Applying for the Peabody Awards: What You Need to Know

Peabody Trophy

Every year, the Peabody Awards recognize those who excel in radio, television broadcasting, and online media in America. The judges review over a thousand documentary entries and only a select few are awarded the prestigious gold medallion. With such stiff competition, what makes a film stand out? Earlier this week we hosted a webinar featuring Dr. Nate Kohn and Matt Shedd of the George Foster Peabody Awards at the University of Georgia who gave us the inside scoop.


The Peabody Awards honor a diverse range of stories across radio, television, and digital media. To qualify, documentaries must have appeared online or on local or national television. Films with minor theatrical releases (art houses, indie theaters) are eligible but those with large-scale theatricals (Friday night release, available in 3k theaters nationwide) are considered major motion pictures and are disqualified.


When you upload your project for consideration, you’ll be asked to include a short essay. Don’t let this requirement scare you! You won’t be judged on this section, only the project itself. This is your opportunity to tell the judges what the film is about, who was involved in making it, why it’s important, and the impact it’s had. If you have any press reviews or additional content, you can include them in the “Supplementary Material” section. While the film’s reach and impact can be included in the essay or supplementary materials section, it’s what the judges are seeing on screen that matters most.


Although you’ll submit your entry into one of six subcategories, this is just a way for the Peabody Board of Jurors to remain organized. The prizes aren’t awarded by category, nor are there finalists or nominees. When the judges meet face-to-face to determine the winners, they have only one criteria on their minds: excellence. They’re looking for stories that matter and documentaries of substance. Films aren’t compared to one another, they’re judged only against themselves. The jurors must unanimously agree on the films that they choose to recognize.

This is just some of what we covered in our conversation with Dr. Nate Kohn and Matt Shedd, For additional tips on making your submission shine, watch the recording below. ITVS-funded films and Independent Lens broadcasts have won 30 Peabody Awards to date. This webinar is the first of several awards-related webinars presented for free to all filmmakers. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter for more info!


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.

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PBS Listening Tour Comes to New York City: A Report

This post was originally published on the POV blog 

PBS Listening Tour

A National Listening Tour on Independent Film on PBS came to New York City on February 23, 2015 at SVA Theatre in Manhattan.

PBS, ITVS, POV, Independent Lens, Indie Caucus and WNET hosted a full house on the Independent Film on PBS Listening Tour on Monday, February 23 at the SVA Theatre in Manhattan.

Building on the conversation that began last month in San Francisco, a panel of PBS leadership, series producers and independent filmmakers heard from an audience of more than 400 filmmakers, local and national independent film organizations, public media advocates, educators and community leaders, and shared and discussed their perspectives on PBS’s role as a provider and platform for independent documentary films.

On stage, Beth Hoppe, Chief Programming Executive and GM and General Audience Programming at PBS, laid out new potential strategies around marketing initiatives, live events and theatrical distribution of independent films, while Marie Nelson, Vice President of News & Public Affairs at PBS, continued to welcome innovative ideas to promote larger viewership. Stephen Segaller, Vice President of Programming at WNET, further explained WNET’s reasoning for wanting to experiment with scheduling times for POV and Independent Lens, and was receptive to the concern of the New York City audience at the event.

Moderator Mikel Ellecessor did his best to drive the conversation to a new phase, urging speakers to move on from discussing proposed scheduling changes for POV and Independent Lens, towards bringing forward alternative suggestions to ensure that PBS provides independent film to its largest audience.

Simon Kilmurry, Executive Producer of POV, Sally Jo Fifer, President and CEO of ITVS and Executive Producer of Independent Lens, and Lois Vossen, Deputy Executive Producer of Independent Lens, provided their perspectives as representatives and funders of the two largest showcases for independent film on public television, while Marcia Smith, President of Firelight Media, and Dawn Porter, Director/Producer of Gideon’s Army and Indie Caucus representative, offered their experiences working with the series, and advocated for their continued prioritization by PBS locally and nationally.

PBS Listening Tour Panel NYC

From left to right: Simon Kilmurry, Executive Producer, POV; Dawn Porter, Director/Producer, Indie Caucus Representative; Marcia Smith, President, Firelight Media; Lois Vossen, Deputy Executive Producer, Independent Lens; Sally Jo Fifer, President and CEO, ITVS and Executive Producer, Independent Lens; Beth Hoppe, Chief Programming Executive and GM and General Audience Programming, PBS; Marie Nelson, Vice President, News & Public Affairs, PBS; Stephen Segaller, Vice President, Programming, WNET

Attendees waited in the aisles of the theatre to share their experiences, perspectives and concerns, touching on issues around the visibility of independent films on television, accessibility of programs in low-income neighborhoods of New York City and representation of the diversity of the city in programming decisions and scheduling. Speakers on the mic included POV and Independent Lens filmmakers, partners and founders.

PBS launched “Independent Film on PBS: A National Listening Tour” in partnership with ITVS, POV, Independent Lens, and WNET. The Indie Caucus and Kartemquin Films will host the next stop in Chicago in March, date TBD.

