NBCU Academy, in partnership with NBC News Studios, the NBC News documentary storytelling division, is collaborating with IF/Then Shorts to launch the Original Voices Shorts Pitch - a national open call for archival and journalistically driven short documentaries highlighting social issues and identities.
The purpose of the Original Voices Shorts Pitch is to open doors to the NBCU newsroom and archive to diverse documentary filmmakers eager to present a more vibrant, equitable, and accurate take on American history and society today. Reaffirming the values of integrity and inclusion in order to spur innovation, the Original Voices Shorts Pitch aims to break down barriers of authorship and authority between news media networks and consumers, support diverse documentary filmmakers with the resources of a legacy news organization, and strengthen public trust in fact-based reporting and film.
The pitch will take place in person in November 2023 at DOC NYC.
This call is open to US-based documentarians who identify as – or showcase stories highlighting social issues affecting – women, LGBTQ+ folx, communities of color, and people with disabilities. Projects should aim to include archival material (in particular, creatively utilizing the NBCU Archive) follow news standards, and be completing work with journalistic rigor at a level suitable for broadcast on an NBC affiliate platform.
Six teams will be invited to pitch their short documentary works-in-progress to a panel of journalists and executives from a host of legacy news organizations. Each pitch will last 7 minutes, followed by 10 minutes of constructive feedback, questions, and dialogue from a jury panel comprised of journalists, funders, news executives, and distributors.
Each selected team will receive a non-recoupable grant of $6,000 to support the development and production of their project as well as their travel to New York for participation. In advance of the pitch, each team will receive extensive pitch training and review of their proposed work sample from NBC News Studios and IF/Then Staff. Each of the finalists will also have an opportunity to meet 1:1 with NBC News Studios executives to get direct creative feedback and advice on how to advance their film.
The winning team will receive $100,000 in financing and a commission deal which includes access to the NBCU archive, executives, journalists, festival and distribution strategy, as well as an opportunity to screen the finished film at Comcast and NBCU broadcasters, streamers, events, and festivals. NBC News Studios will also have first right of refusal to develop the short into a feature film in-house with the director and producer attached.
This program is open to filmmakers living and working in the United States and its territories (Puerto Rico, Guam, US Virgin Islands, Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa.)
Applicants must apply with an original short documentary “work-in-progress” project, with a planned final duration of 10-40 minutes (the “WIP”). The WIP must be factually accurate, consistent with NBC News Standards and best practices in documentary ethics and accountability, including those outlined in paragraphs 4-11 of the Eligibility and Production Requirements, below.
Eligible filmmakers are US-based documentarians (regardless of career stage) at least 18 years of age, who identify as – or showcase stories highlighting social issues affecting – women, LGBTQ+ folx, communities of color, and people with disabilities.
The finished film must include NBC archival material and be completed to NBC News Standards, as delineated below.
Eligibility and Production Requirements:
1. To apply, you must be a US-based documentarian, at least 18 years of age, who identifies as - or showcase stories highlighting social issues affecting - women, LGBTQ+ folx, communities of color, and people with disabilities.
2. You may be an emerging or an established documentary filmmaker.
3. You warrant that you hold the legal right to work in the United States, and that your right to work allows you to undertake the activities necessary for participation in this Program.
4. Production must be based on reliable sourcing (generally, at least one creditable on the record source or two independent credible sources with direct knowledge).
5. Those subject to allegations of wrongdoing must be contacted for comment and those comments should be included in the WIP where journalistically appropriate.
6. Production must comply with all federal, state, and local laws, rules, and regulations. This includes, without limitation, laws regarding trespass, wiretapping, unauthorized access of computer systems and files, and other general privacy laws.
7. Interviewees should not be paid for their participation or be assured that they will be portrayed favorably. Interviews should not be scripted and interviewees should not be given questions in advance.
8. Anyone working on the WIP must not misrepresent their identities in connection with the production.
9. Agreements with sources - including on what is reportable and attributable - must be followed.
10. Interviews and other footage should not be edited in a manner that changes the meaning of what was said or gives a false impression of what happened.
11. If a film includes recreations/reenactments/Al, it must be clear to the viewer through style, narration, or overall creative approach that the scenes are not real.
