This blog is an online Q&A forum for prospective applicants to ITVS's International Call initiative. The application deadline is Friday, February 6, 2009. First, review the guidelines and instructions for how to apply. View our frequently asked questions and answers below. If you would like to comment or ask a follow up question, click on the "Comments" icon at the bottom of the appropriate topic (please remember to include your name). Programming Manager Cynthia Kane or Programming Coordinator Joy-Marie Scott will respond to questions as soon as possible. You may navigate topics using Labels or the Blog Archive menu on the right.

How does International Call work?

Through the International Call funding initiative, ITVS International works to:
  1. Seek out international projects. We work closely with international media markets, film festivals and producer organizations to find and attract the most compelling television project proposals from around the world.
  2. Select the best projects created by international independent producers. International Call incorporates a peer-review process involving distinguished industry professionals (filmmakers, commissioning editors, broadcasters, etc.) from around the world.
  3. Fund and manage projects to completion. Through International Call, we provide production funds in exchange for a license for domestic broadcast; strategic commissioning commitments vary. ITVS International works with producers to ensure that all programs meet broadcast and editorial standards.
  4. Find U.S. television distribution outlets. Working with the producer, public television and other outlets, we negotiate U.S. distribution through public or cable television.
  5. Maximize impact. Through publicity and community outreach campaigns, we help programs find and impact audiences.

Does the U.S. government have control over the selection of projects?

No. International Call is funded by private foundations and solely administered by ITVS International, a branch of the nonprofit corporation Independent Television Service (ITVS). The staff of ITVS International and independent panels assembled by ITVS International staff make all decisions.

How does ITVS International work to increase diversity in its pool of applicants?

It is the mission of ITVS International to present diverse voices on television. We constantly strive to support underrepresented filmmaking communities throughout the world. We focus our field relations with filmmakers from indigenous and immigrant communities, as well as with filmmakers from countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Our efforts include outreach to a wide range of international festivals and markets where ITVS staff participate in workshops and serve on panels. Applicants can help guide our efforts by accurately filling out the demographic information on the application and by communicating their own diverse backgrounds in the Filmmaker’s Note section of their project proposal.

What parts of the world are you most interested in?

International Call embraces projects from every part of the world, including places that are lesser known to U.S. audiences or seldom represented on U.S. television. We especially encourage producers from Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East to apply for funding.

What kind of subject matter will funded projects address?

Any compelling projects that bring international perspectives, ideas, events and people to U.S. television will be considered. Topics can vary and include documentaries about global current events, history, politics, culture, economics, arts and biography. To get an idea of the range of ITVS International co-productions, please review our recently funded projects.

If a project is controversial or political, will it be considered?

Yes. Any point of view, well presented, will be considered.

Must all International Call programs be filmed in English?

No, but all programs in languages other than English will be English-versioned for U.S. audiences. English reversioning will vary according to the project.

How often can I apply to International Call?

Applicants may apply for only one project per call. If a person is a Primary Applicant on one project, she/he cannot be a Co-Applicant on another project. There is no limit to the number of calls to which an applicant can apply for funding. If you applied to International Call in 2007 or 2008, you can also apply in 2009.

What is the review process for International Call?

ITVS International staff evaluates all applications to determine eligibility. Eligible applications are then reviewed by ITVS International staff and outside evaluators selected by ITVS International. Evaluators are chosen from a pool of filmmakers, producers, editors, programmers and others who have extensive international experience.

Based on these reviews and further input from ITVS staff, highly rated projects are submitted to an outside panel for final selection. This panel includes a diverse international group of commissioning editors, filmmakers, television professionals, production consultants, academics and regional and/or subject experts. The panel meets with ITVS International and recommends projects for funding.

Selected programs are offered a contract for U.S. broadcast rights in exchange for funding and services. The call is extremely competitive as we are only able to fund approximately five percent of International Call applicants.

When will I be notified regarding my application’s status?

After the submission deadline, all applicants will receive notification by email within two weeks. At this time, applicants will be notified of their eligibility status. They will then be notified of their application’s progress within six to eight weeks of this submission. In April, a small group of finalists will submit additional information and receive a final decision within eight weeks.

What are the most common mistakes that applicants make?

Unfortunately, many applicants do not read the guidelines as carefully as they should. Many producers do not write clear treatments, making them generic and unspecific as to how the story will be told. Other common mistakes are incomplete proposals, no work-in-progress reel or no completed sample work. Applicants also forget to sign their signature at the end of the application. These can make applications ineligible.

What videos must I submit with my application?

