ITVS heads to Austin for SXSW ’16


By Elisabeth Copper, @eacopper

Sr. Manager, Social Media

Can you believe it’s almost time to head to Austin for SXSW? It feels like just yesterday we were filling up on Torchy’s Tacos and partying with PBS at the Parish. We’ll be back in town this Friday to support our funded films, participate in panels, and keep tabs on what’s new and exciting in the film and tech world. If you’ll be joining us in the Lone Star State, here’s where we’ll be. Come say hi!

Film Screenings

If you have a Film, Gold, or Platinum badge, don’t miss these three ITVS-funded documentaries screening at the film festival this week.


Filmed over the course of nearly three years, the filmmakers use unique access and never before heard testimonies to tell a story of the aftermath of the deadliest mass shooting of schoolchildren in American history. Newtown documents a traumatized community fractured by grief and driven toward a sense of purpose. Joining the ranks of a growing club to which no one wants to belong, a cast of characters interconnect to weave an intimate story of community resilience.


On August 1st, 1966, a sniper rode the elevator to the top floor of the University of Texas Tower and opened fire, holding the campus hostage for 96 minutes. When the gunshots were finally silenced, the toll included 16 dead, three dozen wounded, and a shaken nation left trying to understand. Combining archival footage with rotoscopic animation in a dynamic, never-before-seen way, TOWER reveals the action-packed untold stories of the witnesses, heroes and survivors of America’s first mass school shooting, when the worst in one man brought out the best in so many others.


From 2011 to 2015, hundreds of regulations were passed restricting access to abortion in the US. Reproductive rights advocates refer to these as “TRAP” laws – Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers. Southern clinics, in particular, have been hit hardest and are now in a fight for survival. Trapped interweaves the personal stories behind these regulatory battles: from the physician, to the clinic owners, to the lawyers, to the women they are determined to help. In this feature length character driven film, our main characters fight alongside dedicated attorneys to preserve abortion rights in a country living with the mistaken belief that Roe v Wade still protects a woman’s right to choose.

Ovarian Psycos

Riding at night through the dangerous streets of Eastside Los Angeles, the Ovarian Psycos use their bikes to confront the violence in their lives. At the helm of the crew is founder Xela de la X, a single mother and poet M.C. dedicated to recruiting an unapologetic, misfit crew of women of color. The film intimately chronicles Xela as she struggles to strike a balance between her activism and nine year old daughter Yoli; street artist Andi who is estranged from her family and journeys to become a leader within the crew; and bright eyed recruit Evie, who despite poverty, and the concerns of her protective Salvadoran mother, discovers a newfound confidence.


Demystifying Digital Distribution

Thanks to the shift towards digital distribution, there’s more opportunity than ever for filmmakers to reach viewers and monetize their films. While video-on-demand has become an invaluable option, it also presents its own share of challenges. At this panel, industry experts Linzee Troubh, Scott Kaplan, Jason Kwong, and Flora Pereira will tell you what you need to know about launching titles on platforms such as Netflix, iTunes, and Amazon. They will provide an overview of the most common deal structures and windowing strategies, what factors distributors consider when negotiating a licensing deal, how much your rights are worth and which ones you should consider retaining or exploiting.

New Partnerships in Digital Storytelling

Are the futures of journalism and documentary intertwined? Filmmakers and journalists each play a vital role in informing the American public. While journalists excel at breaking news, filmmakers illuminate the personal, human stories behind the headlines. Doc film nonprofit ITVS presents, Kasia Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg of The Atlantic, Erika Cohn, director of the documentary In Football We Trust, and Lois Vossen, Executive Producer of the anthology documentary series Independent Lens on PBS, will discuss the challenges and opportunities of a new model of in-depth storytelling, and provide insight on how journalists and filmmakers can work together to strike up critical conversations.

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!

San Francisco Film Society’s New Doc Stories Series

We’re absolutely thrilled that our friends at the San Francisco Film Society (SFFS) have added a new documentary series to their autumn programming. An essential element of the organization’s year-round celebration of contemporary world cinema, the Fall Season spotlights international film cultures and now features Doc Stories, a brand-new showcase exhibiting some of the year’s best nonfiction films.


With numerous filmmakers in attendance, Doc Stories (November 5-8 at the Vogue Theatre) will give audiences opportunities to see the movies that will likely define this year’s awards season while engaging in in-depth conversations about critical contemporary issues with some of the most talented documentary storytellers. From intensely personal essays to hard-hitting topical investigations into urgent global issues to examinations of some of culture’s most fascinating figures, there is something for everyone with an interest in the world around them in this inaugural festival.


With films like What Happened, Miss Simone? and Cartel Land — movies already available streaming — the key difference brought to Film Society viewership will be the illuminating and thought-provoking onstage discussions with filmmakers and other special guests in attendance for each screening. SFFS will host directors for nearly every film in the program, putting them in dialogue with key cultural critics.

We’re so excited for this new series to get started. Don’t miss your chance to see the ITVS funded film  Thank You for Playing  on November 8th, and more at:

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.

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.

Continue reading

My So-Called Enemy, Sunday on Global Voices

This Sunday on Global Voices, filmmaker Lisa Gossels presents the Israeli/Palestinian conflict through a human lens in her documentary, My So-Called Enemy. The film begins in July 2002, when twenty-two Palestinian and Israeli teenage girls traveled to the US to participate in a ten-day women’s leadership program. My So-Called Enemy is about six of those girls and how the transformative experience of knowing their “enemies” as human beings meets with the realities of their lives at home in the Middle East over the next seven years. In this post, Gossels shares her motivation for making this film.

