Submit Your Film to Independent Lens!


Independent Lens is currently seeking submissions of films in advanced rough cut or fine cut stage or completed films to broadcast during the October 2014 – June 2015 season. To learn more about eligibility, what we’re looking for, and to complete our online submission form go to

Any questions? Feel free to drop a line to

Check Out Can’t Hold Me Back: A PBS Online Film Festival Selection

Documenting stories of inspiration and justice, Madeleine Blair and Betty Bastidas founded Maracuya Productions with the hope to bring about change. Their short film Can’t Hold Me Back, is a part of the American Graduate initiative, and is currently streaming as part of the PBS Online Film Festival.

Watch 2013 Festival | Can’t Hold Me Back on PBS. See more from PBS Online Film Festival.

Can’t Hold Me Back follows Fernando Parraz as he becomes the first in his family to earn a high school diploma, which is his ticket out of the struggles of inner-city poverty and violence. With a mountain of roadblocks stacked against his educational achievement, Fernando finds support from an unlikely figure: his father — a former gangster who has suffered the costs of his own mistakes.

This short film is a part of the American Graduate Initiative supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). This long-term public media initiative is dedicated to helping communities implement solutions to the high school dropout crisis. American Graduate demonstrates public media’s commitment to education and its deep roots in every community it serves.

Watch Can’t Hold Me Back and VOTE for the 2013 PBS Online Film Festival People’s Choice Winner.

Adrian Baker on Animating Native American Oral History

By Rebecca Huval
Originally posted on the Independent Lens Blog

Sometimes, the shameful chapters of our past deserve to be excavated through an animated short, the form du jour for oral history projects such as StoryCorps. From the PBS Online Film Festival, the short documentary Injunuity: Buried features the story of a Native American burial ground and shellmound recently built over by a Bay Area mall.

Adrian Baker, director of Injunuity, one of 25 short videos in the PBS 2013 Online Film Festival

Adrian Baker, director of Injunuity, one of 25 short videos in the PBS 2013 Online Film Festival

Buried will be available on the PBS Online Film Festival webpage and the rest of the shorts will soon be available on the Injunuity website. The series captures field recordings of Native Americans who dissect issues such as Native American language preservation and education, remixed as three-minute animations in a variety of styles. The 25 films in the overall festival will be available between March 4 to 22.

Director Adrian Baker shared with us the inspiration for his cinematic collages and animations that capture modern-day Native American issues, as well as the stories of our shared past.

1. Why did you structure these stories in three-minute shorts?

There are so many issues to talk about and discuss, so many problems that need our attention. So rather than setting out to solve all of these issues or come to hard and fast conclusions, instead, I wanted to create starting points for discussions more than anything else. In three minutes you can create that foundation that’s necessary to begin meaningful dialog, but where it goes from there is up to the viewer, or the teacher who watches it with their classroom, or the parent who watches it with their child.

I also wanted to create pieces that fit into today’s quick twitch lifestyle where more media is being consumed in shorter amounts of time. The fixed running time model that we have for television is being replaced by the free form of the web, where time length isn’t dictated by commercial concerns or by what comes on before or after. And really, all you have to do is take a look at anyone’s Facebook feed to see that there are more and more shorter pieces of content being passed around and shared. Today’s viewer is on the go, watching a smart phone for ten minutes on BART [the Bay Area's commuter rail service]. So there is a growing market for shorter content. But what may be the best thing about the three-minute short is that, even if the viewer doesn’t like it that much, no matter where you are in the piece, even if it’s just beginning, it’s almost over. 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

Four ITVS Shorts Featured in PBS Online Film Festival

Beginning Monday, March 4, PBS will launch the second annual Online Film Festival, showcasing 25 short films from independent filmmakers. The festival will last through March 22 and can be accessed via the PBS website and PBS’s YouTube channel.

Watch 2013 | Film Festival Trailer on PBS. See more from PBS Online Film Festival.

PBS announced yesterday that its popular PBS Online Film Festival will return for a second year, beginning Monday, March 4, 2013. Viewers are encouraged to vote for their favorite short film from March 4 through March 22, to help determine the People’s Choice Award.

The featured shorts were produced by a number of public media partners, including POV and the National Minority Consortia which comprises Pacific Islanders in Communications (PIC), the National Black Programming Consortium (NBPC); the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM); Latino Public Broadcasting (LPB); and Native American Public Telecommunications (NAPT). Continue reading

POV Unveils the 25 Greatest Documentaries of All Time

By Maria Goodavage
Managing Editor, ITVS

Your votes are in, the ballots have been counted, and the PBS series POV has announced the 25 Greatest Documentaries of All Time. Some may surprise you, others not so much.

