Open Call

Get funding and support to complete your single nonfiction program for broadcast on public television—whether you’re an emerging filmmaker or a veteran producer.

Reopens January 7, 2019 9:00 AM PST

The Application Process


Open Call has two funding rounds each year, with deadlines in February and July.

We’re looking for exceptional storytelling that’s in line with our mission: stories that take risks, tackle important issues, and are seldom seen in public media. We know how hard you’ve worked on your project, and we’ll partner with you to help you finish it, then distribute it on public television. 

As part of your application, you’ll submit a work in progress video from your production. For pre-production nonfiction projects, see Diversity Development Fund or Digital Open Call. On average, Open Call applicants spend 1-2 weeks completing their applications. 

You may apply at any phase of production or post-production. Projects that are early in production may not be as competitive unless you have demonstrated access, strong storytelling in your treatment and work sample, and an urgency to the story. Projects that are too advanced (e.g. at Fine Cut or festival submission cut) may not be considered for co-production funding. 

Funding amounts average between $150,000 and $350,000.

Open Call is not a grant. ITVS provides a co-production investment in your project. 

Since 1991, we’ve funded 533 Open Call programs, including:


Two Gods

Harvest Season

Out of State

In Football We Trust

What to Expect

Review Process

After you submit your application, you will receive notification of your status within 12-15 weeks. If you are among a small group of finalists who advance through a series of peer reviews, you will be asked to submit additional materials for a feasibility review. 

Production and Distribution 

ITVS doesn’t just fund your film. We provide you with creative development and feedback, and, depending on the broadcast outlet, with marketing, publicity, and audience engagement services. You own copyright and maintain full editorial, creative, and financial control.

When your program is at or near completion, we offer it to PBS and work closely with public television programmers across the U.S. to secure a sublicense of public television broadcast rights and ensure the broadcast of your program. ITVS will enter into a license agreement for exclusive domestic television rights. 

Most ITVS-funded programs air on PBS series such as Independent Lens, POV, American Masters, and FRONTLINE. Our programs also have success in the festival, educational video, home video, and foreign broadcast markets. 

Who We Fund

Open Call supports:

  • Single, non-fiction projects of standard broadcast length (26:40, 56:40, or 86:40) that aren’t intended solely for theatrical release.

  • Broadcast distribution for feature length programs on public television are very limited. ITVS may require you to deliver a one hour (56:40) version of your program

  • Works in progress.

  • Programs that can be completed within one year of contract.


You are eligible to apply if you are:

  • The owner of the copyright of your production and maintain editorial control of the story.
  • Not employed as a producer or director by a broadcast entity or film studio.
  • Someone with previous film or television production experience in a principal role: director, co-director, producer, co-producer or first-time filmmakers with an experienced producer attached to the project. Student work won’t be reviewed.
  • Applying to only this ITVS funding initiative at this time – we won’t review projects already under consideration for other ITVS funding.
  • A citizen or legal resident of the U.S. or its external territories age 18 or older.
  • Individuals can only submit one application per round, as either an applicant or co-applicant. However, an applicant can be a member of the key creative personnel on multiple projects.

  • Only production activities that support completion and delivery of a program for broadcast are eligible for funding.

You are not eligible to apply if you are: 

  • A Student.
  • Current signatories of ITVS production contracts who have not completed delivery
  • Previously funded producers who are not compliant with financial reporting requirements.
  • Producers representing foreign-based production entities
  • Persons regularly employed as producers/directors by a public or commercial broadcast entity, including public access stations.
  • Organizations including universities, foundations, and nonprofit organizations.
  • Programs that have been previously broadcast, or distributed publicly (including theatrical, festivals, educational, community screenings or online platforms).