ITVS Profile: $170+ Mn Spent on Indie Production since 1990

We recently caught up with the Independent Television Service (ITVS) team to refresh our annual profile of a very important US funder of independent documentaries.

  • This is the first of two posts.
  • The next one covers the ITVS-curated PBS doc strand Independent Lens.

ITVS:

  • Funds, presents, and promotes independent documentaries and dramas on public television.
  • Creates innovative new media projects on digital platforms.
  • Curates and presents the PBS documentary strand Independent Lens.

SPENDING

  • More that $170 mn production license and development funds since 1990
  • Currently $7-10 mn per year in production funding and licensing fees.
  • $2-5 mn per year on community engagement, education, online and public awareness campaigns that support each film.

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ITVS Filmmaker at Work

HISTORY

  • Independent Television Service (ITVS) was founded by independent producers and the media arts community to foster plurality, diversity, and innovation in public television.
  • In 1988, Congress mandated the creation of a service dedicated to independently produced programming that takes creative risks, sparks public dialogue, and gives voice to underserved communities.
  • ITVS funded its first wave of programs in 1991, introduced its national community engagement program in 1999, and internationalized in 2005 to bring the work of international filmmakers to U.S. audiences and the work of American filmmakers to public media systems abroad.

FUNDING INITIATIVES

Open Call:

  • The Open Call initiative provides completion funds for single nonfiction programs suitable for public television.
  • Projects should be in production.
  • ITVS requests a work-in-progress video with the proposal.
  • Open Call funding is available only to independent producers who are citizens or legal residents of the United States.
  • There are two funding rounds per year, with deadlines typically in mid-January and early August.
  • Applicants may apply with only one project per call.
  • The entire proposal review process takes up to five months.
  • Only 1-2% of Open Call applicants receive funding.
  • Open Call is not a grant; ITVS provides funding to license programs for public television.

ITVS_funded (2)

Diversity Development Fund (DDF)

  • The Diversity Development Fund (DDF) provides up to $15,000 in research and development funding to producers of color to develop single documentary programs for public television.
  • Funded activities may include travel, research, script development, preliminary production for fundraising/work-in-progress reels, or other early phase activities.
  • There is one funding round per year, and only one project per round.
  • The proposal review process takes up to three months.
  • About 5% of applicants receive funding. DDF is not a grant; applicants receive funding in the form of a development agreement that assigns ITVS certain rights during the contract term.

International Projects:

  • Beginning in 2012, the international funding initiative shifted to a commissioning model.

Series and Special Projects

  • ITVS no longer accepts unsolicited materials, including proposal submissions or project inquiries for Series & Special Projects (SSP) funding.
  • The initiative shifted to a commissioning model that provides development and/or production funding to a limited number of projects in order to respond to timely opportunities.
  • For development funding, activities may include travel, research, script development, preliminary production for fundraising/work-in-progress reels, or other early phase activities.
  • For production funding, all production & post-production activities are eligible.
  • ITVS’s capacity to fund projects outside of its three standing initiatives is extremely limited & highly competitive.
  • There is no deadline for applications.
  • As with other ITVS initiatives, applicants may only have one project under consideration at any one time.
  • The proposal review process takes six to eight weeks.

Series and Special Projects Funding is not a grant; applicants receive funding in the form of a development agreement or production agreement that assigns ITVS certain rights during the contract.

ITVS SERIES

See our detailed coverage here.

COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT

ITVS has led public media in creating innovative community engagement strategies to expand the impact of social issue documentaries for over 20 years. ITVS’s engagement initiatives include:

  • Thematic Campaigns: ITVS leads multi-year, multi-platform thematic campaigns to build public awareness of consequential issues in the U.S. and abroad
  • Community Cinema: free screenings and locally focused conversations featuring films from Independent Lens in 75+ US cities
  • OVEE: public media’s social TV platform created by ITVS, provides a powerful way for audiences to connect online with films and each other