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

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.


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

Don’t Miss the Deadline for the 2013 CPB/PBS Producers Academy

The deadline for the 2013 CPB/PBS Producers Academy at WGBH is Friday, December 14, 2012. To apply for this intensive training program in public broadcasting, please visit the official website.

For the past 11 years, CPB and PBS have offered a Producers Academy that provides intensive training in public broadcasting production. Many talented individuals have emerged from this workshop, finding success on various public broadcasting platforms.

25 individuals will be offered the opportunity to go to this year’s workshop at WGBH-Boston from Saturday March 30 through April 5, 2013. The goal of the Producers Academy is to encourage a diverse and talented group of producers to create new and greater programming achievements in public broadcasting. The firm deadline for interested applicants is Friday, December 14, 2012.

This weeklong seminar is free and open to media makers nationwide who want to develop skills and connections in public broadcasting. Over the seven-day period, participants can expect to attend intensive courses that cover a wide range of production skills, building on the expertise that has made PBS a well-known and respected American cultural outlet. 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

Five Insights on Hacking Films from the Software Developers Who’ve Done It

by Adnaan Wasey
Originally published on the POV Blog

Somewhat fresh off their own Hackathon, POV’s Adnaan Wasey offers filmmakers, developers, and designers some of the advice POV was given for reinventing the documentary for web.

Before the POV Hackathon got underway, mentors and veteran engineers shared with the teams some advice born of experience. Here’s what they were told…

Understand why there are barriers to communication between filmmakers and developers. Each group’s ambitions inherently put them at odds. While filmmakers and creators are thinking about how they can bring novelty and uniqueness to their content, developers are thinking about rule sets and doing all they can to limit exceptions. Each group must understand that these contrasting philosophies could be at the root of a conflict.

Aim for a “minimum viable product.”Teams should set goals around the absolute minimum set of features that serves to show off their intents. The goals must be achievable in a short time frame because without a working prototype it will be difficult to learn how the product will actually be used.

Never forget your audience. How will users discover the product you are making? As one mentor noted, “Serendipity is not a use case,” meaning users need to be able to intuit how to interact with the product (once they’ve found it). Continue reading

Bringing New Voices to Health Care Talk on Capitol Hill

By Chi Do
Associate Director of Engagement & Education, ITVS

Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) introduced The Waiting Room on June 18 for a screening on Capitol Hill. The documentary will air next season on Independent Lens.

This past Monday, ITVS presented a timely screening and discussion on health care and America’s uninsured featuring Peter Nick’s award-winning documentary, The Waiting Room.

The film goes behind the doors of Oakland’s Highland Hospital and provides an intimate portrait of how patients, staff, and caregivers cope with the complexity of the nation’s public health care system.

More than 200 guests including — policy makers, health care providers, and community members filled the Cannon House Office Building’s grand Caucus Room.

Christina Bellantoni of PBS NewsHour welcomed the audience to this kick-off event for the ITVS Capitol Hill Screening Series, co-presented by the Congressional Arts Caucus.
Continue reading

Crowdfunding: What to Keep in Mind When Considering Broadcast on Public Television

By Ines Hofmann Kanna
Production Manager, ITVS

An ITVS Production Manager offers insight on crowdfunding for potential public television broadcasts.

 “I worried about asking friends and family for donations,” says Alicia Dwyer, director of the ITVS-funded documentary Xmas Without China. “But I came to feel most excited about our crowdfunding as I realized that we do have a base of supporters who want to connect with our creative process, and many folks seemed to enjoy being a part of supporting us during production, however small [...] their contribution.”

Many filmmakers have done as Alicia has. They have turned to the not-so-new-anymore phenomenon of finding funds in a large crowd of people — smaller amounts of money rather than large checks from just a few sponsors.  Alicia’s team successfully raised over $15,000 in the allotted time frame and used it to keep their production going.  As grant money and (corporate) sponsorships are harder to secure, this grassroots-level approach has helped many other producers get started, keep afloat, or even finish their films.  ITVS appreciates this resourcefulness of independent filmmakers working today. Continue reading

How to Pitch Like a Pro: A Tribeca Guide

By Claire Aguilar
Vice President of Programming, ITVS

ITVS’s Claire Aguilar attended the 11th annual Tribeca Film Festival this past April, participating in the Tribeca Film Institute’s Filmmaker Pitch Workshop and acting as a juror for the Tribeca All Access Documentary Program.

Tribeca Film Institute Industry Meetings

For the past five years, ITVS has participated in the Tribeca Film Festival in many different capacities, from the funder of films selected for the festival (this year included Stephen Maing’s High Tech, Low Life, Beth Murphy’s The List, and Jerry Rothwell’s Town of Runners), to hosting special screenings of ITVS films (FUTURESTATES), ITVS’s involvement in this iconic festival is always varied and exciting.

Two special events this year included participation in Tribeca’s Interactive Day (attended by ITVS’s Karim Ahmad) and Tribeca All Access, a year-round initiative that supports the careers of filmmakers who hail from communities traditionally under-represented in the film industry. Tribeca All Access has been a successful and groundbreaking industry event, fostering and supporting diverse filmmaking voices through industry meetings, development support, and mentoring. Continue reading

Reaching an Audience on Multiple Screens

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

As you probably know, TV viewership today is vastly different than it was just a few years ago. There’s at least one upside. Now that viewers tend to click on their entertainment, media has become easier to track. Recent Nielsen reports paint a picture of TV homes aglow with multiple screens, and their viewing habits vary across demographics in interesting ways.

Gadget owners juggle between multiple screens. While watching a TV program, they checked email (57 percent), surfed for unrelated info (44 percent), and visited a social networking site (44 percent). In 2011, the number of laptops surpassed desktops in TV homes, making it easier to browse on the couch. The top visited websites were the usual suspects: Facebook, YouTube, Zynga, Google Search, and Yahoo! Mail. Continue reading

Muslim Stories Marinate Hawaiian Style

Filmmaker Justin Mashouf was one of six filmmakers invited to the Diverse Muslim Voices Exchange, hosted by the Doris Duke Foundation of Islamic Arts and ITVS. He offered BTB this roundup of the Exchange, held April 3-5, 2012 in Hawaii. 

The Diverse Muslim Voices Exchange was held at the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art at Shangri-La.

Collaboration is the best teacher and earlier this month, my classroom was a recreated 17th century Mughal garden overlooking the crisp blue ocean in Honolulu. Life is tough. I was fortunate enough to be included among the six filmmakers working on Muslim themed documentaries invited to fly to out to Hawaii for a 3-day meeting of the minds at the Diverse Muslim Voices Exchange. The event was hosted by The Doris Duke Foundation of Islamic Art at Shangri-La, the residence of the late Ms. Duke, which houses one of the world’s most unique private collections of Islamic Art.

We were invited to workshop and pitch our stories to funders from Ford Foundation, Tribeca Film Institute, Black Public Media, and the Center for Asian American Media.  I had come to pitch a film I have been researching for four years about men who convert to Islam in prison and their journey transitioning out of incarceration. Continue reading