Submit Your Film to Independent Lens!

Independent Lens is seeking film submissions of completed or near completed programs for broadcast during the October 2015 – June 2016 season.



Independent Lens is the largest showcase for independent documentaries anywhere on U.S. television, premiering 22 new films each season. Airing Monday nights at 10pm on PBS, Independent Lens has presented more than 300 thought-provoking documentaries to public television audiences since premiering in 2003.

Independent Lens films are often character driven stories and are known for compelling storytelling, innovation, and diversity. The Emmy and Peabody Award-winning series welcomes individual expression and is committed to presenting diverse points of view, on topics suited for a national audience.

When selecting programs, Independent Lens considers a range of factors, including the quality of the filmmaking, the timeliness of the story, and audience appeal. Programs should offer a fresh perspective, especially if the topic has been explored on other PBS series.

To learn more about eligibility, what we are looking for, and to complete the online submission form go to

An Inside Look at ITVS’s Producer Orientation

As we begin reviewing applications for the second round of Open Call, we want to highlight the experience of a filmmaker who was selected in the previous round for funding. Filmmaker S. Leo Chiang’s documentary, Out Run, was one of eight projects recommended for funding through the initiative. Here he provides a firsthand account of his experience at our ITVS Producer Orientation.

Filmmaker S. Leo Chiang

Filmmaker S. Leo Chiang

It is 9am on a Wednesday morning. Deep in ITVS’s San Francisco headquarters, a roomful of staff members and ITVS-funded producers are staring intently at a projector screen in a darkened room so they can… sing along to Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” music video. At the top of their lungs. Under a glittering disco ball.

Say what?

Welcome to ITVS Open Call Orientation!

For an independent documentary producer, few moments are more thrilling than getting that email from ITVS… you know, the one with the word “congratulations” somewhere in the first paragraph. Open Call funding support means that I, as a filmmaker, can now focus on actually making my film without expending more time on the laborious process of fundraising for a production. My film partner Johnny Symons and I have been working on Out Run, a documentary about the only LGBT political party in the world fighting to elect a transgender woman to the Philippine Congress. Needless to say, when we saw the coveted email in our inboxes inviting our project for Open Call co-production funding, we were beside ourselves. The first order of business after receiving the fantastic news? Attending ITVS Orientation. Continue reading

Celebrate Women’s History Month with #SheDocs!

March kicks off the second annual #SheDocs, an online film festival showcasing 12 documentaries highlighting extraordinary women and their accomplishments in celebration of International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month. The festival is presented by ITVS’s Women and Girls Lead campaign and sponsored by Eileen Fisher, Inc.

Female protagonists in film are few and far between. According to the Annenberg Public Policy Center, women have been consistently underrepresented as main characters for at least six decades. In 2013, females accounted for only 33% of all characters in the top 100 grossing films and only 11% featured women in leadership positions.

Women and Girls Lead is proud to combat these gender stereotypes and misrepresentations with the second annual #SheDocs online film festival, a collection of 12 documentaries highlighting extraordinary women working to close the gender gap and fight inequality. This month-long, free event presents films by prominent independent filmmakers and shines a spotlight on women who are working to transform their lives, their communities, and the world. Continue reading

Social TV Makes Big Progress in 2013

By Kelsey Savage, PBS Interactive 
Originally published on the PBS Station Products & Innovation Blog

Lounging around on your couch, clicker and blanket in tow, might not seem like the most overtly social activity. Yet, these days, even when we’re spending the evening parked in front of the television, we’re able to connect with our friends immediately about a show’s plot progression. In particular, Twitter has been leading the way for developing a strong social TV landscape.

In Nielsen’s annual “Station of The Media: The Social Media Report”, social TV demonstrated a growing user base. By June of 2012, over a third of Twitter users tweeted about a program on television, with the age 35-44 demographic being the most likely to comment on a TV show. In order to measure the power of social television, Nielsen will be working with Twitter to establish “a syndicate-standard metric around the reach of the TV conservation” by fall 2013. For the first time, broadcasters will be able to get an estimate of the number of people that participated or were exposed to an online conversation about their programming.

