ITVS Hosts Diversity Development Fund Workshop

Posted on March 6, 2009

For this first time, ITVS invited Diversity Development Fund (DDF) recipients to the office in San Francisco for a special workshop with filmmaker mentors. Alex Zacarias was there to describe firsthand his experience. 

Earlier this week, I participated in the first Diversity Development Fund (DDF) workshop, which took place at ITVS in San Francisco. Along with twelve other chosen fellow filmmakers, we were floored, shocked, surprised, elated and ecstatic that our projects were selected in this highly competitive program. The goal (if we are all lucky) is to have our documentaries become a reality and make their way onto such PBS programs like P.O.V. and Independent Lens

The Research and Development funds that I will receive from ITVS’s DDF is for my project, THE LOST TAINO TRIBE, a story about an indigenous people long considered extinct and their quest for self-identity today. Kathryn Washington, DDF’s program manager, and other staff packed a week’s worth of information into two intense days of workshops on the science and art of documentary storytelling. 

One of my favorite activities was the Mentor Panel that included Adriana Bosch, Gita Saedi Kiely, Stanley Nelson, Llewellyn Smith, Renee Tajima-Pena and Marco Williams––all award-winning filmmakers who shared their industry experiences about their journeys through the numerous challenges and obstacles that we will encounter along the way. This intimate setting allowed us “newbies” to ask the “no question is a dumb question” questions and to form personal bonds with them. I was matched with up with documentary filmmaker Llewellyn Smith who will guide me through the development process as my mentor. I remember years ago recording a documentary that aired on PBS, which examined racism, and like a Cinderella story, the guy who made it is now my mentor! 

In addition, ITVS’s Open Call Program Manager, Richard Saiz, shared the importance of writing a good treatment for a narrative documentary that include elements such as visual strategies, multiple layers of messages within a story, the use of metaphors and the list goes on. As a side note, I had previously submitted proposals and all I got were letters of rejection that I proudly wore as war badges. Richard also introduced our group to the word synecdoche––pronounced si-NEK-di-key––meaning all for one. For instance in photographic and filmic media a close-up is a simple synecdoche: a part representing the whole. So I am honored to be a part representing the whole lot of us starving independent producers who are more than grateful for the opportunity of a lifetime. 

Finally, other workshops included the nuts and bolts of digital strategies, budgets and outreach. But this meeting of creative minds could not have been possible without my fellow colleagues each with their own madness, each with their own brilliant and personal stories that moves ones heart and compels one to action. I met some amazing people from the four corners of the world at DDF’s workshop and I feel very privileged to call them all my friends. 

-Alex 

The Diversity Development Fund (DDF) is a unique funding initiative that provides research and development support for new public television projects by producers from communities of color. The initiative, created with support from Ford Foundation, provides up to $15,000 in funding with the aim of developing viable projects from diverse producers that will attract full funding and find distribution on public television. 

Since its inception, the DDF has been successful in bringing new and innovative stories to ITVS by a body of filmmakers diverse not only in their ethnic backgrounds, but also in their experience levels, age, gender, geography, as well as their unique approaches to storytelling. 

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