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.