There’s many things that a person might look like and you’re one hundred percent positive who they are. And when you talk to them, you’re shocked that they’re completely the opposite. Like whoever looks at me, “No way you’re an Arab.” But I go like, “Oh, dude, I am an Arab!” So, don’t concentrate on the first impression. If you think you don’t like the person, approach them to know who they really are.
-Rawan (Palestinian, Muslim)

by Lisa Gossels, Director

When I introduce My So-Called Enemy at screenings, I always say that making the film was an eight-year journey of both learning and unlearning for me – and a stripping away of personal narratives that I was raised with.  My hope as a documentarian is that audiences will experience some of that same transformation when they watch the movie.

I live in downtown Manhattan and shortly after 9/11, I remember engaging in some heated political conversations with close friends about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. When I tried to express any nuance in those discussions, I came to understand how wars could be fought on words and how easy it is to reduce conflicts to black and white terms. At a conference two months earlier, I had the privilege of meeting Melodye Feldman (the founder of Building Bridges for Peace), and four participants from her just-completed summer program. After listening to the girls’ dramatic stories about how the program had changed them, I begged Melodye to let me film her program the next year! I was excited that Building Bridges for Peace empowers teenage girls because, as Nicholas Kristof wrote, “Focusing on women and girls is the most effective way to fight global poverty and extremism.” Continue reading

A New Season of Community Cinema is Upon Us!

The new season of Community Cinema will screen six documentaries in more than 100 cities across the country, in addition to hosting online social screenings through the innovative OVEE platform.

The 2013-14 season of Community Cinema officially launched in September, offering an exciting slate of films and new ways to participate. First up, partners are screening the two part series The Graduates/Los Graduados prior to its Independent Lens broadcast premiere dates on Monday, October 28 and November 4 (check local listings). The series features first-hand perspectives on the challenges facing Latino and Latina high school students from across the U.S.

The Graduates/Los Graduados is the first entirely bilingual English-Spanish Community Cinema engagement campaign, with resources including an incredibly creative and engaging Youth Action Guide designed to get young people involved in increasing their school-wide graduation rates. At screenings, a few lucky educators and youth leaders will get to take home their own DVDs with the films, short format modules, and tools to help bring other important stakeholders into the conversation. With the support of CPB’s American Graduate initiative behind The Graduates/Los Graduados, the Community Cinema screenings through October will help start the school year off right with impactful, solution-oriented discussions on education and equality. Continue reading

Through Her Lens: An Antidote to the Female Director Gap

Women & Girls Lead announces the launch of Through Her Lens, an online series of dramatic shorts premiering on June 12, 2013.

Women are conspicuously absent from the top ranks of film. In 2012, women made up a measly 9 percent of directors working on the top 250 domestic-grossing films in the U.S.

But there are a few bright spots: Women were more likely to work for documentaries, dramas, and animated films than action, horror, and sci-fi in 2012. At high-profile film festivals, they more commonly were directors of documentaries than narrative features. They are also more likely to be top brass on feature-length films in top U.S. film festivals than the cash-raking, top 250 grossing films.

ITVS’s response to this gender gap? Women and Girls Lead’s series of dramatic shorts, Through Her Lens premiering exclusively online on June 12, 2013.  Directed by women, featuring stories about women, the series travels from the streets of Spanish Town, Jamaica, to an apartment in Amman, Jordan, to a Chinese immigrant enclave in New York City. Continue reading

Happy International Women’s Day from Women and Girls Lead

Today is International Women’s Day! How do you plan to honor the more than 3 billion women and girls in the world in the next 24 hours? We like to celebrate with film, of course. No other medium can amplify women’s voices and capture their experiences quite like documentary film. Join us today at 11am PT / 2pm ET for a special International Women’s Day online screening of clips from Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide.


Fans of the Half the Sky Movement will gather online today to talk about the ways that they are making a difference in the lives of women and girls everywhere. We’ll also share lots of new opportunities to get involved, such as a new Facebook game! Half the Sky Movement: The Game is a Facebook adventure that raises awareness and funds to empower women and girls across the globe. Inspired by the worldwide movement, the game was created by Pulitzer-Prize winning authors Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn and the PBS documentary film series. Players can embark on a journey to complete quests and unlock real-life donations from sponsors that reflect many important issues.

We’ll also talk more about the inspiring young female changemakers currently being considered for the Students Rebuild Award. The award, sponsored by the Besos Family Foundation, will give five $10,000 prizes to young women working for change in Half the Sky featured countries. Through the end of the day, anyone can view and vote for these remarkable award finalists, who hail from Sierra Leone, Cambodia, Somaliland, India, and Kenya. Award winners will be announced online during the week of March 18th.

Be sure to continue the celebration all month long by watching the ten powerful documentaries included in the #SheDocs Online Film Festival. Happy International Women’s Day from Women and Girls Lead!

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!

Get to Know the Women Who Make History

Women and Girls Lead ushers in Women’s History Month with the presentation of MAKERS: Women Who Make America, premiering February 26, 2013 at 8pm ET.

“I’m going to finish this race on my hands and my knees if I have to. If I don’t finish this race, then everybody is going to believe women can’t do it. I’ve got to finish this race.” – Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to register and run the Boston Marathon, in MAKERS

In the opening scene of MAKERS, Kathrine Switzer is nearly tackled to the ground by Boston Marathon director Jock Semple. At that time, women were not allowed to compete in the race and the mere sight of her incited such rage in Semple that he’d rather tackle her than see her complete her 26.2 miles. It seems hard to believe in 2013, a year that saw the highest number of women sworn in to the U.S. Congress and the ban on military women in combat lifted by the Pentagon. As Women and Girls Lead prepares to celebrate many of  these triumphs during Women’s History Month this March, MAKERS helps audiences see how far we’ve come–and how far we still have to go. Continue reading