Producers Institute 2012 FAQs


Q: What happens at the Producers Institute?
A: Magic. Learning. Collaboration. Prototyping. Networking. Team-building. Inspiration. Strategizing. Ideation. Experimentation. Designing. Sharing. Ground-breaking. The week-long Producers Institute program is a unique and intensive laboratory experience. BAVC acts as facilitator and convener, bringing together project teams and mentors who collaborate on a development process that produces great ideas and prototypes that help media producers and partner organizations to advance social change agendas through documentary stories and media. The week includes a series of inputs and inspirations -- presentations from industry leaders, sharing of examples and best practices, demonstrations, and a series of meetings and laboratory sessions where project teams collaborate to envision and prototype a project. The teams develop a presentation that is delivered at the final presentation day. We work hard and play hard together, and celebrate our accomplishments.

Q: What is expected of me if my project is selected?
A: You are expected to fully participate in the Producers Institute program from October 13 - 19 in San Francisco, and to participate in follow-up evaluation and impact study that we will facilitate with impact mentors. So the time commitment is minimally a few hours leading up to the Institute, the full week of the Institute, and a few hours over the course of the subsequent year to participate in the impact study. It is a great opportunity and you will get out of it what you put into it. Teams that prepare in advance of the Institute by solidifying their partnerships, developing their initial ideas and gathering assets and resources that will help bring them to fruition at the Institute -- but who just as importantly, bring open minds to explore new ideas and technologies -- will benefit most from the Institute process. Selected project teams (minimally, the project lead) will participate in a one-hour meeting with Jen Gilomen, Director of Independent Media at BAVC to plan the most successful experience at the Institute; teams are welcome to do additional research and planning prior to the Institute that may serve as useful guides when formulating project strategies. For example, you or a member of your team may conduct research about your audiences to help define target users for your transmedia projects: who are they, where do they gather and communicate, what are their habits, what technologies do they use, etc.? Advanced research is not required, but you will find this type of exploration and gathering of data/inputs to be of immense value as you work with your team at the Institute to formulate a plan that is realistic, meaningful, strategic, and ultimately successful in achieving a broad reach and social impact.

Q: What is expected of nonprofit partners, and what will they gain by participating?
A: During the application process, nonprofit partners help to craft a letter of support for the media producer's project, identifying your organization's mission and interest in the media producer's project (see below for more detail about the letter of support). Minimally, we expect one representative from the mediamaker's partner organization to attend and participate in three days of the Producers Institute program: October 15, 16, and 17 in San Francisco. Partner representatives are welcomed and encouraged to attend the entire Institute program, beginning at 5:00pm on Friday October 13 with a welcome reception, and concluding at 12:00pm on Friday, October 19 with a final presentation to funders and industry partners. The nonprofit partner is also expected to participate in some minimal follow-up with our impact strategists over the course of the year following the Institute as the media projects are completed and released; we hope to use the results to learn from the most effective strategies, and to promote your organizations, projects, audience engagement efforts, and successes. The Institute is a unique professional development, training, and exposure opportunity for your organization and staff, and an opportunity to affiliate yourself with an outstanding documentary project that is likely to have large national and/or international audiences.


Q: What type of projects can apply?
A: Any transmedia project with the goal of affecting social change related to the broad themes of economic justice, educational opportunity, and human rights may apply. Innovation is encouraged, but the innovation does not need to be technical; the producer may have an idea to use existing technologies and tried-and-true practices in a new way to inspire and move their audiences.

Q: How far along does my project need to be in order to apply?
A: There is no requirement for length or percent completion; however, most projects that are affiliated with documentary films apply with at least a completed rough cut of the film project and confirmed distribution strategy, as it greatly aids the reviewers in seeing the project's capacity for reach and impact. If you are at an earlier stage (development or production), you may still want to apply at this stage if you have a clearly articulated strategy, media sample or prototype, and committed funders, partners, and/or distributors. The process of applying to the Producers Institute is a guideline of best practices in transmedia project development and audience engagement, and completing the application will help you to refine your idea, partnership(s), and goals for this and other applications.

Q: What does "capacity to carry the work forward beyond the Institute" mean?
A: In part, it means secured funding to bring the project to fruition, and/or a demonstrated ability to complete and gain wide exposure for previous projects. It also means having strong alignment with one or more nonprofit organizations and ideally, national campaigns or initiatives that will help your project have a greater life span, sustainability, reach, and impact. If you have not yet done so, it is a good idea to refine your Producers Institute proposal and begin soliciting funds to fully realize your project during and after the Institute. If your project is accepted, the Producers Institute itself will help you to solidify your project idea, strategies, and plans, and to prototype and experiment with the specific technologies and tools you may use to achieve your goals; in rare cases, producers are able to complete or nearly complete their projects or working prototypes during the Institute. Delivering a solid presentation at the end of the Institute sometimes results in immediate funding for the project (several funders do attend the final presentation session), but the most likely scenario is that you will need to raise additional funding from other sources. Here are a few resources and funders that you may consider approaching: Kickstarter and IndieGoGo for raising seed funding from individuals for your idea, ITVS, Fledgling Fund, Chicken & Egg, CAAM, Tribeca, Mozilla, MacArthur Foundation, CPB, NEA, NEH, state humanities and arts councils and film societies, Latino Public Broadcasting, Sundance Institute, Hot Docs, National Film Board of Canada. Having funding in place for your outreach campaign and/or transmedia endeavors when you apply for Producers Institute will show an increased capacity to carry the work forward beyond the Institute. It also helps to have a demonstrated demand for your project (distribution outlets, audiences gathered online who are following, funding, or friending your project, views and engagement with your audiences, committed partners, etc.), or at least to have wide success and demand with past projects.


