National Black Programming Consortium Tackles the Business of Film and Public Television

FilmOn December 18, the National Black Programming Consortium (NBPC) presented ?NBPC 360 Digital Diversity,? a live stream event to get producers caught up on the latest trends in public television and to help them apply for the consortium?s latest initiative, NBPC 360. Industry experts including award-winning journalist and producer Maria Hinajosa (Futuro Media, America By the Numbers), Donald Thoms (VP of General Audience Programming, PBS), Stephen Segaller (VP Programming, Thirteen/WNET), Marvin Scott (HBO) and award-winning filmmaker Jacquie Jones as moderator were on hand for a lively panel discussion about Black content, its role in public television and no surprise here ? the issue of funding Black films.

Since 1979, NBPC – a Harlem-based nonprofit – has been bringing stories about the global Black experience to public television; it has gone on to take on the digital space, producing Web series and training the next generation of Web producers of color. Since their early days, the consortium has created several new unique series including Black Folk Don?t; AfroPoP: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange; and 180 Days: A Year Inside an American High School, to name a few.??????

Now, the new incubator program, NBPC 360, is an opportunity for new producers to get funding for their upcoming projects. ?With NBPC 360, we?re seeking new voices to create a wave of quality content for public media outlets, including the Web, content that often is lacking,? says NBPC Executive Director Leslie Fields-Cruz.??

Here, caught up with Fields-Cruz a
day before the live event to talk more about the role of NBPC and the new funding initiative for aspiring producers. Tell us a bit about your organization, the live stream event and the new NBPC 360 initiative.

Leslie Fields-Cruz: Our organization is 35 years old. We have been filming Black documentaries and distributing to public television all these years and are funded by Public Broadcasting Service.

NBPC 360 is part professional development and part funding awards. In terms of professional development, we have a series of webinars and the live stream event will be the final event for the fall series.

We will select 10 projects that will go through an incubator. Producing teams will be paired with a mentor and the mentor will work through the team, critiquing weaknesses and treatments – all in preparation for a pitch. We will be working diligently to get decision makers in the room. After, BNBTV will award up to three of the projects with anywhere from $50,000 to $150,000. The money comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

The application deadline for anyone who wants to enter is Friday, January 9, 2015. What is the goal of the live stream event and the incubator?

LFC: This really is a new take on funding. We hope that the producers who tune in for the live stream will come away with a better understanding of the kind of content that public TV is looking for. We hope that the live panel will lead the participating producers to submitting applications that are competitive and appropriate for public media.??

The big challenge is always funding. We are happy to have the support of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. But every now and then, projects come to us that might not fit public television but we would like to support the films nonetheless if they?re part of the Black diaspora. There?s an annual appeal to diversify our funding.?? Any other discussion-worthy challenges, goals, etc. regarding Black programming?

LFC: The producers we?ve worked with over the years tell us it?s still a challenge to get access to both funding and to decision makers, both of which are needed to get their films made and seen. NBPC is constantly advocating on their behalf. The fact that we can now access a film on multiple screens such as Netflix, movie screens, streaming, etc. makes it easier for DIY producers.

Another challenge is this question: if a tree falls in the forest, does anyone hear it? It?s not uncommon for Black programs to disappear before they even see the light of day. And sometimes they just never come to fruition at all. We launched AfroPop?back in 2008. We have a great relationship with Independent Lens and POV, but they did not have room for what I had to offer. They couldn?t pick up the shows. We ended up packaging it as a series and we are now about to release our 7th season.? There will always be the down and out stories about Black folks, but this season, we’re showing Ladies’ Turn. It’s a film about women in Senegal pushing to bring sports to Senegalese women. We?ll also have Afro-Punk presents The Triptych, which captures the intimate reflections of three of today?s celebrated visual artists: interdisciplinary artist Sanford Biggers, multimedia artist and sculptor Wangechi Mutu and photographer Barron Claiborne.

The National Black Programming Consortium (NBPC),? and @BLKPublicMedia, is committed to enriching our democracy by educating, enlightening, empowering and engaging the American public. We support diverse voices by developing, producing and distributing innovative media about the Black experience and by investing in visionary content makers. NBPC provides quality content for public media outlets, including, among others, PBS and and, as well as other platforms, while training and mentoring the next generation of Black filmmakers. Founded in 1979, NBPC produces the?AfroPoP: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange documentary series and manages NBPC 360, a funding and training initiative designed to accelerate the production of important Black serial and interactive content.