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.

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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 www.ILsubmissions.org.

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

Around the World in Many Ways with Global Voices

By Misa Oyama, ITVS Staff

The narrative film Boyhood has provoked significant interest for following the growth of the same actor as he ages in real time. While the approach is unique in feature films, this method is an everyday reality for a documentary filmmaker – as is demonstrated by this season of Global Voices.

Richard Linklater’s new film Boyhood has provoked a lot of interest in its intriguing premise and the background of its production: follow the growth of a character over twelve years, not with different actors, but with the same person as he ages in real time. This is the first time that a narrative film has had the patience to tackle the kind of project well-known in the documentary world. Most notably, Michael Apted’s Up series follows the same people over the course of a lifetime, beginning with a group of 7-year-old British schoolchildren in 1964 and revisiting them every seven years; the most recent installment explores their lives at the age of 56. Filming over a span of years gives audiences a true sense of the passing of time.

Like these films, three documentaries in this summer’s Global Voices series approach the subject of growth and aging, despite vastly different cultural contexts. Each one explores a significant period in a person’s life, from young adulthood to middle age to the final years. You can see a lifetime in My So-Called EnemyMy Perestroika [both available to watch online], and Here Comes Uncle Joe [airing on the WORLD Channel August 31st]. Continue reading

Everything You Need to Know to Apply to Open Call

Over the past month, ITVS’s Programming Department hosted a number of informative webinars in order to arm filmmakers with the information needed to successfully apply for Open Call funding. With Friday’s deadline fast approaching, we wanted to offer this brief overview of each of the events, which covered everything from writing the ITVS treatment to what makes a successful work-in-progress sample. Check it out and be sure to apply to Open Call by Friday, August 8th.

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On July 10th, Programming Manager N’Jeri Eaton hosted the “Writing the ITVS Treatment” webinar. View the archived webinar below:

Treatment Webinar from ITVS_VIDEO on Vimeo.

On July 24th, an OVEE screening was held to review work-in-progress samples and to discuss the process with filmmakers who were successful with their submissions. To find out what makes a good work sample, read the transcript from the “Work-in-Progresses That Work” webinar here. Continue reading

Budgeting for ITVS Open Call

ITVS programming staff Jen Gilomen and Jorge Trelles hosted a budgeting webinar for Open Call on Thursday, July 24, 2014. Below is the recorded event, which includes an overview presentation and Q&A with participants. Also below is a recap of the new budget format for Open Call.

As part of your application to Open Call (now in WizeHive, an online system), we ask for summary budget information for your program – including secured funding and expenses. Your “request to ITVS” is based on your total budgeted expenses minus the total secured funding you have received for your project. The “Total Request to ITVS” is therefore the total amount you need to complete your public television program as outlined in your proposal. Your budget, with the rest of your application, tells a story to reviewers about how you plan to complete your film.

Secured Funding: This section is only for “secured” funding (no in-kind contributions). This means “Producers Cash” contributed to the production (hard costs you have incurred that weren’t covered by other funding sources) and other grants and income sources you have obtained for your film. “Secured” means you have already received the funding or have been promised the funding in writing.

Expenses: Expenses are all of the costs associated with producing your public television program from inception to final masters delivered for broadcast. It should not include any other expenses, such as costs associated with creating another version of your film, distribution, marketing, your film’s website, outreach efforts, etc. Budget categories from the ITVS Budget Template are pre-populated in the online application for convenience, but you can edit the categories to fit your existing budget. You are welcome to use (but not required to use) the ITVS Production Budget Template (download here in Excel formats: xlsx or xls) to calculate subtotal amounts for your major budget categories. (Please note that if your project is selected for Open Call panel review, you will be required to submit a full ITVS Production Budget in this format. Even then, you will be able to modify the category names.)

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

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.

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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 PBS.org for one week only, so take advantage while you can!

ITVS and Independent Lens Receive 13 News and Documentary Emmy Nominations

The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences announced this year’s nominees for the 35th annual News & Documentary Emmy® Awards, which recognizes outstanding achievement in broadcast journalism and documentary filmmaking. And ITVS is proud to say that nine of our documentaries received 13 nominations for 2013!

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PBS received a total of 43 nominations — the most of any network — including 10 nominations for Independent Lens, 11 nominations for FRONTLINE (two for the ITVS-funded Outlawed in Pakistan), and six for POV (including Reportero), so it’s a great day all around for public media documentaries! The News & Documentary Emmy Awards will be presented on Tuesday, September 30th, 2014, in New York City.

“These Emmy nominations are a testament to the expemplary journalism that independent documentary filmmakers practice,” said Lois Vossen, Independent Lens Deputy Executive Producer. “They reflect the extraordinary vitality and diversity of our vibrant independent documentary community.”

And without further ado, here are the ITVS films receiving Emmy honors: Continue reading

Ask the Expert: Writing the ITVS Treatment

Programming Manager N’Jeri Eaton hosted an informative webinar last week, reviewing the new Open Call submission process and providing insight into writing the ITVS treatment. This archived webinar is available for those who were unable to attend or are looking to brush up on their treatment knowledge. 

Treatment Webinar from ITVS_VIDEO on Vimeo.

“Writing the ITVS Treatment” was the first in a series of webinars ITVS is hosting in an effort to provide more resources for filmmakers applying to Open Call. The following weekly webinars will be held in the lead up to this year’s deadline:

July 17th
Work-in-Progresses That Work Webinar (read the transcript here)

July 24th
ITVS Budgeting Basics Webinar (read our recap here)

July 31st
Open Call Live Chat

Please note, ITVS will be accepting Open Call applications through Friday, August 8th. For more information about the Open Call initiative or ITVS funding in general, please go to the updated funding pages on our website. And stay tuned to our blogTwitter and Facebook!

Attention Filmmakers! Changes to ITVS Open Call

You’ve given us feedback through surveys, emails, phone calls, and one-on-one meetings.  And we have been listening!  The Programming Department is excited to announce some changes to our Open Call initiative.

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The following changes have been made to the application process for the ITVS Open Call initiative. For a complete listing of rules and regulations, please visit the ITVS Open Call page on the ITVS website.

NEW DEADLINE

The upcoming deadline is August 8th.  This will allow filmmakers to learn more about the changes to our application process and update their materials accordingly.  This will also give applicants from the previous round more time to revise their materials before applying again while also providing a breather for Open Call staff.

SHORTER REVIEW PROCESS

Applicant will be notified about the status of the submissions within 15 weeks of the application deadline.   Previously, applicants who went through all three phases of review had to wait up to five months for final funding decisions to be made.  We understand that five months can be a lifetime in the course of a film.

APPLICATION MATERIALS CHANGES

One of the reasons we’re able to shorten the cycle length is that we’re making changes to the application materials. Instead of submitting a condensed three-page program description, we’re now expanding the program description to be up to seven pages in length.

We’ve also changed the length requirements for the work-in-progress sample. Now, we will only accept work samples that are between 10 to 15 minutes or a full rough cut that is within 20% of the proposed length. For example, if you’re applying for an hour long project, your rough cut cannot be any longer than 72 minutes.

If your project gets to the Panel Review phase, then we will only ask you to send a production questionnaire and a full budget in addition to the materials you previously submitted. Continue reading