Do you have an urgent story that needs to be told? How will you use your talent and passion to stimulate new ways of looking at the world? Twice a year, ITVS invites independent producers to share their vision and propose television programs through its Open Call initiative. Once proposals are received, they are either advanced or rejected in a three-phase process that takes up to five months.

The Open Call team, headed by Sr. Programming Manager Karim Ahmad, ensures that ITVS serves its mission by connecting with and funding films that take creative risks, advance issues, and represent points of view not usually seen on public television.

All applications for the first phase of Open Call are received by the Programming Coordinator N'Jeri Eaton. She inspects each submission to make sure all materials are in order, creates a record for each application in the database, and files one copy that is kept confidential and is archived.

The programming department then reviews all proposals and advances approximately the top 20 percent of projects to phase two. Producers whose proposals do not make the first cut will receive a notification letter or email.

Proposals that are selected for phase two of the application process are then sent out to external readers. External readers are geographically and ethnically diverse members of the independent media and public television communities. Each proposal in phase two is read by three external readers. Readers also screen all works-in-progress if they relate to the proposal. In addition, at least one ITVS staff member (either someone from the programming or production departments) evaluates each proposal.

The criteria that serve as the basis for evaluation are:

The overall quality of the project: Is the idea well conceived and compelling? Does the approach make sense for a television program? Does it fit ITVS’s mission and programming goals?

The quality of the treatment: Is it well written? How clearly does the treatment describe the visuals, structure and style?

Innovation: Does it bring new ideas, an innovative style, or creative formats to public television? 

The quality of the work-in-progress: What are the strengths and weaknesses of the production values, presentation of characters, and visual style?

Target audience: Does the proposal address a target audience? Will the program serve the needs and interests of an underrepresented audience? Will the program appeal to the national broadcast audience? 

The production team: How experienced and capable is the production team? Can the team complete the program on schedule and within budget?

Access: Has the producer demonstrated credible access/rapport with the proposed subjects and stories?

Filmmakers who are selected to participate in phase three of the evaluation process are asked to submit a new application. They will have two weeks to submit a new proposal based on the feedback they receive about their phase two proposal. During the third phase, filmmakers may also submit an updated work-in-progress sample.

The phase three application provides an opportunity for the filmmaker to describe his or her vision in further detail, as applicants now have up to seven pages in which to describe their project. They also are required to submit an itemized budget, and have the opportunity to address the concerns of the programming department from the phase two feedback they receive.

After producers submit their phase three materials, their work is assigned to seven external panelists who evaluate and score each proposal. The panel members are given one month to complete written evaluations that will be used in a panel discussion at the ITVS office in San Francisco. While in San Francisco, panelist screen work-in-progress samples and deliberate the merits of each project. Once all proposals have been discussed, panelists have the opportunity to modify their original scores. Using the collective scores, panelists recommend the projects that they think ITVS should fund.

The programming and production departments review the recommended projects and propose a slate to the content strategy team. Once the slate is approved, it goes before the President and CEO Sally Jo Fifer for final sign-off. ITVS offers contracts to a select group of filmmakers whose vision meets ITVS’s goals and standards. Producers chosen to participate in phase three but who are not ultimately funded are invited to schedule a 30-minute feedback session by phone with the ITVS programming staff. Feedback is generated from the evaluations. ITVS does not provide written feedback or copies of evaluations.

For more information and tips on the application process, filmmakers are encouraged to browse the Additional Resources section of the website or check out the latest features on Beyond the Box Blog.