New Multi-Platform Strategy to Showcase Independent Lens on PBS

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In collaboration with PBS, Independent Television Service (ITVS) is proud to announce a new strategy to increase the reach and visibility of INDEPENDENT LENS on PBS member stations. The strategy will draw on strategic scheduling, digital content and distribution, social media and marketing to shine an even brighter spotlight on this important mission-focused content.

“We are very happy that the important work of independent filmmakers will continue to have a prominent place in PBS’ broadcast schedule, and that PBS is also bolstering the visibility of these films through this new multiplatform strategy,” said Sally Jo Fifer, President and CEO of ITVS, which produces INDEPENDENT LENS.

The announcement of the multi-platform strategy follows a several-month, multi-city listening tour during which leaders from PBS, ITVS, POV and WNET held town hall-style meetings with members of the independent film community to discuss how best to present ITVS’ INDEPENDENT LENS and POV on PBS and ensure that the series reach the widest possible audience.

On broadcast, PBS will pursue a new programming strategy for independent film. In addition to the Monday at 10 p.m. broadcasts of INDEPENDENT LENS and POV on most PBS stations—including THIRTEEN New York—PBS will create a number of programming events tied to independent films over the course of the 2015-2016 broadcast season. These events will pair an independent film from INDEPENDENT LENS or POV with thematically related programming to optimize audience flow throughout the night—a strategy that has been used successfully across the PBS schedule over the past few years. These films will also receive social media promotion and marketing support to help drive awareness and tune-in. Films featured in these programming events will be announced as INDEPENDENT LENS and POV finalize the titles in their respective upcoming seasons.

“PBS and our local stations are the home for independent film, presenting a variety of viewpoints and perspectives on important issues, which are fundamental elements of public media’s mission. After months of constructive discussion with the independent film community, we are pleased to present a new strategy that we believe will better support this important work and help us reach the younger, diverse audiences who are among the most passionate fans of indies,” said Beth Hoppe, Chief Programming Executive and General Manager, General Audience Programming for PBS.

To support all INDEPENDENT LENS and POV films during the 2015-2016 broadcast season, PBS will launch a coordinated, targeted outreach effort across its major social media channels to connect with independent film fans, allow for conversation about the issues highlighted in these films and promote independent films in the pipeline. PBS also plans to create additional promotional tools for its member stations to help them reach independent film fans in their own markets.

Building on the primetime broadcasts of independent film, PBS will maximize its growing digital platforms to distribute and promote independent film content. The Webby Award-nominated PBS Online Film Festival will return for a fourth year June 15-July 17, 2015, and will feature more than 20 short-form independent films from POV and a broad spectrum of public media stations and partners, including the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM), Latino Public Broadcasting (LPB), National Black Programming Consortium,National Black Programming Consortium (NBPC) Pacific Islanders in Communications (PIC),  Wisconsin Media Lab and Vision Maker Media.

PBS is also re-launching its independent film website, pbs.org/indiefilms, which will serve as both an archive of all feature-length and short-form independent film streaming on PBS.org and a platform to preview upcoming films that will broadcast on PBS. PBS has also created “Indie Film” playlists on its over-the-top (OTT) channels, including those on Apple TV and FireTV, so that users of these platforms can more easily find and enjoy independent film content.

PBS and its distribution arm, PBS Distribution, also plan to support several theatrical releases of independent films. In fall 2015, PBS Distribution will bring the INDEPENDENT LENS film “The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution” to movie screens across the country. The theatrical distribution, when combined with its broadcast on PBS stations, VOD and home entertainment distribution, will enable this critically acclaimed documentary by renowned filmmaker Stanley Nelson to reach a broad and diverse audience.

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Independent Lens film “The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution”

In addition, PBS Distribution has entered into a licensing agreement with Indieflix, a subscription-based streaming service for independent film. Starting in May 2015, more than 85 PBS films will be available to Indieflix’s growing subscriber base. Among the titles included in this agreement are “Soul Food Junkies,” “Art & Copy” and “Spies of Mississippi,” all from INDEPENDENT LENS.

PBS LearningMedia, a free media on-demand service from PBS and WGBH used by 1.6 million educators and reaching 30 million students, frequently offers independent film content to K-12 classrooms as an instructional tool. As part of the new strategy to support independent film, PBS, ITVS, POV and WNET will collaborate with PBS LearningMedia to create a curriculum for a non-credit college course on documentary film that highlights films from INDEPENDENT LENS and POV, along with other documentaries in the PBS broadcast schedule.

“This new strategy is an important statement of PBS’ commitment to independent film as a core part of its programming offerings,” said Simon Kilmurry, Executive Director of POV. “Filmmakers and the public alike will benefit from ensuring that the voices and viewpoints in independent films can be seen by the widest possible audience, which in turn will increase their impact.”

