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

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

Diversity Development Fund: An Inside Look at the Submission Process

Programming Manager N’Jeri Eaton hosted an informative live chat last Thursday to answer any submission questions for the Diversity Development Fund. ITVS will be accepting applications through Friday, August 16th.

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While the chat has come and gone, check out the archived conversation below for helpful submission tips and insights. The original chat can be viewed here.

N’Jeri:

Hi everyone. Thanks for joining us. Looks like we have a small group today. But that just means more time for you to get all of your pressing questions in. My name is N’Jeri Eaton and I’m a programming manager here at ITVS.

Hakeem:

Hello!

N’Jeri:

I manage the Diversity Development Fund. The deadline for the fund is Friday, August 16th at 5pm PT. We’re also going digital for the first time this year. So please make sure to check our site and read about our new online application process. Continue reading

ITVS Backs Award at the 2013 Pixel Market

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ITVS and Power to the Pixel (PttP) announce the ITVS Impact Pixel Market prize for the best social impact project.

ITVS is excited to partner with this year’s Pixel Market in launching a new award for the best social impact project. Over $4,500 (£3,000) in development funding will be awarded to the winning fiction or non-fiction project that makes a significant social impact.

The Pixel Market lies at the heart of PttP’s Cross-Media Forum, now in its seventh year, which covers the latest trends in audience behavior and new business models in the international marketplace.

The Cross-Media Forum will take place October 15 through 18, 2013 in association with the 57th BFI London Film Festival. The four-day event incorporates a conference, a think tank, and The Pixel Market, a two-day finance and co-production market.

The deadline for entries to the market and eligibility for the ITVS Impact Pixel Market Prize is August 1, 2013.

To learn more about The Pixel Market and Power to the Pixel’s Cross-Media Forum, please click here.

The Diversity Development Fund Is Now Accepting Applications

ITVS is seeking applications for the Diversity Development Fund (DDF) through Friday, August 16th.

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DDF provides up to $15,000 in research and development funding to independent producers of color to develop single documentary programs for public television.  Projects should speak to the ITVS mission to serve underrepresented audiences with programs that take creative risks, explore complex issues, inspire dialogue, and express points of view seldom seen on commercial or public television. Please note that the new deadline is FRIDAY, AUGUST 16th.

To date, projects selected for the Diversity Development Fund have had national broadcasts on Independent Lens and P.O.V., and have leveraged support from organizations including the National Minority Consortia, the Sundance Doc Fund, Creative Capital Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Ford Foundation.

Funding activities may include travel, research, script development, preliminary production for fundraising/work-in-progress reels, or other early phase activities.

DDF accepts:

  • Producers from cultural and ethnic communities historically underrepresented on public television.
  • Single documentaries
  • Projects not yet in production

Join Programming Manager N’Jeri Eaton for a Diversity Development Fund live chat on Thursday, August 1st at 11am PT.  She will be there to answer any of your questions about the initiative ahead of the deadline. You can participate in the live chat here: https://ovee.itvs.org/screenings/t42mx

For more information on DDF visit: http://www.itvs.org/funding/ddf

Don’t Miss the ITVS Open Call Deadline

The Independent Television Service (ITVS) seeks applications for the Open Call funding initiative.

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Open Call provides completion funds for single nonfiction public television programs on any subject, and from any viewpoint. Projects must have begun production as evidenced by a work-in-progress video. Open Call funding is only available to independent producers who are citizens or legal residents of the U.S. and its external territories.

Open Call accepts:

  • Single programs of standard broadcast length (half-hour or one-hour). In rare cases, when a filmmaker’s skills, subject, and story structure warrant it, ITVS will consider programs at feature lengths.
  • Programs that can be completed within one year of contract

The deadline June 28th, 2013.

Want to know what makes a good work-in-progress? Unfortunately, there isn’t a simple answer.  A work-in-progress can vary depending on what material you have, the style of your film, what stage of production you’re in, etc. Check out the insight and advice given by three ITVS-funded producers who have successfully submitted to the Open Call initiative: Shukree Tilghman (More Than a Month)Brad Lichtenstein (As Goes Janesville), and Michael Collins (Give Up Tomorrow).

Additionally, ITVS will be hosting a live chat on Monday, June 24th at 1pm ET/10am PT. Programming Manager N’Jeri Eaton and Senior Production Manager Jorge Trelles will be on hand to answer your questions, from treatments to budgets and all that falls between.

For more information visit: http://www.itvs.org/funding/open-call

Newly Funded: ITVS is Pleased to Announce Funding for Deej

ITVS recently approved funding for Deeja documentary by Robert Rooy (Director/Producer) and David James Savarese (Producer).

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Deej is the story of DJ Savarese (“Deej”), a gifted, young writer and an advocate for nonspeaking autistics. Once a “profoundly disabled” foster kid seemingly on the fast track to nowhere, DJ is now a first year college student with a burning desire to stand up for those whose neurological differences cause others to summarily dismiss them as incompetent, often “housing them in classrooms of easy lessons.” As writer and co-producer of Deej, he seeks to quell deep-seated fears and heal old wounds while giving others like him a voice:

“This movie reassesses hope. Yes, yes, hope is not easy or free. Yes, hope is hard…. Not a sweet, dear, hopeful collection, our film asks hope to survive challenges and to hear our dear selves freed.”— DJ Savarese

Join ITVS in congratulating the filmmakers!