Applying for the Primetime Emmy® Awards: What You Need to Know


Over the past few months, ITVS has hosted a series of webinars for filmmakers interested in submitting their projects for major awards. Our latest installment featured the Primetime Emmys presented by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (ATAS). We were joined by Dr. John Leverence, Senior Vice President of Awards, and Daniel H. Birman and Shari Cookson, representatives from the Board of Governors for Documentary Programming, who were kind enough to walk us through the process and answer audience questions. Here are some of the key takeaways from the conversation.  

What’s the difference between the Television Academy and the National Academy?

The Television Academy honors primetime programming. It is comprised of 29 “peer groups” whose work is aired nationally and whose members are eligible to vote for the Emmy Awards. Peer groups are based on areas of expertise, from network executives to hair stylists; from performers to cinematographers.

The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences [NATAS] honors national daytime, news and sports programming. The National Academy is member-based and has affiliated chapters in US cities and regions that award Emmys for local programming.

When it comes to submitting a documentary, it’s helpful to understand that the Primetime Emmy Awards are more specific to docs that don’t come from news departments. For example – 60 Minutes is a CBS News production and is therefore eligible in the NATAS news and docs Emmys, whereas American Masters is not a news department production and is eligible in the Television Academys documentary/nonfiction competition.

What is the Exceptional Merit in Documentary Filmmaking Jury Award?

This award was created in 2005 to honor documentaries that may not be considered “popular” but still meet the Exceptional Merit criteria. This award is selected by a nominating and voting jury and is not part of the overall ballot. The chances for winning are not predicated on a theatrical release, network involvement, awards department, or marketing budget. Instead, the judges look for social impact, innovation, and mastery of the craft.

If a film is broadcast on a series, can the producers submit it to the Emmys independent of that series?

You can’t “double dip” – only a single Emmy for a single achievement. You can enter it either as a series or as a single episode, (which then makes the series not eligible). However, you can enter into the Exceptional Merit category, which is the one exception!

Will a theatrical run make a film ineligible for the Outstanding Nonfiction award?

Theatrical has to be a complement to a project that was designed for broadcast. If your project was designed as a theatrical release and then brought to TV, it does not qualify. That being said, the Academy allows for film festival runs and theatrical exhibitions intended solely for the purposes of Oscar qualification.
For additional tips on how to make your Emmy® Award submission the best it can be, watch the webinar recording, below. And if you’re interested in more filmmaker-focused webinars, follow us on Facebook or Twitter for more info!

How to Craft Competitive Work Samples to Get Your Film Funded

The deadline for Open Call is quickly approaching!  Before every deadline, we offer a series of webinars geared to help filmmakers become stronger applicants.

Last week, we held a webinar on creating competitive work samples.  We were joined by two incredibly skilled editors: Aaron Wickenden and Eileen Meyer.  Aaron has had a prolific career as a documentary editor (Finding Vivian Maier to The Interrupters) but fundraising for his own film was a whole new experience.  He shared the work sample for his film Almost There and talked about the difficulty of balancing the issues of outsider art and filmmaker-subject ethics in just ten minutes.

PRINT_229_Almost_There_Rybicky_Wickenden (1) copy

Filmmaker Aaron Wickenden (Right)

And while Aaron was one of the editors of Best of Enemies, it was his co-editor Eileen who had the arduous task of creating multiple fundraising reels for the film.  And despite being helmed by an Oscar-winning director, they struggled at first to translate the film into a short work sample.  Watch their conversation as they talk about editing challenges and how to incorporate feedback.

Yesterday, we held our bi-annual Open Call Live Chat with N’Jeri Eaton (Content Development & Initiative Manager) and David Eisenberg (Associated Director of Production & Supervising Producer). Over 135 filmmakers attended to get their burning questions answered. If you’re still confused about what makes a strong treatment or what budget mistakes to avoid, watch the video below.

If you still want to learn more about writing the ITVS treatment or crafting a budget, be sure to check out the webinars that we have previously posted here.

The deadline for Open Call is this Friday at 4 pm PST. If you questions about Open Call, please email Programming Coordinator Alexandra Cantin (  To keep up to date about future webinars, be sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Open Call Webinars: How to Craft Work Samples, Treatments, and Budgets that Get Your Film Funded

In the lead up to the Open Call deadline on August 7th, ITVS is hosting a series of webinars to provide support, insight and tips for upcoming applicants.


Creating Competitive Work Samples 

Learn how to craft strong work samples that will make your project competitive for Open Call. Watch several successfully funded work samples and ask the filmmakers about their editing process.

Moderator: N’Jeri Eaton, Content Development & Initiative Manager

Guest Speakers: Robert Gordon (Director/Producer of Best of Enemies), Kate Trumbull-LaValle & Joanna Sokolowski (Directors/Producers of The Ovarian Psycos)

Read the full chat transcript from Creating Competitive Work Samples


Writing the ITVS Treatment 

We’ll break down the ITVS program description requirements and see excerpts of recently funded treatments.

Moderator: N’Jeri Eaton, Content Development & Initiative Manager

Guest Speakers: blair dorosh-walther (Director/Producer of Out in the Night), Lacey Schwartz (Director/Producer/Writer of Little White Lie)

Open Call 2015, Round 2: Writing the ITVS Treatment


Basic Budgeting for ITVS 

Hear how to craft a budget for ITVS that will get your film finished on time and pay everyone an equitable salary.

