were devastated by the news. Not surprisingly, in the months since then, Robert has earned our even deeper admiration for the dignity, humor, and grit he has shown. Someone wise once wrote, “A vision without a task is but a dream. A task without a dream is drudgery. But dreams and tasks together are the hope of the world.” Robert epitomizes “the hope of the world” through his courage, his action, and his contributions – back in the day at ITVS, at Working Films, and with all the films and filmmakers he has helped. Continue reading