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

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

Relive the Movie Magic with #ThrowbackThursday!

Join ITVS’s Independent Lens each week for a special #ThrowbackThursday dip into the archives. 

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If you’re a fan of Instagram and Twitter (and let’s be honest, who isn’t?), you’ve probably seen or used the hashtag #ThrowbackThursday. The social trend is so popular that on Instagram alone, there are over 23 million pictures tagged with #ThrowbackThursday and another 40 million captioned with #tbt.

ITVS’s Emmy-award winning series, Independent Lens, is joining in on the fun by unlocking the PBS Video vault. Every Thursday, Independent Lens is announcing the revival of a previous aired, fan favorite film. The “throwback” docs are only available on PBS.org for one week, so take advantage while you can.

This week’s #ThrowbackThursday offering is Summer Pasture, the story of a young nomadic couple living with their infant daughter in eastern Tibet.  The documentary provides a rare window into a highly insular community seldom seen by outsiders. In the collective imagination of Tibet, nomads have traditionally occupied a dual role — romanticized as embodying the purest form of Tibetan identity, and mocked as being backwards, uncivilized, and inferior.

Follow Independent Lens on Twitter and Instagram for future #ThrowbackThursday announcements and other tasty morsels for your indie pleasure.

Mapping Our Memories: Tributopia Launches Memorial Day

Tributopia, the project inspired by the ITVS-funded documentary The Grove, is a free iPhone app for creating virtual memorials and remembering lost loved ones by posting tributes on an interactive map. Tributopia invites engagement by connecting memories to a specific place. With the augmented reality feature, users looks through the viewfinder and can find virtual tributes overlaying the real world around them. Tributopia launches in conjunction with Memorial Day, just before Gay Pride Month.

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Filmmaker Andy Abrahams Wilson gives us this inside look at the inspiration behind the app and his take on the changing interactive media landscape:

How did making The Grove inspire your idea for Tributopia?

The AIDS Memorial Grove founders envisioned a nature-based memorial in which individuals could till their grief and find comfort in seeing their own human experience reflected in nature. While the stigma of AIDS created invisible victims and survivors often excluded from traditional rituals of burial and remembrance, having a special place to remember and share was especially important.

While I was in the midst of production on The Grove, I vacationed in Mexico and witnessed scores of roadside memorials adorned with flowers, pictures, and photos. I was mesmerized and wanted to know what happened and whom it happened to. It was as if those shrines wanted to speak to me, to tell me their story. I began to realize how vital the connection was between memory and place, and between community and communication.  Hence, the idea for Tributopia was born: a way to use new media to tell stories of loss – to connect memories to place and join in a community of remembrance.

What was the experience like, going from being a “traditional” documentary filmmaker to working in the interactive media space? Was there a large learning curve?

There was an enormous learning curve. We tend to take for granted our mastery over our own craft. Suddenly I found myself facing a technology, terminology and business model that were alien to me. While we cling to the idea of “storytelling” as a unifying theme and comforting commonality, I really did feel like I was entering a brave new world! Continue reading

Wonder Women! Inspires WONDER CITY Game

By Kristy Guevara-Flanagan and Kelcey Edwards
Filmmakers, Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines

WONDER CITY has been developed as companion game to the PBS documentary feature, Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines (tonight at 10 PM on Independent Lens). While the film encourages young audiences to explore pop cultural history as a means of thinking critically, the WONDER CITY game aims to change how we visualize power and gender.

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We were first encouraged to create a game at the BAVC Producers’ New Media Institute. Our research found that half of girls ages 8 to 12 play games online. The most popular “girl games” center on themes like cooking, shopping, makeup, and dating, and the default protagonist of most other games is a white male. This lack of representation discourages girls and women from participating in the gaming community – as either consumers or creators.

While making the film, we became aware of how few women occupy leadership positions – fewer than 15 percent! – in politics, business, government and the media. Despite the gains of the women’s movement, we still live in a world where girls are rarely protagonists, let alone shown as strong, smart, or bold. Girls are constantly bombarded by messages and media representations that put them into narrow, stereotyped boxes and limit their choices. Too few girls have risen to be leaders in business, politics, government, or media.

Our hope is that WONDER CITY will undermine these problematic stereotypes and gender limitations by immersing players in a world that represents a more realistic diversity in race, gender, and body image. By empowering tweens to adopt their own superhero identity, they become agents of their own values. Continue reading

The Power of Words: “Story of an Egg” Now Streaming in PBS Online Film Festival

ITVS is thrilled that Douglas Gayeton’s “Story of an Egg” has been selected as part of the PBS Online Film Festival. The video is one of three short films produced for the Lexicon of Sustainability, a multiplatform project that uses photo collage, animation, and hand-written typography to explore terms and ideas behind sustainable agriculture. 

Watch 2013 Festival | Story of an Egg on PBS. See more from PBS Online Film Festival.

The Lexicon of Sustainability is based on a simple premise: people can’t be expected to live more sustainable lives if they don’t even know the most basic terms and principles that define sustainability.

For three years Douglas Gayeton and Laura Howard-Gayeton crisscrossed the USA to learn this new language of sustainability from its foremost practitioners in food and farming. In all, nearly two hundred leaders in food and farming from across the country have contributed their valued experiences to this rapidly growing Lexicon.

