Where do independent doc creators go for funding?
Independent Lens is a highly promoted PBS strand that averages 1.2+ million weekly viewers in its Monday 10pm slot.
Lois Vossen is the Senior Series Producer and co-curator of this flagship PBS brand. She describes Independent Lens as a ‘Film Festival in Your Living Room’. We recently caught up with Lois and the IL team.
First, here is the trailer for the current season:
And the PBS.org link is here: http://video.pbs.org/video/2365069107/
Independent Lens first 11 seasons:
- 330 films broadcast, more than 250 films presented
- 288 feature-length and TV-hours
- 42 shorts
- Every major journalism, television and independent film award
- Seven Academy Award nominations including The Invisible War, How to Survive a Plague, Hell and Back Again, Waste Land, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, and The Weather Underground
- Two Primetime Emmy Awards for Have You Heard From Johannesburg and A Lion in the House
- Seven Emmy Awards News and Documentary
- 10 Peabody’s
- 4 DuPonts
- Here is a link to the IL video promo.
A Funding Magnet
- A commitment from IL has given filmmakers the leverage to raise millions more from foundations, family foundations, private investors, NGO’s, and government agencies
- U.S. co-funders include Ford Foundation, Sundance Institute Documentary Fund, MacArthur Foundation, National Endowment for the Humanities, Impact Partners, Chicken & Egg, Cinereach, Catapult, Gucci Tribeca, etc.
- International co-funders include: BBC’s Storyville, STEPS International, ARTE, ABC Australia, CBC Canada, National Film Board of Canada, NZ broadcasters, etc.
- PBS reaches 115 million TV households and IL reaches 98% of the PBS footprint.
- In recent years, high profile IL premieres have reached nearly 2 million viewers (Half the Sky, The Invisible War, The House I Live In)
- The average weekly audience is one million plus viewers
Program Length / Formats
- Feature (83:25 minutes)
- 10-15 feature length films each season
- TV Hour (53:25 minutes)
- 10-15 TV hour length films each season
- Two-hour (113:25 minutes) and longer
- 1-2 per season including Bhutto, Young@Heart, The House I Live In, and this season The Graduates/Los Graduados and Muscle Shoals (2 hrs.) and At Berkeley (4 hrs.)
- Multi-part or limited series
- IL continues to support and champion multi-part series such as A Lion in the House, The New Americans, Have You Heard From Johannesburg, Half The Sky
- Shorts (varying lengths)
- We have scheduled entire episodes of shorts
- Currently we program shorts to accompany a film when it doesn’t fill a broadcast time slot
- The number of shorts per season is 1-4
- Host introductions
- IL films a one-minute host introduction for all films
- Hosts include Stanley Tucci, Don Cheadle, Edie Falco, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Terrence Howard, Mary-Louise Parker, America Ferrera, and Susan Sarandon
- IL films have had budgets from $65,000 to $3 million.
- The average production budget is $500,000 +/-.
- Varies, depending on market demands
- Acquisition fees for TV hour and feature length vary from $40,000 to six figures for top tier award winners
- 3 years exclusive US television rights
- IL allows filmmakers to have theatrical release prior to broadcast
- Filmmakers retain festival, theatrical, home video, educational, and international television rights
- Filmmakers are encouraged to pursue their own deals with specialty distributors and IL maintains successful, collaborative relationships with all distributors
- PBS Primetime
- Monday nights at 10PM
- IL season is nine months, from October through June
- IL is one of the top PBS series in reaching viewers ages 18-39, and have one of the highest proportion of Black households of any PBS primetime series.
- 4-6 per season
- Selection criteria: Content with broad appeal, speaks to diversity mission, critically acclaimed and award- winning.
- Approximately half receive PBS common carriage. Criteria same as above and PBS programming priorities
- 2nd Window
- ITVS sometimes provides a second television window, with a second license fee, for approximately 25% of the IL films on Global Voices, ITVS’s international series that is broadcast on the PBS World Channel
- 750+ submissions received / year
- 22-24 broadcast premieres
- Plus 5-7 encore presentations per season
- The Filters
Next Workshop / Tutoring Session:
World Congress of Science & Factual Producers
Co-Production Surgery: US Funds and Foundations
Thursday, December 5th 9:00-12:30