All proposals must be accompanied by a video of the applicant’s previously completed work in its entirety, with credits and English subtitles if the program’s language is not English. Demo reels, selected clips of your past work, do not qualify.

In addition, you must provide a work-in-progress video of the proposed project (selects, scenes, rough cut, etc.) with a minimum length of five minutes. Research footage is not sufficient and will not be accepted.

How can I see examples of previously funded films?

View the full list of ITVS International films and their trailers >>
See what films can be viewed in full on our digital broadcast partners' sites >>

Must the work-in-progress video be five minutes? I have a three-minute trailer, will this do?

International Call is a highly competitive process. In our experience with International Call, no matter how well-written the proposal, projects simply don’t compete when the work-in-progress is too brief. We receive so many compelling proposals that the more developed ones always rise to the top.

What kind of producer feedback does ITVS International give?

ITVS International offers feedback for all applicants to International Call. Feedback consists of a telephone appointment between the Primary Applicant and/or Co-Applicant and staff. We do not send feedback via email.

Does ITVS encourage applicants to resubmit proposals that have been declined?

We provide feedback so producers can improve their proposals for the next submission, or understand why their projects are not right for ITVS in general.

What is the funding range for International Call projects?

The goal of International Call is to provide enough funds for a producer to complete a documentary for broadcast on U.S. television. The funding request should be sufficient to complete the production. As a guideline, this request should fall within the range of $10,000 to $150,000.

At what stage will ITVS International fund a project?

International Call funding is for the production and post-production phases. It is not for research and development, nor is it for the acquisition of finished programs. The programs submitted must have already begun production and be completed and ready for broadcast within one year of contract.

What does "completion funding" mean?

Completion funding means the last money needed to deliver a program. This does not include deferrals. ITVS funds can only be applied to work occurring forward from the commitment of ITVS funds.

Will I increase my chances of getting funded if I ask for less money?

We certainly do consider the amount of money requested when assessing whether a proposal is a good investment. Although ITVS International funds are limited, you should base your budget request on what is required to complete your program. There is no advantage and several distinct disadvantages to asking for less than what is required.

How much can I pay myself as a producer?

You should give yourself an equitable wage based on your time and effort. This must be expressed as a flat fee. ITVS International does not pay deferred salaries, so you must calculate your time as a producer starting the moment you receive ITVS funding.


What kind of contract do producers sign when they receive funding from ITVS International?

In exchange for funding and services, the producer grants ITVS the exclusive U.S. television broadcast rights for a determined time period of seven years. The producer is required to deliver a completed program that meets U.S. broadcast standards. Other contract points, including international TV rights, theatrical rights and revenue sharing, are negotiated on a case-by-case basis. It is important that you carefully review and understand our Production Agreement Note.

Who has editorial control?

The producer has creative and financial control of the project and will own the copyright. ITVS International will consult with the producer regarding creative, editorial and financial matters throughout the production and the completion of the program. ITVS International will require input into the editing and presentation of the program to meet U.S. broadcast standards and regulations, but also to attract and be relevant for a U.S. audience.

Does ITVS International require reversioning of its funded projects?

ITVS reserves the right to make changes to and reformat the program for the purpose of delivering to a U.S. broadcast outlet. This may include but is not limited to, subtitling, narration, editing for time and to fit the technical and format requirements of the broadcaster.

What will ITVS’s credited role be on the program?

ITVS International will receive co-production credits on all International Call programs, including an executive producer credit.

Does ITVS International take any revenue sharing?

ITVS participates in revenue sharing of the net profits from your program from all distribution, on all versions worldwide. The revenue sharing is a percentage based on the amount of ITVS’s budget contribution.

Does International Call acquire finished programs?

At this time, ITVS International does not acquire finished films through International Call process. ITVS accepts submissions of completed films for Independent Lens, a 29-week national PBS series jointly curated by PBS and ITVS. Independent Lens welcomes the full spectrum of film and accepts advanced fine cuts and completed works of all genres. Get more information on Independent Lens >>

How are International Call programs distributed?

ITVS International works with PBS and the 348 U.S. public television stations, along with other television and cable broadcasters, to secure the best possible broadcast for each program. Distribution options for each program will depend on the interest of our partners in public television and cable, the program’s content and other factors. ITVS International may also seek multiplatform distribution venues such as podcasts or video on demand for these projects. We currently have a 100 percent placement rate.

What if I have a project that already has international distribution partners but still needs money to be completed?

Projects with international partners attached will be considered as long as exclusive U.S. broadcast rights are still available.