WNET Vice President of Programming Stephen Segaller said, “The Listening Tour has ultimately proved to be a worthwhile endeavor, as it affirmed the value that filmmakers place on PBS. As PBS’ flagship station in New York, we’re enthusiastic about participating in this new strategy in the hope that independent films will secure the greater audience they deserve. Pairing specific films with similar or related programming makes sense — to boost tune-in, strengthen online support and increase distribution on diverse platforms. We look forward to helping to promote the work of independent filmmakers on our channels, and we’re optimistic that this new plan will be a great success.”

 

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.

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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.

T-Rex (World Premiere)

T-Rex is an intimate story about a new kind of American heroine. For the first time, women’s boxing is included in the 2012 Olympics. Fighting for gold is 17-year-old Claressa “T-Rex” Shields. From the streets of Flint, Michigan, Claressa is undefeated and utterly confident. Her fierceness extends beyond the ring. She desperately wants to take her family to a better, safer place and winning gold could be her only chance.

Welcome to Leith

Welcome to Leith is chronicles the attempted takeover of a small town in North Dakota by notorious white supremacist Craig Cobb. As his behavior becomes more threatening, tensions soar, and the residents desperately look for ways to expel their unwanted neighbor. The unsettling underpinning of the film is how we wrestle with our democratic principles when they’re pushed to the limit.

Best of Enemies

Best of Enemies is a documentary about the storied debates in 1968 between two great public intellectuals, liberal Gore Vidal and conservative William F. Buckley Jr. Intended as commentary on the issues of their day, these vitriolic and explosive encounters came to define the modern era of public discourse in the media, marking the big bang moment of our contemporary media landscape when spectacle trumped content and argument replaced substance.

PBS will be hosting meet-and-greets with these filmmakers at the PBS Anywhere Lounge. Best of Enemies and T-Rex will in the Lounge on Saturday at 4pm, and Welcome to Leith producers will be in attendance Monday from 4:30pm-5:30pm.

 

Panels

Finding a TV Partner in a Digital World

Monday, March 16th 12:30pm-1:30pm

In the digital era of Netflix, Hulu, Vudu, and many other OTT portals, how valuable is a broadcaster for your doc? Come find out at this panel moderated by Elizabeth Sheldon, SVP Kino Lorber, along with Lois Vossen from Independent Lens, Jill Burkhart of EPIX Documentary Programming, Cynthia Kane of Al Jazeera, and Jennie Morris from Participant Media.

Tool-Kit for Crafting an Interactive Documentary

Monday, March 16th 12:30pm-1:30pm

Filmmaker Andrew Beck Grace and Toronto-based Helios Design Labs worked remotely for six months to produce the interactive documentary essay “After the Storm.” By using this project as a test-case, this session, featuring Cathy Fisher from ITVS, will present a tool-kit of ideas for other creators in the medium while exploring the how and why of interactive, web-native nonfiction storytelling.

Doc Distribution: Get Up to Speed with PBS Indies

Tuesday, March 17th 11:00AM-12:00PM

Are you a filmmaker interested in showcasing your film on PBS? Then you don’t want to miss this panel. Filmmakers Byron Hurt, Yance Ford, and Marshall Curry will be joined by Donald Thoms (VP Programming/General Audience; PBS) and Liz Cheng (GM; World Channel) to share why public media might be the distribution channel you’ve been searching for.

What’s the Value of Your Digital Rights?

Tuesday, March 17th 12:30pm-1:30pm

Learn from industry experts, including ITVS’s Isaac Hager, how much digital rights are worth to filmmakers and distributors launching titles on outlets such as iTunes, Amazon, and Netflix. You’ll walk away from this session with insight into which platforms are winning in the battle for viewer attention, as well as a greater understanding of the deal structures and windowing strategies negotiated as part of these licensing deals.

Who’s Going to Fund Your Webseries?

Tuesday, March 17th 12:30pm-1:30pm

Meet the industry leaders, including ITVS’s Karim Ahmad, developing, funding, and supporting independent web series in new ways, paving the way for creators of bold new episodic content online. We’ll discuss what they look for, how their programs work, and talk with veteran creators about their development strategy, and what are the opportunities for web series in today’s digital landscape.

 

PBS Party at the Parish

The annual PBS party is one we look forward to every year. On March 15th at 9pm, come help us celebrate independent film on PBS with drinks, BBQ, and live music by Best Coast.

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!

PBS Listening Tour Comes to New York City: A Report

This post was originally published on the POV blog 

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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.

Independent Film on PBS: The National Listening Tour Comes to New York City

This post was originally published on the POV blog 

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On February 23, 2015 from 2 PM ET to 5 PM ET, POV, along with PBS, ITVS, WNET, Independent Lens and the Indie Caucus, will be in New York City for the second stop in the National Listening Tour for Independent Films on PBS at the SVA Theatre in Manhattan. RSVP now »

In keeping with its commitment to independent film and filmmakers, PBS leadership is hosting a series of open forums around the country with independent filmmakers, PBS series producers, and other public media and community partners. At each event, participants are invited to voice their priorities and innovative ideas on how all can work together to strengthen distribution, viewership and community engagement through Independent Lens, POV and all kinds of independent films.

Watch highlights from San Francisco, the first stop on the tour last month. The Indie Caucus and Kartemquin Films will host a third stop in Chicago in March, date TBD.

