ITVS’ International Call for global perspectives

Claire Aguilar, VP of programming at The Independent Television Service (ITVS), spoke to realscreen about the service's international call for projects to fund, and which countries she's hoping to see more submissions from.
November 26, 2009

Claire Aguilar, VP of programming at The Independent Television Service (ITVS), spoke to realscreen about the service’s international call for projects to fund, and which countries she’s hoping to see more submissions from.

The February 5, 2010 deadline is rapidly approaching for the ITVS International Call, a funding opportunity for producers outside the U.S. through the International Media Development Fund. The International Call gives independent producers the chance to share global stories through documentary to audiences in the U.S. The cap for funding is US$150,000 and ITVS also negotiates U.S. distribution through public or cable television.

‘We try to make the [selection] process as democratic as possible but the ones that fit our mission in terms of their content and how they’re being told, they make the mark,’ says Aguilar.

ITVS bills the International Call’s criteria for ‘making the mark’ as, ‘Any compelling projects that bring international perspectives, ideas, events and people to U.S. television. Topics can vary and include documentaries about global current events, history, politics, culture, economics, arts and biography.’

One film that successfully received ITVS funding is This Is My Picture When I Was Dead, directed by Mahmoud Al Massad. Aguilar says this was a very innovative project using animation and various methods of storytelling as well as providing a historical account of an important topic, in this case the assassination of a PLO lieutenant which also claimed the life of his four-year-old son.

Last year’s International Call brought in submissions from 83 countries. ‘It was very diverse [including submissions from] as far away as Estonia and Bangladesh, although most of the applications come from Europe or the English-speaking territories, Australia, Canada and the UK,’ says Aguilar. ‘We’ve been doing a lot of outreach to different regions, to China, India and Korea, and we did a lot of targeting in Latin America.’ This year, Aguilar says that ITVS is focusing its efforts on getting more submissions from Africa as well, with representatives traveling there for outreach and to talk to producers.

Currently there are five ITVS-supported films that are official selections at IDFA: Bananas! from Swedish director Fredrik Gertten (coproduction with WG Films, ITVS International, SVT, ARTE/ZDF, VPRO); Cowboys in India from English director Simon Chambers (a copro with Channel 4); Last Train Home, a Chinese/Canadian production directed by Lixin Fan (copro of EyeSteel Films in association with ITVS International, Sundance Documentary Fund, TV5, Super Channel, Channel 4); The Last Tightrope Dancer in Armenia from Armenian directors Arman Yeritsyan and Inna Sahakyan (coproduction with ITVS International, Bars Media, NHK, SVT, TVP, Estonian Television, YLE) and lastly, the Oscar-shortlisted doc The Most Dangerous Man in America from American director/producers Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith (copro with ITVS, ARTE/ZDF).

About The Author
Andrew Jeffrey joined Realscreen in 2021 as its news editor. Here, he helps to oversee assignment, reporting and editing for Realscreen's daily newsletter. Prior to his work covering documentary and non-fiction film and TV, he worked as a reporter and associate producer for CBC Edmonton, and as a reporter for The Star Calgary, where he covered daily news on beats such as local and provincial politics, health care and harm reduction, sports and education. His work has appeared in other Canadian news outlets such as TVO, the Edmonton Journal and Avenue Magazine.