Speaker: David Eisenberg, Senior Production Manager

Open Call 2015, Round 2: Basic Budgeting Presentation


Open Call Live Chat – July 28th at 10am PT/1pm ET

From application troubleshooting to distribution, and everything that falls in-between, the Open Call team will be on hand to answer any last minute questions before the deadline.

Moderator: Alex Cantin, Programming Coordinator

Speakers: N’Jeri Eaton, Content Development & Initiative Manager

David Eisenberg, Senior Production Manager

Update! Archived Open Call chat is now available here from ITVS_VIDEO:


Make sure to connect with us on Twitter and Facebook for important updates on Open Call. For more information about Open Call visit:


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.


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

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.


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.


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.


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.


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

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

Our New Website: What’s in it for ITVS Filmmakers

If you’ve been funded by ITVS, you’re already familiar with the resources we bring to bear in support of your project. The new takes it one step further, putting our reach and resources into your hands directly.

It’s all about leverage, and offers new ways to engage your audience. For the first time ever, you will be able to post your own screenings, making an extension of your current marketing efforts. (You should have received an email last week explaining how to post your screenings. Contact us if you need it resent.)

The new “Related Films” feature (at thew bottom of each film overview page) allows like-minded fans of other similar films to discover yours, and by linking your film’s page to your Facebook and Twitter accounts, we enable you to attract and engage these new fans, building a base you can convert when trying to fund your next project.

In addition, your film pages are also now a one-stop shop for all your promotional materials, turning into the perfect electronic press kit (EPK). Just point your adoring press to and you can be sure they receive all the info they need for that great review.

Got questions? Post them here in the comments and we’ll answer them.

Top Five Predictions for Films and Digital Distribution: Second Part

The Independent Digital Distribution Lab –– IndiesLab for short –– is a joint initiative of ITVS and PBS designed to help filmmakers navigate the marketplace and to generate revenue streams while also having a social impact. In the post below, Indie Labs Director Davin Hutchins shares his second of five predictions about the future of films and digital distribution. Be sure to visit Beyond the Box blog over the next several months to hear more predictions.

IndiesLab Director Davin Hutchins

IndiesLab Director Davin Hutchins

In my last blog post, I made my first prediction –– “Creative Destruction Will Continue… And That’s a Good Thing.” Over the next few months, as independent filmmakers proceed with their projects for 2010, I will attempt to share some tough love, sage advice, and cause for hope.

PREDICTION 2: Curation Will Become As Important As Technology

When I lived in San Francisco, every Friday I would stroll down the street from my apartment on Russian Hill to Washington Square and check out the video wares at The Film Yard. My mission: to get an indie flick for my wife and me. There was usually one clerk. I don’t remember his name but let’s call him “Brad.” Even on a busy Friday night, Brad usually remembered me and my last rental. Brad could even make insightful recommendations based upon my body language when I hovered near the “documentaries” or “20th century period pieces” aisles.

The main problem with online film delivery platforms today is there is no “Brad.” At best, there’s an algorithm mixed with a cookie cross-referenced with my purchase history. Usually when I watch a video online, a crude piece of code will analyze the keywords in the video I just watched and then regurgitate the five videos with the closest metadata. Four of those are usually user-generated drivel. More sophisticated platforms like iTunes or Amazon do feature technology like “Genius” recommendations or “Customers who bought this item also bought…” But the front of the store still connotes the New Releases rack at Blockbuster. What I crave –– what we all crave I think –– is a site that knows me right as I walk in the door. Something like

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Ask Programming: Seven Tips When Applying for Funding

ITVS programming staff answer questions from filmmakers about the funding process:

Q: How can I improve my chances of being successful in the Open Call?

A. ITVS Programming staff recently contributed to an article for Shaking the Money Tree by Morrie Warshawski. Here are seven tips for producers when applying for funding from ITVS.

1. Read the guidelines and application instructions thoroughly and follow them. This tip sounds so simple and one should assume that it goes without saying –– but like any instruction manual, it is essential to go over the guidelines very carefully and to follow them before filling out the application.

Here are some other pieces of advice to keep in mind:

  • Submit the proposal online, and ALSO submit the paper and required (video) materials –– some applicants do not submit their hard copy proposals and video materials and then they are disqualified.
  • Deadlines are not flexible –– we need to receive them in the office by the deadline date or they will not be accepted.
  • Read the fine print on the guidelines and application. The ITVS award is not a grant, it is a contract agreement, thus certain requirements and deliverables must be accepted (because of FCC guidelines, your project must adhere to broadcast standards).
  • Do not submit extra materials –– letters of recommendation, graphics or illustrations, gifts or personal director statements are not required. The materials will be reviewed by staff and evaluators based on the required materials only.
  • Use 12-point font –– don’t try to cram everything in your treatment pages because of limited space. The evaluators appreciate clear writing and size 12 font is easier on the eyes.

2. Budget your project realistically. If you under-budget your project, that does not mean that you have a greater chance of being approved. If you over-budget your project, this will be taken into account and can jeopardize the approval. Each initiative has different budget thresholds and is indicated in the guidelines. For example, Open Call does not require an itemized budget in the first phase, but does require that you indicate the request amount and what money has been already raised. The average request for Open Call is between $80,000 and 250,000 for a one-hour documentary.

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