Filmmaker Pamela Yates Reflects on Open Call Orientation at ITVS

Posted on February 16, 2010

ITVS’s Open Call orientation concluded last week. Pamela Yates, filmmaker of Granito, gives an overview on her experience and why she is excited about working with ITVS and presenting her film on public television. Get her take below.

The first thing that struck me at the ITVS Producer’s Orientation was the force. The force of dozens of people working as one to help get my film made, to get it broadcast and to have it make the greatest possible impact in the wider world. It wasn’t always so. Richard O’Connell, director of production, gave a salient presentation recounting the little-known history of filmmakers coming together in 1984 –– and working for five years to create an independent television service by, for and about independent filmmakers. It was a bold, creative strategy to take government funds already earmarked for independent production on public television (but usurped by executive producers of the big series), and create a body to get it to individual filmmakers. I was one of those young filmmakers who worked to create ITVS -- to ensure an eclectic vision, a diversity of voices, and a filmic exploration into the American psyche. We opened the door. Then an amazing number of dedicated and talented people walked through it during the past twenty years and brought their own ideas to an organization that has become a vibrant contributor to the field of independent filmmaking and an essential player in the explosion of the documentary genre. Let me tell you about some of the insights I gained about ITVS over the past few days.

The Good:

  • ITVS considers each program a flagship, with the possibility of different versions, short informative modules, and supplemental educational material.
  • There are now three curated series emanating from ITVS — Independent Lens, Global Voices, and FUTURESTATES. In the digital age, with the glut of audio-visual material available, well-respected curation gets much more attention.
  • The Independent Lens Community Cinema program reaches 60+ cities with a once a month film, and a panel afterwards with people who discuss how the issue portrayed in the film can affect local knowledge and action.

The Bad:

  • All of the non-film related work required. I spent one entire transcontinental flight reading the contract at 42 pages and half of another flight reviewing it. But there are often really boring tasks in filmmaking.
  • The accounting requirement is a bear that needs to be wrestled to the ground.
  • We’re right brainers, not left.

The Ugly:

  • One aspiration I know I share, is to have my program shown on every single household in the US, for free during a good time slot. But each local PBS programmer decides how your film will appear and when it will air. Some programmers are great supporters, some are not.

Luckily we have the ITVS ambassadors –– diplomats who build relationships with public television programmers as assiduously as we do with the protagonists who appear in our films. The title of the film I’m working on with ITVS is Granito. It’s a concept I first heard in the Guatemalan highlands in 1982 from young guerrillas who were fighting to end a brutal military dictatorship. I asked why they were risking their lives, living rough, with little food. They told me they just wanted to add their granito de arena, their tiny grain of sand, to free their country. I’ve carried that concept with me throughout my filmmaking career. And I couldn’t help think: how many granitos has ITVS contributed with all the films it has supported over the years? Pamela Yates Director of Granito


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