FUTURESTATES has arrived! The new online fictional series from ITVS represents a huge innovation for public media. Check out the New York Times story below to learn more about the creative concept behind the series and what makes it so unique. Also, be sure to watch FUTURESTATES today by visiting http://www.futurestates.tv and tell us what you think!
For Web and Public TV, Brief Films That Dramatize Issues
By Elizabeth Jensen
March 7, 2010 -- ITVS is best known for its financing of documentaries, many of which appear on PBS’s Independent Lens series. But beginning on Monday, the organization will present a series of brief, fictional films that cast social issues into the future, in the hopes of drawing a younger audience not necessarily interested in public television. The new films, 11 in all, will appear first on the Web, and later move to broadcast. Their subjects will be familiar to those who watch ITVS-financed documentaries: climate change, immigration and exploitation of the poor, among other social issues. Under the series title FUTURESTATES, the films will give fictional treatments to the same kinds of subjects, some with a science-fiction twist, exploring how those issues can play out in the future. The films, which run about 15 minutes each, are meant to attract a diverse audience of so-called millennials, young adults in their 20s and 30s, as well as filmmakers in that demographic group, said Sally Jo Fifer, the president and chief executive of ITVS. Fiction is “what they’re working in,” said Ms. Fifer, and online is where to reach them, ITVS executives said. “We wanted to get that demographic in the public media family,” Ms. Fifer added.
Congress created ITVS, which stands for the Independent Television Service, in 1991 to support independent voices in the media landscape, and finances it through the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. ITVS has supported a handful of nondocumentary films in the past, but has largely found the cost of feature-length work prohibitive. Moreover, PBS broadcasts little fictional programming with the exception of Masterpiece Theater, said Matthew Meschery, ITVS’s director of digital initiatives. “There’s very little, if any, distribution opportunity for narrative films on broadcast for public television,” he said. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting paid the $522,000 in development and production costs of FUTURESTATES, which can be seen starting on Monday at futurestates.tv. In about a month, after a screening at the South by Southwest festival, the films will be available on PBS.org. ITVS is exploring distribution via mobile devices and other online outlets as well, Mr. Meschery said, in addition to their eventual broadcast. ITVS had 42 submissions for the first round of grants. Among the winners were Plastic Bag from Ramin Bahrani, about the life of a bag (narrated by the film director Werner Herzog); Mister Green, from Greg Pak, about global warming; Tent City, by Aldo Velasco, about an eviction officer grappling with the moral implications of his job; and Silver Sling, from Tze Chun, about a world where impoverished immigrants sell their bodies for use in chemically accelerated surrogate births. The films, which run about 15 minutes each, are meant to attract a diverse audience of so-called millennials, young adults in their 20s and 30s, as well as filmmakers in that demographic group, said Sally Jo Fifer, the president and chief executive of ITVS. Fiction is “what they’re working in,” said Ms. Fifer, and online is where to reach them, ITVS executives said. “We wanted to get that demographic in the public media family,” Ms. Fifer added.
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