Public Media has also been capitalizing on the growth of social TV. Most notably, tech-savy, Downton Abbey lovers can check their Twitter feeds for instant feedback about the Dowager Countess’ latest sassy remark through the #DowntonPBS hashtag. PBS has also facilitated celebrity moderators, like Austenprose (@austenprose), The Daily Beast (@televisionary), Tom and Lorenzo (@tomandlorenzo) and Vulture (@vulture), to join the conversation. Their second-screen remarks add another dimension to the viewing experience. They make Downton feel like more than just TV show and more like a community. Continue reading

Women and Girls Lead Takes on Violence in 16 Days

From November 25 to December 10, Women and Girls Lead joins its partners in 16 Days of Action to eliminate gender-based violence. The 2012 global campaign focuses on the effects of militarism on women and girls.

Violence against women and girls is a global crisis that cuts across all countries, classes and cultures, touching the lives of women and girls in every community. According to the United Nations, approximately one out of every three women worldwide has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime. Violence prevention is a central issue in the Women and Girls Lead campaign and many of our partners. Each year, we join efforts in a 16-day, all-out activism blitz to put gender-based violence into the public spotlight.

The 16 Days of Action to eliminate violence against women kicks off on November 25th, International Day for the Elimination of Gender-Based Violence, and ends on December 10th, Human Rights Day. More than four thousand organizations from 172 countries have participated in the campaign since it launched at the Center for Women’s Global Leadership (CWGL) at Rutgers in 1991. Women and Girls Lead is one of them, offering films that amplify the stories of survivors and educate the public about the factors that contribute to violence. 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

Words Are the Building Blocks for New Ideas

ITVS and PBS Food are proud to present three videos from Douglas Gayeton’s The Lexicon of Sustainability multiplatform project, which uses photo collage, animation, and hand-written typography to explore terms and ideas behind sustainable agriculture.

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 the past three years Douglas Gayeton and Laura Howard-Gayeton have crisscrossed the USA to learn this new language of sustainability from its foremost practitioners in food and farming.  Alice Waters on edible schoolyards.  Wes Jackson on reinventing wheat farming.  Joel Salatin on embracing the value of saner farming practices.  Vandana Shiva on the global imperative of protecting seeds.  Paul Stamets on how mushrooms can save the world.  Will Allen on Food Security.  Temple Grandin on the humane slaughter of animals.  Farmer John on the revolutionary idea of community-supported agriculture.

Continue reading

The Social Entrepreneur: Helping Women Not Only to Survive but Thrive

A Women and Girls Lead Spotlight
By Siiri Morley, Founding Partner, Prosperity Candle

Siiri Morley in Lesotho

If someone had told me in college that I would end up getting an MBA and running a business, I would have been offended and said something like “well, you must not understand what I stand for.”

It took me a while to figure out how my diverse interests in anthropology, fair trade, social justice, women’s rights, and international development would come together into what everyone was urging me to get: a “real career”. The fact that these interests would all find a home in business sometimes still surprises me.

As a social entrepreneur running Prosperity Candle, many would still argue that I don’t have a “real career”, but to me, this is the most meaningful and important work that I’ve done.

To better understand how I came to see the potential for business to empower women economically and socially, I should tell you more about my work in the Peace Corps in a small southern African country called Lesotho. Continue reading

Bhutto Producer Mark Siegel Reflects on Benazir Bhutto

Mark Siegel, co-producer of the documentary Bhutto, discusses his relationship with the former Prime Minister of Pakistan. The film, which aired last season on Independent Lens, earned a Peabody award earlier this month. Siegel and filmmaker Duane Baughman will accept the prestigious award on May 21 in New York.

PBS Brings ‘Sunshine’ to Online Film Festival

The PBS Online Film Festival features 20 unique short films in various categories. From ‘Girl Power’ to ‘Offbeat’ and everywhere in between, PBS highlights the stories that only public media can tell. 

Watch Sunshine: Single Dads on PBS. See more from PBS Online Film Festival.

Dig deep into your roots and welcome diversity with this week’s ‘Who Are We?’ shorts. ITVS is proud to have Sunshine: Single Dads, a short companion piece to the ITVS documentary Sunshine. In this short, single parenthood becomes even more complicated when the parent is a father and that father is gay. Sunshine: Single Dads tells the male side of one family’s unconventional parenting journey across generations.

PBS will announce the People’s Choice Winner on April 16th, so be sure to vote for your favorite film by clicking on the “like” button after watching the videos.

For a complete listing of short included in the PBS Online Film Festival, please click here.