12. The WIP must be presented or subtitled in English.
13. The WIP must not have been previously exploited or otherwise encumbered in any way.
14. The WIP must be your original creation (and/or the original creation of the other filmmaker(s) on your team), and you and/or such other filmmaker(s) must solely and exclusively own all right, title, and interest in and to all legally protectable elements of the WIP.
15. If you are selected as a potential participant for the Pitch Event you (and the other filmmakers on your team) will be required to execute certain waivers, documentation, and agreements required by NBCU.
16. The Commissioned Project must include NBCU News archival material.
17. If your WIP is selected as the Commissioned Project, you (and, if applicable, the other filmmaker(s) on your team) will be required to enter into a commissioning agreement with NBCU (subject to good faith negotiation), and to execute and submit certain other documentation required by NBCU. In exchange for NBCU funding the further development (if applicable), production, and completion of the Commissioned Project, NBCU shall own all rights in and to the Commissioned Project, all materials created in connection therewith, and the results and proceeds of all individuals and entities providing services in connection with development, production, and completion of the Commissioned Project, including all distribution, and allied and ancillary rights.
18. If your WIP is selected as the Commissioned Project, you and your team of filmmaker(s) will be responsible for the further development (if applicable), production, and completion of the Commissioned Project. You and your team of filmmakers shall consult with NBC News Studios in advance regarding all creative, production, financial, and business elements of the Commissioned Project (including, without limitation, relating to news/journalistic standards), and NBC News Studios and you shall mutually agree upon all such elements, provided that in the event of any failure to agree, the decisions of NBC News Studios shall be final and binding.
Director: Matt Nadel
Producer: Luke Hodges
Executive Producer: Julie Cohen
At the height of the AIDS crisis, many gay men—unable to work and with few months to live—sold their life insurance policies to investors for quick cash. CASHING OUT charts the rise and fall of the hundred-million-dollar industry that grew from their desperation, and spotlights one of its earliest investors: the filmmaker’s father. A gay man, director Matt Nadel connects with survivors who help him understand the “AIDS profiteering” that is his inheritance.
Director: Yoruba Richen
Producer: Christalyn Hampton
Free Joan Little examines the 1975 groundbreaking case of Joan Little who was the first woman in U.S. history to be acquitted for using deadly force to resist sexual assault. Joan was a Black incarcerated woman in North Carolina who killed a white guard who was trying to rape her. Little’s murder trial became a cause célèbre bringing together feminists, black power and anti-death penalty activists while catalyzing a nationwide discussion on sexual assault.
Director / Producer: Katya Berger
Producer: Maria Chiu
Thirty years after killing her two baby daughters, Paula Sims is on a quest to bring awareness to postpartum psychosis and change the law in the United States.
Co-Directors / Co-Producers: Angel Morris, Elliott Kennerson
The story of how a breakthrough discovery of “lesbian seagulls" in the 1970s altered the course of American science, politics, and the LGBTQ+ movement.
Director: LeRon Lee
Producer: Yvonne Michelle Shirley
With the mayor’s refusal to prioritize recreation, John L. Smith pulled the community together to revive the city’s dilapidated pool in an effort to create inclusion with a swim program that eventually became the first team of color to win a state championship in the US.
Director: Stephanie Andreou
PRoducer: Adrián Gutiérrez
In the 1970s & 80s women from all over the world marched alongside Cypriot women displaced by war to the Green Line dividing the island in an attempt to ‘walk home’. Women Walk Home unearths a 50-year old, intentionally hidden, women-led movement in Cyprus as women’s movements are reigniting around the world.
March 10, 2023 - Application opens
April 14, 2023 - Application closes at 11:59 PM PT
July 2023 - All applicants notified of status. Selected projects announced.
Late September 2023 - Pitch Training and Work Sample Review
November 2023 - Original Voices Shorts Pitch at DOC NYC
Please direct any questions regarding this program to firstname.lastname@example.org.
A national open call for archival and journalistically driven short documentaries highlighting social issues and identities.
An open call for short-documentary filmmakers based in North America. This lab channels IF/Then and Hulu’s shared vision of creating a new pipeline of diverse talent, incubating strong voices who will be the next class of non-fiction storytellers, and spotlighting creators elevating LGBTQIA+ narratives with their filmmaking prowess.