If I were heading for a desert island with only one complete set of DVDs, I’d be taking Independent Lens. There’s no more authentic way to stay in touch with real people and life as it is. I never feel alone in the world when I'm watching an episode, even if I’m by myself. —Bill Moyers
Independent Lens is a film festival in your living room. Since 2003, Independent Lens has presented more than 380 films to public television audiences. The Emmy and Peabody Award-winning series is broadcast on the PBS national schedule on Monday nights at 10pm. Independent Lens is the largest showcase for independent documentaries anywhere on U.S. television, premiering 22 new films each season. The series is curated jointly by ITVS and PBS.
Independent Lens is currently seeking submissions of films in advanced rough cut or fine cut stage or completed films to broadcast.
Independent Lens films are often character driven stories, and are known for compelling storytelling, innovation, and diversity. Independent Lens welcomes individual expression and is committed to presenting diverse points of view, on topics suited for a national audience.
Who is eligible to apply?
Please make sure that your film meets the following eligibility requirements:
Independent Lens accepts completed work and fine cuts.
Independent Lens accepts all styles of nonfiction film including POV, social issue, experimental, animation, etc.
Independent Lens accepts submissions at any length, however there are standard television broadcast length requirements that may necessitate reediting.
The majority of programs accepted will be scheduled in a "one-hour" time slot, with a total running time of 53:25 minutes. On occasion, Independent Lens, will broadcast in a "90-minute" time slot with a total running time of 83:25 minutes.
Independent Lens accepts independently produced work solely authored by individuals.
Submissions must have been produced in the last three (3) years. Independent Lens will consider exceptional works completed before this date only if they have achieved significant recognition.
Independent Lens will pay a license fee that is negotiated relevant to market rates.
Programs previously submitted and passed on by Independent Lens will not be reconsidered unless the producer has made substantial changes to at least 75% of the content in accordance with feedback from ITVS or PBS, or if the filmmaker has been invited to resubmit.
All content must be cleared for broadcast on U.S. television.
Sample reels, assemblies, and excerpts cannot be considered for broadcast, however Independent Lens is interested in discovering new projects and we urge you to submit your film to ITVS OPEN CALL for production funding consideration.
Programs do not have to have Errors & Omissions (E&O) insurance in place when submitted, but the filmmaker will need to make arrangements to secure E&O insurance if the program is accepted.
Programs must meet PBS and FCC broadcast standards, and PBS technical guidelines. PBS technical guidelines are available at pbs.org/producers/redbook.
Programs must comply with PBS editorial and funding standards. Information on PBS editorial and funding standards is available at pbs.org/producers/guidelines.
What we are looking for
When selecting programs, Independent Lens considers a range of factors, including the quality of the filmmaking, the timeliness of the story, and audience appeal. Programs should offer a fresh perspective, especially if the topic has been explored on other PBS series.
Independent Lens seeks to present the U.S. television broadcast premiere, however we will consider a work of special merit that has had very limited television exposure (such as broadcast on local public TV station).
Independent Lens does not accept instructional films, performance pieces, docudramas, reenactments, and programs with content better suited for another PBS series (PBS's Nature presents nature programs, PBS's NOVA presents science programs, etc.). If you have a question about eligibility, please email ILsubmissions@itvs.org.
Learn more about Independent Lens.
The application review process
Independent Lens screens approximately 700 programs each year for consideration on the series. Independent Lens staff will review and evaluate application materials. If your project is recommended for consideration, additional materials will be requested and Independent Lens will schedule a meeting to discuss your project further. Most filmmakers will receive a response from Independent Lens within three months from the day of submission, or as curating decisions are made.
Due to the volume of submissions that we receive, Independent Lens is unable to provide feedback on your film, as much as we would like to offer that service. We appreciate your understanding.
Please complete the Independent Lens Online Submission Form if you would like your film to be considered for broadcast. Your application must include a Web link to your secure online screener (e.g. Vimeo) and the password to view your film. This link must remain active for three months. We are no longer able to accept DVD screeners.
Please complete all required information on your application in order to have your film considered for broadcast on Independent Lens. A final decision will be emailed to you on or before three months from the day of submission, or as curating decisions are made. Unfortunately due to budget and time constraints, we are unable to provide feedback. We appreciate your understanding.
If you have questions about Independent Lens, please email us at ILsubmissions@itvs.org