For 14 years, the San Francisco-based funding organization Independent Television Service (ITVS) has been one of the premier sources for American producers to fund their doc projects. Now, for the first time, the service is opening its coffers to international producers with a new five-year initiative called the International Media Development Fund (IMDF).
itvs director of programming Claire Aguilar says the fund, which supports projects for U.S. broadcast, was created in response to a dire need for global perspectives on American tv at a time when the country is increasingly turning inward. ‘International voices are just not reaching American audiences,’ she explains. ‘There isn’t a lot of coverage of world affairs here, not even in the news media. The point of the fund is to be able to present global issues to Americans and to get it all from the horse’s mouth, so to speak.’
Launched in May at input in San Francisco, the IMDF is for non-U.S. citizens and was created by ITVS in partnership with a consortium of private foundations – The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Ford Foundation and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. U.S. producers needn’t worry – the IMDF is a separate fund within ITVS and it won’t drain any resources from existing initiatives.
What kind of films are they looking for? Aguilar cites very few parameters, stating that the fund is seeking projects that cover non-U.S. topics and are ‘innovative and tell stories differently.’ For example, at the Toronto Documentary Forum in May, the imdf contributed funds to Waltz with Bashir, an animated doc and personal story about an Israeli soldier. Other films recently commissioned include a project from China about the rigors of circus training, and Pickles, Inc., a bittersweet tale about a group of Israeli Arab widows who start a pickle factory that premiered August 30 on ‘Wide Angle,’ the PBS strand.
The fund is currently involved in eight projects, and Aguilar says that up to 15 will be supported each year, with available funds ranging from US$10,000 to $150,000 per project. The IMDF is primarily interested in providing last monies for one-hour one-offs and some feature docs. In exchange for funds and promotional services, ITVS will receive exclusive U.S. broadcast rights for a designated period of time (typically three to five years), and possibly a share in other sales (i.e., DVD, theatrical, international broadcast rights, etc.) to be negotiated on a case-by-case basis. Like Pickles, most projects funded by the IMDF are destined for public TV, although some will end up on doc-friendly commercial outlets like the Sundance Channel.
For the remainder of the year, the IMDF is seeking commissions solely at film markets, but in January, 2006, it will introduce an annual open call for submissions.
International Media Development Fund (www.itvs.org)
Launch date: May, 2005
Mandate: To support international productions that present global issues to American audiences
Eligibility: Indie producers who are non-U.S. citizens with projects that present non-U.S. subject matter
In the piggy bank: Producers can apply for US$10,000 to $150,000 per project. Approximately 15 docs will be awarded funds each year
Some strings attached: ITVS acquires American broadcast rights in exchange for funds and expects revenue sharing in terms of any ancillary revenue (i.e., from DVD sales)