From Concept to Contract

The Path of an ITVS Proposal

You’ve got a bold story that needs to be told. One that hasn’t been seen before, with the power to spark social change. ITVS can give you the funding and support you need to complete your documentary-in-progress, then air it on public television.

Our Open Call initiative invites independent filmmakers to propose a single nonfiction program for broadcast on public media. Open Call has two funding rounds each year, with application openings in Winter and Summer. The review process can take up to 16 weeks.

Evaluation Criteria

Applications are evaluated for eligibility, completeness, and competitiveness on the basis of the criteria listed below: 

  • Mission Fit: Overall, the extent to which the project fulfills the ITVS mission and programming goals. 

  • Access: The extent the producer has demonstrated credible access/rapport with the proposed subject(s) and story.

  • Urgency of the Subject Matter: The extent the project scope needs to be undertaken immediately due to access, timeline, etc.

  • Strength of Storytelling: The quality of the project idea as demonstrated by a well-conceived and appropriate approach to the material, making it accessible and compelling programming.

  • Stylistic Dynamism: The extent the treatment clearly describes the visuals, structure, and style (i.e. themes, characters & series structure, as well as story arcs). 

  • Innovation: The extent the proposal brings new ideas/style, or creative formats to public television.

  • Audience Potential: The extent the treatment takes into account the television medium, and the needs and interests of an under-served target audience, as well as a national broadcast audience.

  • Experience / track record of the production team: The ability of the producer(s) to realize the full potential of the project (and the viability of the proposed budget). 

The Review Process

Each complete application submitted to Open Call is assigned an ITVS staff member and a peer reviewer. Our peer reviewers are ethnically and geographically diverse members of the independent film and public media communities.

After a careful review, the top applicants are chosen to advance as finalists. You’ll receive an email that lets you know if you’ve been selected.

Finalists submit a full production budget and answer additional production questions for a feasibility review. A five-person panel of independent producers and industry peers reviews all treatments, screens work-in-progress samples and discusses the merit of each project.

Our programming and production department reviews the projects the panel recommends for funding, then proposes a programming slate to our content strategy team. ITVS President and CEO Sally Jo Fifer approves the final funding recipients.

Open Call applicants who are recommended for funding, may receive amounts averaging between $150,000 and $350,000. Applicants who are offered Open Call funding are invited to attend the ITVS Independents Summit in San Francisco. 

For more information, see Open Call.