#ITVSSXSW: A Preview

By Elisabeth Copper
ITVS Social Media Manager, @eacopper

altthumbITVS is packing up and heading out to Austin for what is going to be our busiest and most memorable SXSW yet! We’ll be in the Lone Star state on Thursday to meet with filmmakers, innovators, and storytellers, as well as eat some BBQ… lots and lots of BBQ.

If you have a film or interactive badge, you won’t want to miss the first of our Saturday panels, “New Narratives: Building an Interactive Storyworld.”  ITVS, Murmur, Storycode, and Ted Hope will be on hand to discuss the emerging genre of interactive narrative film, as well as provide attendees with ways to create immersive storyworlds.

Our second Saturday session, “Meet the Insiders: Funding and Special Organizations,” will provide independent filmmakers with a plan of action to help get their passion projects funded. Expert panelists – featuring Independent Lens Series Producer Lois Vossen and ITVS Senior VP of Content Jim Sommers – will present best practices when trying to get your project off the ground, review funding options, and shed light on what makes a funding proposal really stand out.

For filmmakers in town on Monday, don’t miss the chance to join Vossen at the “Meet the Mentors: Distribution, Documentary” event. She will be on hand to give advice and answer your questions about distribution for documentary films.

The ITVS crew will be around for the duration of the festival, so if you see us at the SXSW Film Opening Party or chowing down at Stubbs, make sure you stop by and join in on the fun. We’ll be sharing all things Austin on Instagram and Twitter, so if you aren’t already, be sure to give us a follow!

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

Public Media Puts Social TV Front and Center at SXSW

ITVS will unveil the tablet version of OVEE, a social screening platform developed for PBS and public television stations, at the South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive Festival on Friday, March 8, 2013.

This Friday, ITVS’s social screening platform, OVEE, will be featured at SXSW! Our own Dennis Palmieri and software developer Christian Nelson of Carbon Five will present all the interactive wizardry and audience engagement OVEE has to offer. If you happen to be in Austin for the big event, their panel will light up the stage 5 p.m. Friday at the Austin Convention Center, Room 12AB. If you aren’t lucky enough to be in Austin, follow the insights and discussions around the panel on Twitter through the hashtag #OVEE.

The breakthrough social platform, which fuses the functionality of second screen apps with a high-quality video player, offers interactive features for 500+ audiences, including live chat, real-time emoticators, polls, quizzes, live webcam capabilities, and one-click audience metrics snapshots.

Now available on the iPad, “OVEE re-creates the dynamics and the feel of a live screening event in the online space,” says Dennis Palmieri, ITVS’s OVEE project lead. “It’s as close as you can come to sitting in a theater and watching a film or video program with a live audience.”

Along with headlining a panel on opening day of the SXSW Interactive Festival, OVEE will also be featured at the Integrated Media Association (iMA) conference, the premier showcase for transmedia and multiplatform work in the public media sector, on March 7th in Austin, TX. Stay tuned for more updates from the field!

One Educator’s Take on Teaching Gender Oppression

ITVS Community Classroom and the film Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide made a big splash at the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) conference in Seattle in November. This is the largest national gathering of social studies educators, drawing more than 3,500 people. ITVS hosted a screening of excerpts from the film to a crowd of more than 700 and Sheryl WuDunn gave a keynote address before the screening. NCSS awarded the honor of their national endorsement for the curriculum Community Classroom developed around the film. U.S. Department of Education Ambassador fellow Lisa Clarke moderated a panel discussion with representatives from local and national NGOs, and writes here about the importance of bringing this content into social studies curriculum nationwide.

The Half the Sky panel at the National Council for the Social Studies in Seattle, WA.

How many of you were born from mothers? This question, asked by Heidi Breeze from One by One at the 2012 NCSS Conference in Seattle, pointed to a paradox; if we all have a biological mother, then why is it so difficult to discuss maternal health issues in our classes? As a teacher, I’ve had conversations with my colleagues about if and how to discuss issues affecting women and girls in my contemporary world issues class. Our concerns included whether it is cognitively and developmentally appropriate to raise these issues – involving human sexuality, pervasive violence, and unsettling images – in our high school classrooms. Could we do so without portraying women as passive victims? Continue reading

On the Road with Community Classroom

November was a busy month for Community Classroom, the ITVS program dedicated to creating educational film resources for use in high schools, colleges, and community settings. We took Community Classroom on the road to three annual educator conferences, including the National Council for Social Studies (NCSS), National Council for Teachers of English (NCTE), and National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA), and reached thousands of America’s finest educators.

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Sheryl WuDunn delivers a keynote address about her book Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide.

At the NCSS conference in Seattle, Sheryl WuDunn, author of the book that inspired the documentary film series Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, gave a keynote speech to a crowd of more 700 social studies teachers. WuDunn, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, spoke of the work she and her husband, Nicholas Kristof (also a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist), have been engaged in to shed light on the oppression women and girls face worldwide–from Tiananmen Square twenty years ago to the innovative, media savvy Half the Sky Movement of today.