ITVS Heads to the Sundance Film Festival


By Elisabeth Copper

ITVS Social Media Manager, @eacopper

With parkas, scarves, and boots in tow, we’ve hit the road for what’s going to be an incredible week in Park City, Utah! A couple of us have already arrived at Sundance to meet with storytellers and directors, participate in panels, and preview some of the year’s most buzzed about films, which includes five ITVS supported documentaries. If you’re in town, you definitely don’t want to miss the following screenings:


William F. Buckley & Gore Vidal in the film Best of Enemies. (Photo courtesy of Sundance Institute; ABC Photo Archives)

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Listening Tour Kicks Off in San Francisco: A Report

PBS Listening Tour in San Francisco

On Saturday, PBS, ITVS, POV, Independent Lens, and WNET together led the first in a series of events to ignite conversations about the importance of independent documentary films — and the need to provide a prominent platform for indies.

More than 225 Bay Area filmmakers, local and national independent film organizations, public media advocates, educators, and community leaders turned out at the San Francisco Public Library to share and hear testimonials and ideas on how to build the visibility, reach, and impact of independent films by and about diverse, underrepresented communities on public broadcasting.

Their audience? PBS programming leaders Beth Hoppe and Marie Nelson, WNET’s Lesley Norman, ITVS’s Sally Jo Fifer, KQED’s Kevin Martin, Independent Lens’ Lois Vossen, POV’s Simon Kilmurry, filmmakers Orlando Bagwell and Tracy Droz Tragos, and community leaders Esta Soler of Futures Without Violence and Kin Folkz of Spectrum Queer Media.

The line to the microphone snaked up the auditorium aisle as attendees stepped up to tell the panel of “listeners” onstage about their experiences in making and using independent documentary to engage citizens of all ages in social issues, from poverty and homelessness to youth and women’s empowerment to LGBQT rights and gender-based violence. Many filmmakers expressed their hope for POV and Independent Lens to maintain a prominent position on the programming schedule amid recent headlines in trade press.

See a few highlights from the event here:

See coverage on Saturday’s event in Current: “Filmmakers push for common carriage at first stop in public TV ‘listening tour‘.”

PBS launched “Independent Film on PBS: A National Listening Tour” in partnership with ITVS, POV, Independent Lens, and WNET. WNET and POV will organize the next event to be held on February 23, 2015 in New York City, location TBD. The Indie Caucus and Kartemquin Films will host a third stop in Chicago in March, date TBD.

Independent Film on PBS: A National Listening Tour


In keeping with its commitment to being the “home to indies,” PBS programming leadership will travel throughout the country over the next few months to meet with independent filmmakers, PBS independent film series producers, PBS station programmers, and other public media and community partners. Listening Tour co-hosts will include ITVS, POV, Independent Lens, and WNET, among others.  At each stop, event participants will voice their priorities, concerns, and ideas on how all the stakeholders can work together to strengthen audience and community engagement with social issues storytelling.

San Francisco will be the first stop on the tour on Saturday, January 17. The event will be hosted by PBS, WNET, ITVS, Independent Lens, and POV, with co-sponsors:

The Listening Tour hosts will announce additional stops in New York and elsewhere as they are confirmed. ITVS looks forward to building a roadmap with our partners for the long-term success of independent film on PBS.

If you have any questions, please contact us at

Help Bring ITVS to SXSW!

Public voting for SXSW 2015 is officially underway. Check out ITVS’s three panel proposals and vote for your favorites – hurry, voting closes September 5th!

btb_panelpickerITVS is proud to be part of three proposed panel discussions for next year’s SXSW festival in Austin. Highlighting topics ranging from navigating the digital terrain to the ins and outs of webseries funding, ITVS is eager to share the insight of industry experts and veteran filmmakers. We may be biased but we think all three of our panels are very worthy of inclusion in SXSW programming and we could use your vote. So sign up and give us a thumb’s up!

First off we ask, “What’s the Value of Your Digital Rights?” In this panel, industry experts will provide insight into how much digital rights are worth to filmmakers and distributors launching titles on outlets such as iTunes, Amazon, and Netflix. Attendees will walk away from this session with insight into which platforms are winning in the battle for viewer attention, while attaining a greater understanding of the deal structures and windowing strategies negotiated as part of these licensing deals.

What sets PBS apart from all of the other broadcasters and distribution outlets? Why do award-winning filmmakers continue to choose PBS as the home for their films? Our second panel, “Doc Distribution: Get Up to Speed with PBS Indies,” highlights the benefits of distributing your film through public television. With access to 98% of American households and the opportunity to be a part of national engagement programs, public media is a great fit for producers looking to expand cultural awareness, spark dialogue, and evoke civil participation. Attendees will be able to hear directly from filmmakers who have chosen this distribution route and how it affected the reach, revenue, and impact of their project. Continue reading

Summer #ThrowbackThursday’s Return!

For a second year, ITVS’s Emmy-award winning series, Independent Lens, is unlocking the PBS Video vault to revive previously aired, fan favorite films.


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.

Make sure you’re following Independent Lens on Twitter and Instagram to see which docs will be offered next. The “throwback” films are available on for one week only, so take advantage while you can!