Leslie Fields-Cruz Is Bringing Black Content To Public TV and Beyond
Arts and Culture Lifestyle

The National Black Programming Consortium Is Offering $150,000 To Independent Filmmakers

The organization is seeking programs that explore issues of race and around social justice. Does that include such movements as Black Lives Matter and black transgender women’s rights?

That is one of the beauties of the work that we do at NBPC. We have a broad category in terms of race and social justice. There are independent producers out there who are making all types of programming, whether it is for broadcast or the Web, documentaries or narrative shorts. We are seeking all of those stories under the banner of race and social justice. It could be a piece focusing on events in Ferguson [Missouri] or what is happening in Alabama around voter rights and DMVs being closed in black neighborhoods. Those broad categories allow us to navigate through a wealth of stories to identify the ones that we think work best for us.

Do you think that now more than ever independent producers are using various platforms to engage, to get people to act?

Arts and social activism has always played a role in American culture, particularly in African American culture through our music and visual arts. I think with changes in technology and multiple platforms, we are really at a point where activism can engage with multiple constituencies on multiple levels in a way that it could not before. A musician with incredible lyrics can release his or her song as a video on the Internet and it can be shared and mashed up. For artists who are exploring stories not ready for traditional broadcast, their film or video can have a life as a Web piece that also has a live [offline] interactive [component].

What is the biggest challenge facing producers, is it still access to capital?

Yes, it will always be access to capital. There is money out there, but it is not easy to get to and it is not easy to find. There is definitely a process of networking that independent producers have to do. Some do it very well, others do not. It [also] depends on the type of film you are making whether it is a documentary or a narrative or a Web series. There is funding and then there is financing. Many producers of colors do not come from places of [financial] means so they still have to have jobs in order to put food on the table and a roof over their heads. Running around and trying to find money especially for your first project is difficult. What we are trying to do through 360 is to seed some of these early stage projects, but also at the same time connect these independent producers with people who can help them get additional funding. Even though there are multiple streams of distribution, the second challenge is marketing and promotions. The issue is awareness, letting people know that this story exists. It is a challenge because there is so much content that is being made and that are so many ways that people can watch it, but how do they even know that something exists. That takes money and creativity.

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting continues to be your main funding source but what creative sources of funding are you exploring?

We are looking at corporate sponsorship. We are mining our current earned income stream. We do fiscal sponsorship for very select projects but we are considering an expansion of that. There is a fee that is attached to that. We are exploring opportunities around distribution to entities like the Discovery Chanel or even Netflix that are seeking black content and the kind of content that we support. We are looking at how we can create a distributions stream for entities looking for interesting programming content. We are looking at exploring other kind of content that may not be for public broadcasting but for a network like HBO.