Up Next for Stanley Nelson: Feature Documentary on History of HBCUs + Watch His Black Panther Doc If You Missed It Last Night

Titled “Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Historically Black Colleges and Universities,” the PBS documentary (and multimedia project) will dig into the significance of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in American history, culture, and national identity, via the many stories from HBCU students, faculty, staff, and alumni. The documentary will tell stories of Americans who would not be denied a higher education, demonstrating how the 150-year history of HBCUs have influenced generations of Americans and shaped the landscape of the country.


Frustrated by Wikipedia’s male-dominated culture, women are spearheading efforts to record history fairly, and take control of their own stories

On a recent Saturday afternoon in the heart of Harlem, dozens of people click-clacked on their laptops in the Schomburg Center for the Black Life Matters Wikipedia edit-a-thon. Organized by the AfroCROWD initiative with the Wikimedia Foundation, the event was in tandem with Black WikiHistory Month, and its mission was to recruit more Wikipedians of color, to rectify the online encyclopedia’s gaping diversity problem.


ITVS Digital Open Call Now Accepting Submissions

ITVS is excited to announce its call for entries for the Digital Open Call. Now in its second year, the fund will support independent filmmakers in developing and piloting original web series for public media’s digital platforms, including PBS.org, PBS-branded YouTube channels, and others. ITVS is thrilled to continue building a pipeline for producers to propose dynamic independent digital series projects for R&D and eventual production.

We seek web series that redefine the form and engage younger and more diverse viewership as we expand public media’s presence and mission into the digital sphere, with bold, unflinching, and innovative original storytelling that defies convention and tackles current and controversial issues. Applications for web series in any genre are eligible, and may incorporate interactive or transmedia elements.

The deadline to apply is May 2, 2016, and the online application is now live on the ITVS website, where prospective applicants can also learn more about eligibility and submission requirements. Selected applications will contract with ITVS to receive between $10,000 and $30,000 in R&D funding to develop and pilot their web series over the course of a three-month term.

Here are the four series projects we are proud to be supporting through the 2015 round of Digital Open Call:

Produced & directed by Michele Barnwell
Party Girls follows a group of young diverse women of varying personal, religious, and political beliefs, as they take a road trip together across America in the months leading up to the 2016 Presidential elections, engaging in the political process as voters for the first time in their lives.

Produced & directed by Garland McLaurin
Pops follows three African American men facing the toughest challenge of their lives: becoming good fathers. Their stories reflect the reality of black fathers in America, a role rarely portrayed and often stereotyped in the media.  

Produced & directed by Nicole Opper & Kristan Cassady
The F-Word will chronicle the challenging and sometimes comedic journey of Nicole and Kristan, a queer Bay Area couple, into the foster care system to become fost-adopt parents.

Produced & directed by Angela Tucker
African Americans are returning to the South in one of the most notable migrations of the new century. But in this moment where churches are being burnt to the ground and crimes against black people are rising at a startling rate, This series looks at this new phenomena and asks the question, “where is a good place to be black?”

360 Incubator aims to amplify diverse voices in public media

An initiative to help media creators of color break into public broadcasting is also helping those artists realize the importance of their voices.

The 360 Incubator and Fund from the National Black Programming Consortium is now taking applications for its second year of fellows, who receive mentorship, training and networking opportunities through NBPC and other public and commercial media professionals.

At the NBPC incubator in Harlem, participants hone pitches and learn to tailor their presentations to different audiences; they build toward Pitch Black, where a panel of media professionals picks winners. They can also embed within stations to better understand the public broadcasting system. Last year’s four winners continue to develop their projects and pitches, using grants from $50,000 to $150,000 from CPB.

The media makers have discovered the challenges of filmmaking in Africa, tackled the unpredictability of launching a reality show, learned how tough funding a dramatic series can be, and realized that going through the incubator “is a grind, but the payoff is great,” as one said.

The major lesson for NBPC was that “independent producers really do need this support,” said Kay Shaw, director of programs and acquisitions. “Most of the time, we give them money and hope for the best. But we’ve realized that an immersive, intensive, hands-on atmosphere really shapes those projects much more quickly.”

Here’s an update on last year’s winners.


Four projects aimed at African-American audiences win pilot funds at inaugural Pitch Black event

NEW YORK — Four TV and web series that explode myths, expose hidden trauma and empower the black community moved a big step closer to the small screen after taking home $50,000 to $150,000 in prize money for pilot development from the National Black Programming Consortium’s inaugural Pitch Black event April 23.