“The Story of an Egg” follows poultry farmers David Evans and Alexis Koefoed as they explain the real meaning behind such terms as “cage free,” “free range,” and “pasture raised” so that consumers can make informed decisions when they go to their local supermarket.
Continue reading

Up Next From the Half the Sky Movement

On March 4th, the Half the Sky Movement releases a wide-reaching Facebook game designed to inspire many.

The Half the Sky Movement is cutting across platforms to ignite the change needed to put an end to the oppression of women and girls worldwide, the defining issue of our time. Inspired by journalists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s book of the same name, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide brings together video, websites, games, blogs and other educational tools to not only raise awareness of women’s issues, but to also provide concrete steps to fight these problems and empower women. Change is possible, and you can be part of the solution.

Last year, the movement released the documentary series as a special presentation of Independent Lens on PBS, making decisions along the way that would help the series reach a wider audience and bring awareness to the work of the nonprofits on the ground in 10 countries. This proved successful when the October broadcast garnered one billion mentions on social media – a true feat for a 4-hour long documentary on these sensitive issues. Continue reading

Introducing BizVizz: A Corporate Responsibility App Inspired by ‘As Goes Janesville’

By Brad Lichtenstein
Director, As Goes Janesville

Inspired by the Independent Lens film As Goes Janesville, the BizVizz app serves as the transmedia component of the documentary, enlightening users how specific companies behave when it comes to corporate and social responsibility.

There’s a scene in As Goes Janesville (airing tonight on Independent Lens), towards the end, where the city council votes to approve a $9 million incentive package for Shine Medical Technologies. Shine is a startup looking for a town in which to set up their medical isotope operation and, like many companies, it is compelling cities to compete with offers. Though Janesville is desperate for jobs after losing their GM plant, $9 million is 20% of their budget. This is the scene that inspired BizVizz, our corporate accountability app.

I was aghast when filming this scene. There was no public hearing prior to the vote. There was no public disclosure of a third party audit of Shine Medical. While the City Manager of Janesville expressed some reservations to me on camera, there was barely an opportunity, through the media or otherwise, for those reservations to be discussed by the taxpayers who were footing the bill. What galled me was not so much the gamble with public money, but how the democratic process was subverted. A selected handful of business leaders working behind closed doors with the city council were deciding what to do with the public’s money.

One brave guy stood up just before the city council vote and said “ I feel like a pair of brown shoes in a room full of tuxedos….nine million dollars…maybe 125 jobs…no guarantees.” That’s what I felt like with my camera, observing this unfold: a pair of brown shoes in a room full of tuxedos. I badgered my subjects with questions about why this deal was never put before the public but none of them felt that democracy required the public to know or engage more, beyond the role city council played.

What happened in Janesville happens everyday in America.

BizVizz is an attempt to give the public more access to corporate behavior. Corporations spend millions on their image and message so that we don’t question what they do. We figured people might like to know how much a company pays in taxes, if they receive government subsidies, and who they support with campaign contributions. All the information found on BizVizz is shareable on Facebook and Twitter, helping to put a little power back into the hands of ordinary people. Continue reading

Social TV Makes Big Progress in 2013

By Kelsey Savage, PBS Interactive 
Originally published on the PBS Station Products & Innovation Blog

Lounging around on your couch, clicker and blanket in tow, might not seem like the most overtly social activity. Yet, these days, even when we’re spending the evening parked in front of the television, we’re able to connect with our friends immediately about a show’s plot progression. In particular, Twitter has been leading the way for developing a strong social TV landscape.

In Nielsen’s annual “Station of The Media: The Social Media Report”, social TV demonstrated a growing user base. By June of 2012, over a third of Twitter users tweeted about a program on television, with the age 35-44 demographic being the most likely to comment on a TV show. In order to measure the power of social television, Nielsen will be working with Twitter to establish “a syndicate-standard metric around the reach of the TV conservation” by fall 2013. For the first time, broadcasters will be able to get an estimate of the number of people that participated or were exposed to an online conversation about their programming.

Public Media has also been capitalizing on the growth of social TV. Most notably, tech-savy, Downton Abbey lovers can check their Twitter feeds for instant feedback about the Dowager Countess’ latest sassy remark through the #DowntonPBS hashtag. PBS has also facilitated celebrity moderators, like Austenprose (@austenprose), The Daily Beast (@televisionary), Tom and Lorenzo (@tomandlorenzo) and Vulture (@vulture), to join the conversation. Their second-screen remarks add another dimension to the viewing experience. They make Downton feel like more than just TV show and more like a community. Continue reading

One Wish One Hundred Years

By Lance Weiler
Creator, Wish for the Future

Wish For The Future is a creative platform to empower everyone to shape the world around them and create a better future now. Creator Lance Weiler shares his plans for the new transmedia project and some of the wishes for 2013. 

As another year passes, many are thinking ahead to the next 12 months and what 2013 will bring. But what about a future beyond 2013? What would your “one wish” be for a 100 years from now?

A few weeks ago, we officially kicked off an ambitious project with a 100-year timeline called Wish for the Future. To date, we’ve received over 4,000 wishes from around the world. You can see them here (and even make your own here). Continue reading