New PBS initiatives will support filmmakers of color, offer early-career mentorship


PBS President Paula Kerger announced new funding and other initiatives for various filmmakers on Tuesday at the start of PBS’ portion of the Television Critics Association’s annual winter press tour.

The announcement expands on previous measures to increase funds and opportunities for filmmakers of color, building on initiatives announced last summer.

The new developments follow conversations Kerger had with new and mid-career filmmakers, as well as continued criticism that PBS favored white filmmakers.

“In engaging in conversations with filmmakers, it was very clear that there were filmmakers who were struggling to move their work forward,” Kerger said during a session held via Zoom.

Some of the problems are due to the way public broadcasting is decentralized, she said. “There are many paths to public broadcasting, so it’s sometimes confusing for filmmakers to figure out,” she said. They don’t know if they should go to their local station, a production station, PBS, Point of view Where Independent lens.

Other conversations with mid-career filmmakers revealed that newcomers have plenty of opportunities, but getting funding for a second or third film is much harder.

Rather than create a new unit to deal with these issues, Kerger turned to Firelight Media, led by Stanley Nelson and Marcia Smith, who she says are already doing an impressive job of helping filmmakers.

“I think the most important aspect of all the conversations, especially with various filmmakers, over this past year has been for us to listen and try to understand where there are obstacles and how we can moving more work forward, how we can better support filmmakers no matter what stage of their professional career they are at,” Kerger said. As a result of conversations and initiatives, “we’re on a very good track,” she said.

One of the initiatives is committing $3.6 million to Firelight Media over the next three years to advance the work of mid-career color designers. Another initiative is setting up an early-career mentorship program and a one-year executive fellowship program that will embed filmmakers into existing projects.

Kerger also announced that PBS has joined TikTok with the @PBS handle. She said PBS shows were already on TikTok for short film content “in a PBS way, which is full of entertainment, education and, when we’ve really reached our goal,… ‘inspiration”.

Responding to a question, the PBS chair said she was surprised to learn this week of possible BBC funding cuts from 2027. Traditionally, BBC productions and co-productions have been among PBS programs most popular from PBS.

“Obviously we’ll be following it carefully as they go through the process of reviewing their charter and thinking about funding,” Kerger said. “I have to believe there will be a lot of conversations there as they grapple with funding going forward.”

In a session later in the day, the judges on The Great American Recipe explained how the competitive cooking show, which airs June 24 on PBS, differs from cooking competition shows elsewhere on television.

“I think when you not only have great food, but also the story of how it was born and why it’s so special to that person, it tastes better,” said Tiffany Derry, a chef. based in Dallas and one of the judges. .

Jilly Pearce, executive producer of the series, added: “This is a show about love, family and connection. Recipes tell the story of who we are. That was kind of the main criteria we were looking for when casting the show.


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