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ITVS Wants to Pay for Your Next Documentary Pilot or Short — Exclusive

ITVS is launching its latest round of nonfiction funding for shorts and series, and projects can be in development or production.




Looking for funding for your next documentary short or series? ITVS, which produces the PBS series “Independent Lens,” will launch its latest funding initiative February 17 for projects under 30 minutes. Short-Form Open Call (previously known as Digital Open Call) considers projects about any topic, and they can be in development or production.

The initiative seeks projects that spark dialogue and can engage a young and diverse online audience. Topics of particular interest include exploring American identity, arts and humanities, criminal justice, disability, health, and rural life.

For nonfiction series, ITVS will accept applications for projects either in the research and development phase, which will be eligible for up to $25,000 to help creators bring their ideas to pilot. The organization will work with creators to develop stories and determine the length and number of episodes. For series in early-to-mid-production, ITVS will provide production support and funding that varies based on the project.

Shorts are eligible for $40,000 in production license funding, and can be in pre-production or in mid-production.

ITVS funded an early project of “Moonlight” Oscar winner Barry Jenkins, the 2011 narrative short “Remigration.” It was part of the “FutureStates” web series.

Previous short-form projects funded by ITVS include Billy Luther’s “alter-NATIVE” and “alter-NATIVE: Kitchen,” which aired on “Independent Lens” and explored indigenous fashion and cuisine; Maxine Trump’s “Should We Kid Or Not,” a web series centered about deciding to be a parent, including discussions on sterilization, adoption, and teen pregnancy; and Ben Wu and David Usui’s “American Nomads,” a series looking at Americans who live in their vehicles.

“We are passionate about supporting visionary non-fiction filmmakers, whether they are creating feature narratives or shorts and series,” said Royd Chung, ITVS VP of production. “Our new focus with Short-Form Open Call will offer talented creators with a path to aid them in telling short stories about the triumphs and challenges we face in our everyday lives.”

For the first time this year, the organization will accept applications on a rolling basis. Applicants receive decisions within 16 weeks of submission. Applicants cannot be currently enrolled as students, or employed as a producer or director at a broadcast entity or a film studio. Projects must be shorter than standard broadcast or feature length, and not completed.

ITVS will help get selected projects find distribution on platforms like YouTube, Facebook, and PBS.org in collaboration with public media parters such as “Independent Lens,” PBS Digital Studios, and WORLD Channel.

A nonprofit funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, ITVS bills itself as “public media’s leading incubator.” Two-thirds of its filmmakers and over half of its staff are people of color. Half its films are by and about women, according to its website. More information about the funding initiative is available at ITVS’ website.

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