Independent Filmmakers See ITVS as New Family

Posted on February 10, 2012

Twenty filmmakers rallied in San Francisco this week to participate in ITVS's latest producers orientation for Open Call funding. Among the crop were filmmakers Jamila Wignot and Sierra Pettengill, whose documentary Town Hall examines three personalities who become emblematic figures of the Tea Party Movement. The pair offered BTB this recap of their experience at orientation.

In the late spring and early summer of 2010 we made a leap of faith. With a bit of savings, a borrowed car, and friends/family to provide us shelter, we abandoned the highly structured and familiar world of commissioned television documentaries and struck out on our own, on a journey to understand an emergent new breed of American conservatism. We were guided only by our own personal curiosity and belief that the contours of this emerging political movement were about something deeper than left and right, republican and democrat, red state and blue state.

A year and a half later we find ourselves and our film Town Hall welcomed into the ITVS family. All along we were working with the hopes of our film finding it’s way to public television, but how exactly that would happen and what it would mean if it ever did was a fuzzy picture, situated way off in the distance. Now, as the ITVS orientation draws to its close, we must confess we are still pinching ourselves — and also, seriously overwhelmed. We’ve always (and unoriginally) compared filmmaking to child rearing — which is particularly ludicrous since we don’t even have children, but try and bear with the analogy. We have been struggling to raise our baby, alone, isolated, and yeah, making it up as we go along, and suddenly we’ve got ITVS coming in to help — it’s glorious, it’s a relief, we feel like we might get one night of restful sleep, but at the same time, we’re a little bit reluctant.  I mean, ITVS kinda knows our baby but do they love our baby? 

After four day’s worth of orientation meetings, we can confidently say that our concerns have been more than calmed. Every staff member we have met are not only familiar with our project, but are excited and have thoughtful, challenging, and insightful input to offer. It’s been a constant stream of smart and relevant feedback, from every level, like when a member of the graphic design team came over on his break to share a radio interview he heard last week that reminded him of our film. Our experience here has proven a couple of things. 

First, we feel tremendously supported in our vision and approach and couldn’t be happier to find ourselves working in collaboration with an organization that is as concerned about fair and balanced storytelling as we are. Secondly, we are relieved to know that ITVS shares our desire to bring the strongest possible story to the screen — it’s not about ratings, the expediency of the current moment, or commercial interests. Most importantly, ITVS exists to support the filmmaker. Being given the opportunity to spend four long days with 20 other filmmakers, working on very different projects and coming from very different backgrounds, sharing experiences and plans and words of warning, has been a very rare and invaluable experience, and one that feels very unique to ITVS.


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