ITVS Programming Department and Panel Review

Posted on May 18, 2009

The ITVS office has been abuzz with a milestone for the Programming department known as Panel Review, which has filmmakers around the world anxiously waiting for the news that they’ll be awarded the jackpot to finish their documentary. On occasion, you might wonder “How does ITVS select its programming?” It’s no easy task as we aim to fund the highest quality from the most diverse points of view. To do this, we go beyond the staff at ITVS, and we facilitate a peer-review process that gathers the input of distinguished independent filmmakers, film festival and television programmers, commissioning editors and the like. 

Each of our three production funding initiatives culminates in a final Panel Review, in which panelists recommend ten to 12 projects for funding. If you’re a filmmaker who has made it to Panel Review, congratulations! Your project is among the top six to ten percent of applications, and at this stage, there’s no doubt you have a top-notch production underway. Alas, the competition is fierce. 

The Panel Review for International Call took place last week, and at the end of a hair-raising, time-zone bending, technologically intense week, we emerged with a prioritized list of 12 projects that our Panelists recommend for funding. In its fourth year, International Call received nearly 500 applications from 80 countries, spanning six continents. In the end, we’ll offer co-production financing ($50,000 to $150,000) to eight to ten programs. This International Call Panel was particularly unique in that we experimented with videoconferencing. Given the economic climate and the current green enlightenment, the International Programming team wanted to chart a new process that would be all-around more efficient—trimming costs and time as well as our global footprint—while maintaining the integrity and richness of debate for which ITVS Panel Review sessions are known. 

We succeeded in channeling our five panelists to a virtual conference center online, in which all participants were displayed on screen in a sort of Hollywood Squares formation. For two sessions on Thursday and Friday, our Panelists logged in from their offices in different parts of the world, spanning five time zones, which had us in San Francisco beginning at the near crack of dawn. This form of virtual panel was an ITVS first and also an innovation in the field. As such, I emerged with a fresh appreciation for pioneers. And the jackpots go to… How I wish I could tell! We’ll officially announce the slate towards the end of summer when all contracts have been signed. Meanwhile, down the hall, Open Call is having its Panel Review. Programming Managers Karim Ahmad and Richard Saiz have their panelists sequestered in the conference room to hash out the merits of another thirty finalists. 

-Joy-Marie Scott Programming Coordinator, ITVS International

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