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.

IMG_0148

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.

SxSW_IL_Carousel_574X304_01

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!

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 Seeks Applicants for Open Call Funding Initiative

BTB_Image_OpenCall_645x239_01B

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 application opened December 29, 2014 and the deadline for receiving all application materials is January 30th, 2015 at 4 PM PST.

ITVS  hosted a live chat on Wednesday, January 14th with Programming Manager N’Jeri Eaton and Senior Production Manager David Eisenburg, providing answers and insight regarding the application process for Open Call. The chat was recorded and available here for those who were unable to attend.

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

Help Bring ITVS to SXSW!

Public voting for SXSW 2015 is officially underway. Check out ITVS’s three panel proposals and vote for your favorites – hurry, voting closes September 5th!

btb_panelpickerITVS is proud to be part of three proposed panel discussions for next year’s SXSW festival in Austin. Highlighting topics ranging from navigating the digital terrain to the ins and outs of webseries funding, ITVS is eager to share the insight of industry experts and veteran filmmakers. We may be biased but we think all three of our panels are very worthy of inclusion in SXSW programming and we could use your vote. So sign up and give us a thumb’s up!

First off we ask, “What’s the Value of Your Digital Rights?” In this panel, industry experts will provide insight into how much digital rights are worth to filmmakers and distributors launching titles on outlets such as iTunes, Amazon, and Netflix. Attendees will walk away from this session with insight into which platforms are winning in the battle for viewer attention, while attaining a greater understanding of the deal structures and windowing strategies negotiated as part of these licensing deals.

What sets PBS apart from all of the other broadcasters and distribution outlets? Why do award-winning filmmakers continue to choose PBS as the home for their films? Our second panel, “Doc Distribution: Get Up to Speed with PBS Indies,” highlights the benefits of distributing your film through public television. With access to 98% of American households and the opportunity to be a part of national engagement programs, public media is a great fit for producers looking to expand cultural awareness, spark dialogue, and evoke civil participation. Attendees will be able to hear directly from filmmakers who have chosen this distribution route and how it affected the reach, revenue, and impact of their project. Continue reading

Everything You Need to Know to Apply to Open Call

Over the past month, ITVS’s Programming Department hosted a number of informative webinars in order to arm filmmakers with the information needed to successfully apply for Open Call funding. With Friday’s deadline fast approaching, we wanted to offer this brief overview of each of the events, which covered everything from writing the ITVS treatment to what makes a successful work-in-progress sample. Check it out and be sure to apply to Open Call by Friday, August 8th.

btb_CST_jim-2

On July 10th, Programming Manager N’Jeri Eaton hosted the “Writing the ITVS Treatment” webinar. View the archived webinar below:

Treatment Webinar from ITVS_VIDEO on Vimeo.

On July 24th, an OVEE screening was held to review work-in-progress samples and to discuss the process with filmmakers who were successful with their submissions. To find out what makes a good work sample, read the transcript from the “Work-in-Progresses That Work” webinar here. Continue reading

Budgeting for ITVS Open Call

ITVS programming staff Jen Gilomen and Jorge Trelles hosted a budgeting webinar for Open Call on Thursday, July 24, 2014. Below is the recorded event, which includes an overview presentation and Q&A with participants. Also below is a recap of the new budget format for Open Call.

As part of your application to Open Call (now in WizeHive, an online system), we ask for summary budget information for your program – including secured funding and expenses. Your “request to ITVS” is based on your total budgeted expenses minus the total secured funding you have received for your project. The “Total Request to ITVS” is therefore the total amount you need to complete your public television program as outlined in your proposal. Your budget, with the rest of your application, tells a story to reviewers about how you plan to complete your film.

Secured Funding: This section is only for “secured” funding (no in-kind contributions). This means “Producers Cash” contributed to the production (hard costs you have incurred that weren’t covered by other funding sources) and other grants and income sources you have obtained for your film. “Secured” means you have already received the funding or have been promised the funding in writing.

Expenses: Expenses are all of the costs associated with producing your public television program from inception to final masters delivered for broadcast. It should not include any other expenses, such as costs associated with creating another version of your film, distribution, marketing, your film’s website, outreach efforts, etc. Budget categories from the ITVS Budget Template are pre-populated in the online application for convenience, but you can edit the categories to fit your existing budget. You are welcome to use (but not required to use) the ITVS Production Budget Template (download here in Excel formats: xlsx or xls) to calculate subtotal amounts for your major budget categories. (Please note that if your project is selected for Open Call panel review, you will be required to submit a full ITVS Production Budget in this format. Even then, you will be able to modify the category names.)

Continue reading

Ask the Expert: Writing the ITVS Treatment

Programming Manager N’Jeri Eaton hosted an informative webinar last week, reviewing the new Open Call submission process and providing insight into writing the ITVS treatment. This archived webinar is available for those who were unable to attend or are looking to brush up on their treatment knowledge. 

Treatment Webinar from ITVS_VIDEO on Vimeo.

“Writing the ITVS Treatment” was the first in a series of webinars ITVS is hosting in an effort to provide more resources for filmmakers applying to Open Call. The following weekly webinars will be held in the lead up to this year’s deadline:

July 17th
Work-in-Progresses That Work Webinar (read the transcript here)

July 24th
ITVS Budgeting Basics Webinar (read our recap here)

July 31st
Open Call Live Chat

Please note, ITVS will be accepting Open Call applications through Friday, August 8th. For more information about the Open Call initiative or ITVS funding in general, please go to the updated funding pages on our website. And stay tuned to our blogTwitter and Facebook!

Attention Filmmakers! Changes to ITVS Open Call

You’ve given us feedback through surveys, emails, phone calls, and one-on-one meetings.  And we have been listening!  The Programming Department is excited to announce some changes to our Open Call initiative.

btb_CST_jim

The following changes have been made to the application process for the ITVS Open Call initiative. For a complete listing of rules and regulations, please visit the ITVS Open Call page on the ITVS website.

NEW DEADLINE

The upcoming deadline is August 8th.  This will allow filmmakers to learn more about the changes to our application process and update their materials accordingly.  This will also give applicants from the previous round more time to revise their materials before applying again while also providing a breather for Open Call staff.

SHORTER REVIEW PROCESS

Applicant will be notified about the status of the submissions within 15 weeks of the application deadline.   Previously, applicants who went through all three phases of review had to wait up to five months for final funding decisions to be made.  We understand that five months can be a lifetime in the course of a film.

APPLICATION MATERIALS CHANGES

One of the reasons we’re able to shorten the cycle length is that we’re making changes to the application materials. Instead of submitting a condensed three-page program description, we’re now expanding the program description to be up to seven pages in length.

We’ve also changed the length requirements for the work-in-progress sample. Now, we will only accept work samples that are between 10 to 15 minutes or a full rough cut that is within 20% of the proposed length. For example, if you’re applying for an hour long project, your rough cut cannot be any longer than 72 minutes.

If your project gets to the Panel Review phase, then we will only ask you to send a production questionnaire and a full budget in addition to the materials you previously submitted. Continue reading

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. 

btb_storylab

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