Panels of judges selected the projects, which focus on topics such as black fathers, surfers in Senegal, Detroit high-schoolers and mental illness tinged with the supernatural, after a day of pitches by eight finalists in a new incubator, NBPC 360. Winners were evaluated on technical and artistic merit, social and cultural relevance, creative team and compatibility with PBS at a time when the network is exploring ways to attract a younger and more diverse audience.

These projects “will bring vitally needed fresh perspectives and new voices to public media [and] vibrant, engaging stories about the black experience to American audiences,” said NBPC Executive Director Leslie Fields-Cruz.

The winners:

  • My Africa Is, a television documentary series from Nosarieme Garrick and Hassatou Diallo, which tells dynamic and diverse stories of African youth culture that challenge tired stereotypes of the African continent;
  • Street Cred, by Sultan Sharrief and Oren Goldenberg, a reality television show following 12 Detroit high school students who master tasks in entertainment production to win internships on the set of a feature film;
  • Pixie Dust from Damon Colquhoun and Shertease Wheeler, a scripted web series that is an urban fantasy about a magical 13-year-old girl and her mentally ill mother; and
  • POPS by Garland McLaurin and Jason Samuels, a documentary web series that explores and celebrates black fatherhood, attempting to reframe media focus on the absence of black men in their children’s lives.


TONIGHT: PBS Digs into Poverty & Education Challenges in New Documentary ‘180 Days: Hartsville’

The inspiring new documentary, “180 Days: Hartsville,” takes a fresh look at the nation’s poverty and education challenges in a rural South Carolina town. The two-hour special, co-produced by South Carolina ETV (SCETV) and National Black Programming Consortium (NBPC), airs tonight, on PBS, from 8 to 10 p.m. ET (check local listings). The film was funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) as part of “American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen,” a public media initiative to stem the dropout crisis by supporting community-based solutions.


Co-directors Jacquie Jones and Garland McLaurin, the team behind the Peabody Award-winning documentary “180 Days: A Year Inside an American High School,” which premiered in 2013, joined SCETV in Hartsville, South Carolina for more than a year. They filmed in 2 elementary schools struggling with new curriculum standards and maintaining funding, while meeting the needs of individual students. South Carolina ranks 45th in the country in education. The majority of Hartsville residents hover on the poverty line with a median income of less than $30,000 and more than half of the city’s students qualify for free and reduced-price school lunches.


‘180 Days: A Year Inside An American High School” Wins Coveted Peabody Award

The National Black Programming Consortium documentary series 180 Days: A Year Inside an American High School is the proud winner of a 2013 Peabody Award.

The documentary which aired last year on PBS and was directed by Jacquie Jones, turns the harsh glare of the spotlight on the nation’s educational crisis.

The cameras follow the day-to-day stories of students, parents, teachers, and staff at the Washington Metropolitan High School also known as the DC Met, providing a unique window into a public school and system trying desperately to make a difference in the lives of each student.

Jacquie Jones tells Black Enterprise, “The Peabody was a tremendous validation. We really wanted to give people a first-hand look at what happens in these schools. There is so much rhetoric about test scores and teacher accountability, common core and poverty but if you’re not in the school you don’t really have a sense of how all these things come together in the lives of these kids. So what we wanted to show was an intimate portrayal of what it’s really like to walk a mile in their shoes.”

Led by a dynamic and outspoken young principal, the series is a raw, unprecedented first-hand account of life inside the school reform movement.

Jones talks about working alongside the principal. She tells BE, “We just started hanging out with her there and getting a sense of what the challenges were. She was so open and so dynamic and interested in being a part of this project that showcased these many challenges and it all sort of just came together.”


‘180 Days’ and ‘American Promise’: Two films that show racial, financial and disparities in America’s school systems

At DC Met, as the District public high school is lovingly called by the adults and young people featured in 180 Days, school principal Tanisha Williams Minor races and even rhymes to prepare her students to take the DC Comprehensive Assessment System tests (DC CAS). A bright and beautiful young woman willing to bop and rap to engage and motivate her students, Minor code-switches with ease, transitioning from standard English to colloquial expressions and expressing authentic closeness with her students - and the communities from which they come. The DC CAS scores in math and English are one in a series of about 15 metrics that Minor says the District of Columbia Public Schools system uses to rate schools and determine the professional destinies of the adults who staff them. If students fail, the principal and teachers fail, and school staff members may lose their jobs.