Documentary Business

Peter Hamilton Consultants, Inc

POV Revealed (2/2): The Filters & Selection Process. What Are Your Odds of Success?

We continue our updated coverage of POVthe flagship PBS documentary strand with a peak audience of 1.9Mn viewers.

In this post: What is POV’s selection process, from Open Call to Offer?



  • Great non-fiction storytelling.
  • Address social issues and issues neglected elsewhere.
  • Have a strong point of view from the filmmaker and/or the characters.
  • Character-driven:
    • “Our strand is called ‘POV’ for a reason” says EP Chris White. “Our films are often a subjective take on a controversial issue.”
    • “POV films involve viewers in an issue through the eyes of an active participant or observer.”
  • Aesthetically bold: “The filmmaker has a unique editorial style that pushes the boundaries of the craft of filmmaking.”
  • Emotional resonance

Curatorial Discretion

  • POV’s filters are combined with a “curatorial eye”
  • The POV team ensures that themes and styles are not redundant.
  • And that needed topics are explored.
  • “Themes frequently emerge organically” says Chris White. “Examples are human rights and immigration.”

Domestic? Or Global?

  • U.S. topics: 10+/-
  • International topics: 6+/-
    • “About half of these come from international filmmakers – but the mix varies from year to year. This year, we are at about 50/50.”


Marketing and Promotional Clout

We asked if it makes a difference if a project arrives with powerful marketing relationships in place:

  • “We’re interested in hooks and ties that will expand a film’s audience. But it’s the quality of the film that leads our decision.”
  • POV develops national public awareness campaigns which can include presenting films to critics at the Television Critics, Satellite TV and Radio media tours.

Technical Format

  • HD
  • Film


1. Open Call

  • End of June
  • POV receives 1,000+ entries for 16+/- slots
  • The entries fall into three categories, based principally on their level of completion:
    • Early Introduction
      Treatment and some scenes are complete
      Few projects are funded that are in these early stages
      But many are watched or mentored for the next year’s Open Call
    • Standard
      Films need post: 50% of projects.
      Completed Films.
      Rough cuts.
    • Shorts
      30 minutes and under

2. Scouting

POV staff also attends many markets and festivals scouting for projects in production

  • These include Sundance, IDFA (Amsterdam), Hot Docs (Toronto), Sheffield Doc/Fest, Full Frame, IFP Independent Film Week and others

pov113. Screening for Short List

  • June-September
  • 20 pre-screeners + 5 POV staff members sift through the 1,000+/- Open Call applicants
  • They develop a shortlist of 25-30 films

4. Editorial Advisory Committee

  • Selection panel is comprised of:
    • 6 public TV station representatives
    • 6 independents, including filmmakers and festival programmers
  • Panel is sequestered for a long weekend in early October:
    • Each film is screened by 4 of 12 panelists in its entirety
    • Each film is presented to the full panel, with extended clips
    • Final 15-16 films recommended by end of weekend
  • The POV team exercises a final ‘curatorial filter’ in case a topic or style of filmmaking is over-represented.
  • The final decision made by POV’s executive team.

5. Contract

  • Broadcast offers are rolled out after the editorial committee and POV staff editorial meeting


  • Filmmakers who accept the offer complete their work and cut their film to the POV clock
  • Chris White says “POV provides editorial feedback and support, but we don’t make the final cut. The filmmaker’s vision is the key.”
  • The work is completed by the filmmaker or sometimes in-house at POV.
  • New season is announced in early February



  • The POV slot is scheduled weekly on Monday nights at 10PM, June-October


  • The PBS footprint covers 115 million TV households, and POV reaches 96%+/- of them
  • Audience for premieres:
    • High: 1,900,000
    • Low: 500,000


  • POV has a mission to foster dialogue in communities and classrooms around issues that are raised in its films
  • The POV team works in partnership with local public television stations, national non-profit organizations, cultural institutions, community groups, educators and more to facilitate free screenings, discussions, panels, roundtables, conference sessions and workshops.
  • Every year, POV facilitates 600+ screening events across the U.S.
  • POV develops resource materials for every film to help foster dialogue, education and action. These materials include standards-aligned lesson plans, discussion guides and reading lists, all available to download for free.
  • Examples of outreach resources are: Here, here, here and here


American Documentary Inc is the non-profit organization that is the parent of POV.

  • A new series AMERICA REFRAMED was launched in 2012 in collaboration with PBS WORLD.
  • AMERICA REFRAMED licenses completed films focused on contemporary American stories.
  • Films that are in a second window are eligible for AMERICA REFRAMED
  • The license fee for AMERICA REFRAMED has been $4,o00 for a two-year license, which POV is hoping to increase.
    Held 4 times per year, the HACKATHONS  are a place to experiment with new digital storytelling tools, matching filmmakers with coders and programmers to develop prototypes.
  • Digital Co-productions:
    With funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation in 2014-15, POV increased its digital co-productions,hired a technology fellow to create VR tools for film and media makers; and POV continues to host successful Hackathons throughout the year.
  • Filmmaker Resources:
    POV launched a new online resource for filmmakers with opportunities for funding, distribution and festivals.


POV partners with The New York Times to co-produce a series of digital documentaries to premiere on both organizations’ websites, with accompanying articles and interviews.


Many thanks to Nicole Tsien for her contribution to our coverage of POV.



All regular programs aired Mondays at 10p. Here is the press release.


POV promotion at Photoville 2015,  Brooklyn Bridge Park


All regular programs air Mondays at 10 p.m.

Fall/Winter Special Broadcast:

Spring Special Broadcast:


  1. From Ellen Barnard, Executive Producer, Tomorrow Pictures

    Hello Peter, I just want to say thank you for the amazing information you share. I am so delighted to have discovered at RealScreen in Jan. The generous detail provided shows such a commitment to filmmakers and docs. So again, thank you for the work you do on our behalf. I have really been enjoying and learning from the POV series. Cheers, e

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