Q: What if my project doesn't perfectly fit one of the themes of economic security, educational opportunity, or human rights?
A: These themes are broadly defined; many social justice issues in the areas of the environment, health, immigration, system reform, legal process, policy, minorities, etc. relate to these themes. If your film relates in some way to one of these themes, and you have an "angle" for social change goals related to that theme, your project qualifies. Your film itself does not need to contain a "call to action" or advocate for a certain cause, but your proposed project should help audiences to affect social change on related issues. Above all, reviewers will want to see that your film and/or transmedia project has a capacity to move communities to correct a social injustice. Convince our reviewers that your project has the capacity do that and you'll be well on your way.

Teams, mentors, and nonprofit partners

Q: How do I build my team, and who should be a part of it?
A: For capacity constraints, teams are limited to a maximum of three individuals. One of these individuals must be the project lead (typically the project producer or director), and the second must be a nonprofit partner representative. For the third (optional) team member, the project lead may choose to bring a second project lead (a second director, producer, developer, designer, outreach strategist, associate producer, etc.) or a second nonprofit representative. For example, the project lead may choose to bring two nonprofit representatives from one or two partner organizations with them to the Institute if the composition of the team makes sense for the proposed project, such as two organizations that plan to work together on a local and national campaign, two representatives from the organization who work with two different constituencies or audiences, or a social media strategist and program director from one nonprofit organization. If the project lead would like to bring a second project lead (a second producer/director, outreach strategist, designer, developer, etc), however, then the project lead should choose one nonprofit representative from the one organization with the most capacity to benefit the project and advance the social change goals. This is most likely the nonprofit organization with the greatest reach into the project's target audience/communities and greatest demonstrated capacity to use media in their work. Based on the composition, experience, and goals of the project team you define, BAVC will bring additional mentors to the Institute (technical mentors, outreach strategists, designers, developers, etc.) who will work alongside your team at key points of the process to help you prepare your project strategy, prototype, and final presentation.

Q: Why and how do I engage a nonprofit partner?
A: It is our experience that the most successful Producers Institute projects engage a nonprofit organization at an early stage of development. Organizations that participate in a process like the Producers Institute will benefit immensely from the professional development opportunity, the training they will receive, and the increased capacity to create and utilize media projects in order to engage audiences around their organizational missions and social change goals. Organizations that have participated in our Nonprofit Institutes and/or Producers Institutes in years past have reported life-changing professional development opportunities, have generated media and projects that they can use to engage their own audiences, and have left the Institutes with a renewed sense of purpose and communications strategies around their missions. Partnerships that form at an early stage can also result in an increased capacity to fundraise to implement the projects and outreach strategies/campaigns. Both the mediamaker and organization can, by working together at the Producers Institute, amplify their reach. Many of our participating projects have reached millions of audience members, and the transmedia projects can broaden those audiences and direct them to actions they can take through partner organizations. We help to facilitate win-win partnerships at the Institute.

Q: How to I invite the nonprofit to partner with me, and what should I tell them about this opportunity?
A: Partnerships are really human relationships. If you are not already working with one or more partners, you should research potential organizations online to identify potential partners and get a sense of their mission, programs, goals, staff, and capacities. If an organization has several existing communications mechanisms (web site, newsletter, social media, magazine, blog, mobile, events, annual conference, etc.) they are more likely to make a sensible partner to a media producer, and to have the capacity to generate mutual benefit from your project and outreach campaign. Blogs, articles, and op-eds are also a great way to identify representatives from organizations that care about the issues your documentary addresses. There may be many ways you can partner with an organization through your outreach campaign -- by promoting each other, through sponsorship and exposure opportunities, screenings and community dialogue events, shared fundraising opportunities, and more. Applying to the Producers Institute is a concrete opportunity you can offer to potential partners. When you first reach out to them, describe your project, show them a media sample or rough cut, and identify the representative from the organization who might make the most sense to work with you; this could be an advocate, program person, director, communications manager, social media manager, researcher, community organizer, campaign director, or some other role. E-mail is fine, but to form a real relationship, it is better to speak directly to someone if possible. If you meet with the potential partner and find an intersection of goals, point them to our web site to better understand the Producers Institute, and share initial ideas about how you might work together. Then work together on crafting a letter of support from the organization, as this is where you articulate the relationship, commitment, and mutual benefits of applying to the Producers Institute (see below). You do not need to know exactly how you will work together beyond the Institute; this is part of what we will work to define as the projects are developed; what is most important at the application stage is a commitment to participate in the Producers Institute itself.

Q: What is the letter of support from a nonprofit partner and what should it contain?
A: The letter of support from your nonprofit partner should outline the partner's mission statement, their understanding of and connection to your project, and their commitment/desire to participate in the Producers Institute. It is also helpful if the partner organization can describe why they are interested in working with the media producer and what they hope to gain by participating in the Institute process. If the specific individual that will participate in the Institute has already been determined, include their name, title, and short biography and the specific dates they are committed to attend (minimally October 15, 16, and 17, and preferably from October 13, 5:00pm to October 19, 12:00pm.) It is best if the letter come from someone in the organization who has the ability to commit the organization to the partnership, but the attending representative can be a program person, advocate, communications person, development person, or any other role that makes sense for the project.