After watching clips from the documentary, the audience had a chance to engage a panel of educators, youth advocates, and teen activists in a discussion about how to teach issues related to gender oppression in their social studies classes. The event came just days after NCSS officially endorsed the curriculum that ITVS’s Community Classroom program created for the documentary. The endorsement is a significant milestone for ITVS, now part of an exclusive group to receive the stamp of approval from America’s largest association devoted solely to social studies education. Continue reading

American Film Showcase Heads to Monterrey, Mexico

By Claire Aguilar
Vice President of Programming, ITVS

ITVS’s Claire Aguilar participated as a film expert at the American Film Showcase in Monterrey, Mexico in August and conducted a two-day workshop at the Escuela Adolfo Prieto. 

The American Film Showcase is an international cultural diplomacy initiative, a partnership between the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts (SCA).  The purpose of the Showcase is to bring people together worldwide through film, showcasing award-winning American films to international audiences through events worldwide.  Filmmakers and film experts discuss the films and conduct workshops to international audiences of festival participants, students, and the local communities.

Filmmaker Steve James during his workshop.

I had the pleasure of participating in the showcase as an expert and conducted two workshops for filmmakers and film students in Monterrey, Mexico, with an invitation from the US Consulate in Monterrey.  I was accompanied by filmmaker Steve James, who screened his latest film The Interrupters – about a group of “violence interrupters” in Chicago who try to protect their community from the violence they once employed.  Steve screened The Interrupters as part of the Monterrey International Film Festival, and to various community groups, including at-risk youth, violence “interrupters” in Mexico, and social aid workers.

Monterrey is Mexico’s third largest city, located in the Northeast foothills of the Sierra Madre mountain range.  It is a large and sprawling city that is Mexico’s 2nd richest, a commercial center filled with many multi-national corporations and is also rich in history and culture.  It also is the locus of many ongoing drug cartel battles – the Mexican drug war has touched many places in Mexico but has particularly affected Monterrey.  It was interesting to see The Interrupters - an American film about violence, drugs, and economic struggles – with many parallels to the violence around gangs and drugs in Mexico.  But it was also interesting to see how audiences in Mexico saw the similarities of universal conflict in the world and were fascinated in how these conflicts could be resolved at home. Continue reading

Independent Lens Takes Center Stage at TCA Press Tour

The weekly series held two high profile events at the Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour in Los Angeles, featuring Byron Hurt’s new film Soul Food Junkies and the landmark, two-part series Half the Sky.

PBS held court for two days at the Beverly Hilton, as they unveiled Public Television’s upcoming fall lineup for the critics.

On Saturday, critics previewed Soul Food Junkies, a new film by Independent Lens alum Byron Hurt (Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats & Rhymes).
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Independent Lens Takes on TCA!

Over the course of the next two weeks, journalists and television critics will be flocking to the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles for the biannual Television Critics Association (TCA) Press Tour in Los Angeles for a chance to preview upcoming programs from major broadcast and cable networks.

This weekend, PBS is prominently featuring Independent Lens with two panels in support of next season’s programming.

First up is a special presentation of Byron Hurt’s Soul Food Junkies, a documentary that explores the ups and downs of soul food, a quintessential American cuisine.

On Saturday morning, journalists are invited to enjoy a soul food-inspired breakfast before heading over to a panel featuring director Byron Hurt, comedian and key subject of the documentary Dick Gregory, and Independent Lens host Mary-Louise Parker for a lively conversation centered around the film.
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A Hackathon Begins at Silverdocs

The “Silverhacks” panel examines an open source community that unites documentary storytellers and technologists for two days to introduce an original web documentary. ITVS’s Jonathan Archer will participate in the event on Thursday, June 21 at 3p ET.

Hackathons offer documentarians the  chance to collaborate with creative technologists to create a functioning prototype which they can continue to iterate.

“Silverhacks”, a collaboration between SilverDocs and the Living Docs project (Mozilla, ITVS, Tribeca Film Institute, BAVC and the Center for Social Media) added a new dimension — public data.
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Geena Davis Says Women and Girls Lead in Nashville

By Steve Goldbloom
Marketing & Communications Manager, ITVS 

The Academy Award-winning actor and advocate made her first visit to Nashville this week, speaking at multiple events devoted to empowering women and girls.

Geena Davis delivering her keynote address at Lipscomb University in Nashville

On Thursday, Lipscomb University’s Nelson and Sue Andrews Institute for Civic Leadership and The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media hosted the event: “A League of Their Own,” — featuring an inspiring keynote address from Geena Davis.

The program was in partnership with Nashville Public Television and its support of the public media campaign, Women and Girls Lead.

“Women are seriously underrepresented in every sector of society,” the Oscar-winner pointed out before a packed audience.

Davis was particularly critical of the disproportionate number of male to female characters presented on children’s programming.
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