The top contender is far from a new film. In fact, it’s one of the older documentaries on the list. But despite its gray title, it’s a lively, quirky, colorful story – one that 37 years later is still mesmerizing viewers. We’re not giving away its name, because you’ll want to go to the winners’ list, where you can see clips from all the top films. But if you’re a big documentary buff, you’ve probably figured it out by now.

“Great” is in the eye of the beholder, of course. POV received more than 1,000 suggestions of beloved documentaries during the November online voting period. What do you think of the list? If you voted, was your film on there? And you can tell us: Did you believe in your favorite film so much that you voted more than once? (It’s OK. Unlike presidential elections, you were encouraged to cast more than one vote.)

Death of the DVD Part Two: Filmmakers’ Reflections

ITVS’s Rebecca Huval discusses research, news, and trends that come out of ITVS’s IndiesLab.

While DVDs fade in importance and profitability, how do filmmakers manage? Two ITVS directors offered their perspectives: Isaac Solotaroff, director of Wham! Bam! Islam!, and Anne MakepeaceWe Still Live Here – Âs Nutayuneânhave used different coping mechanisms.

Both directors agree that educational DVDs make up a large chunk of their profits. Each educational disc is sold for as much as $500, and libraries will require physical objects for the foreseeable future.

But consumer DVDs? “I’ve absolutely given up on making money selling my project to individuals,” Solotaroff said. “If I make money on the back end, it’s selling to screening and educational institutions.” He half-jokingly added: “When you finish a film, you have DVDs made, and they sit on your shelf, you give them away as a souvenir, and use them for coasters.”

A better option is directing individual viewers to online streams, Solotaroff said. As a self-distributor, it can be prohibitively expensive to mail DVDs. But online streaming to consumers pays a fraction of what DVD or educational sales do. In total, Solotaroff estimates he’s sold 1,000-1,500 online streams and 30 DVDs to educational distributors. Still, the two have earned him about the same revenue.

In contrast, Anne Makepeace said she has sold more DVDs (including educational and consumer) than online streams for Rain in a Dry Land and We Still Live Here. “I haven’t really promoted the digital streams,” Makepeace said. “It’s more in my interest to sell DVDs, frankly, especially until I run out of DVDs of my oldest films.”
Continue reading

Independent Lens Submission Deadline

Independent Lens is currently seeking submissions of completed or near completed programs for broadcast during the October 2013 – June 2014 season.

Independent Lens is a film festival in your living room. Since 2003, Independent Lens has presented more than 300 films to public television audiences. The Emmy and Peabody Award-winning series is broadcast on the PBS national schedule on Monday nights at 10pm. Independent Lens is the largest showcase for independent documentaries anywhere on U.S. television, premiering 22 new films each season. The series is curated jointly by ITVS and PBS.

Independent Lens films are often character driven stories, and are known for compelling storytelling, innovation, and diversity. Independent Lens welcomes individual expression and is committed to presenting diverse points of view, on topics suited for a national audience. Continue reading

Death of the DVD: Thoughts from New Day Films’ Jeff Tamblyn

ITVS’s Rebecca Huval discusses research, news, and trends that come out of ITVS’s IndiesLab.

The verdict is in: Filmmakers can expect to profit from DVD sales for only two more years. At least that’s what Jeff Tamblyn, Director of Digital Delivery at New Day, is wagering.

“We should start a pot at New Day, a betting pool,” Tamblyn joked. “I’d be really surprised if the DVD market was 25 percent of what it is now in two years. I think the shift to streaming is going to be sudden and immediate.”

Statistics are also sounding the death knell: DVD sales plummeted 20 percent in 2011 to $6.8 billion, while digital sales such as streaming rose 50 percent to $3.4 billion, according to USA Today. Blu-ray disc sales rose 19 percent, but it wasn’t enough to make up for the DVD’s slide. In 2012, more movies will be viewed online than in all formats combined, according to The Degree360. Continue reading

Independent Lens Announces Fall 2012 Season

The Independent Lens fall lineup includes a special presentation of Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, Love Free or DieAs Goes Janesville, and Park Avenue: Money, Power & the American Dream.

The 11th season of Independent Lens kicks off with Macky Alston’s documentary Love Free or Die.

With a new home on Monday nights, Independent Lens is ready to kick off its 11th season with a slate of award-winning documentaries that focus on various issues in America. Independent Lens senior series producer Lois Vossen told Real Screen: “All of the films are meant to really be conversations where people talk about the big issues: the war on drugs, rape in the U.S. military, the U.S. economy, the demise of the middle class, gay marriage. All topics that have people sort of polarized – and our goal is to try and bridge that divide… More than anything I would say that’s what ties this to an election year – this idea of what’s happening in contemporary America.”

Before the fall season officially launches, Independent Lens will present the primetime special Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, based on the bestselling book by Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn. Continue reading