 

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.

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

Diversity Development Fund Announces New Projects

ITVS has announced the eight documentary projects selected as part of the 2013 Diversity Development Fund, a funding initiative that provides research and development funding to producers of color to develop single documentary programs for public television. 

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This year’s selections provide extraordinary access and insight into the daily lives and struggles of people around the world, from Navajo railroad workers in the U.S. to an interracial punk band during the height of apartheid in South Africa.

The productions were selected through a competitive application process, which resulted in 114 submissions.

Check out the complete list of funded projects after the jump. Continue reading

Submit Your Film to Independent Lens!

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Independent Lens is currently seeking submissions of films in advanced rough cut or fine cut stage or completed films to broadcast during the October 2014 – June 2015 season. To learn more about eligibility, what we’re looking for, and to complete our online submission form go to www.ilsubmissions.org.

Any questions? Feel free to drop a line to ILsubmissions@itvs.org.

ITVS Responds to The New Yorker article on Park Avenue and Citizen Koch

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In the past week, The New Yorker published an article drawing a connection between corporate influence and freedom of expression that has generated a flurry of press coverage.

ITVS appreciates the scrutiny of the important issue of corporate influence on public broadcasting, and indeed on media in general. As a majority-publicly-funded institution, a rarity even within public broadcasting, ITVS has long been proud of our ability to act independently of corporate and government influence.

Our history of providing top-flight journalism among the rich mix of films we help bring to public broadcasting often puts us in the position of taking on powerful stakeholders. Viewers depend on ITVS-funded filmmakers for the high-quality independent documentaries that appear on our signature TV series Independent Lens and on other PBS series including POV, Frontline, and American Masters.

We treasure our relationship with our viewers, with public broadcasting, and our many other community and NGO partners. Above all, we hold dear our relationships with independent producers and deeply respect the courage and tenacity it takes to tell authentic, compelling stories that inform and connect citizens in a noisy 21st century media space.

As a matter of policy, ITVS respects the privacy of filmmakers and our negotiations. We therefore declined an interview request from The New Yorker staff writer Jane Mayer for a May 20, 2013 article she was framing around two documentaries with storylines on David H. Koch. In the days after its publication, we continued to decline interview requests from other outlets.

ITVS now believes the rising flow of misinformation surrounding Park Avenue: Money, Power and the American Dream and Citizen Koch requires public exposure of the facts. We believe these facts demonstrate our commitment to the creative vision of filmmakers, independent journalistic documentaries, and diverse perspectives on issues that are critical for our American democracy and culture.

Here are the facts:

  • ITVS not only supports but also seeks out and funds hard-hitting journalistic documentaries on timely and important issues. ITVS funded and shepherded to Independent Lens in the current season alone award-winning films such as Park Avenue, The House I Live In, The Invisible War, and As Goes Janesville. The quality of Independent Lens programs is reflected in 10 Peabody awards and seven Emmys for the series, which is co-curated with PBS.
  • ITVS funded Alex Gibney’s film Park Avenue, and Independent Lens senior series producer Lois Vossen worked closely with him, per standard protocol, to meet PBS editorial standards and have the film broadcast on PBS.
  • In April 2012, ITVS sent filmmakers Tia Lessin and Carl Deal a standard letter inviting them to begin negotiations for production license funding from ITVS based on their written proposal. Communications between the filmmakers and ITVS continued until April 2013, well beyond the Park Avenue broadcast on November 12, 2012.
  • ITVS initially recommended the film Citizen Corp for production licensing based on a written proposal. Early cuts of the film, including the Sundance version, did not reflect the proposal, however, and ITVS eventually withdrew its offer of a production agreement to acquire public television exhibition rights. The film was neither contracted nor funded.
  • ITVS has worked with thousands of independent filmmakers since our inception. We are committed to supporting the creative vision of filmmakers and respectfully acknowledge that their creative process will bring forth films that no longer reflect the original proposal on which ITVS based its funding recommendation. Filmmakers sometimes choose a new path during the negotiations of the ITVS production agreement as other financial, distribution, and editorial opportunities arise. In the case of the proposed project Citizen Corp (later retitled Citizen Koch), the filmmakers’ shift in editorial direction from the written proposal during the negotiation window led ITVS to cease negotiations.
  • ITVS works hard to shepherd programs en route to broadcast, but it has no authority over the national or local public television schedule. Neither ITVS nor Independent Lens confirmed a broadcast slot for Citizen Corp.
  • ITVS did not attach its name to Citizen Koch at Sundance Film Festival because a production licensing agreement had not been executed.
  • ITVS did not share a cut of Citizen Koch to PBS or any public television station because the film was never contracted by ITVS. The filmmakers continue to control distribution of their film.

Public broadcasting is a complex set of mostly independently operating entities, including PBS, broadcast stations, and a variety of producing organizations. ITVS is unique in this ecosystem. We hope the important conversation about corporate influence will continue, within not only public broadcasting but also the broader media, and stay grounded in facts and substance.