National Black Programming Consortium: Mentoring the Next Generation of Black Filmmakers

Fredrick Ngugi November 03, 2016

The National Black Programming Consortium (NBPC) – an American-based non-profit organization committed to advancing democracy by developing, producing, and distributing innovative media content about the Black experience – has just concluded its second annual Pitch Black Forum, where Black women won all the three prizes.

The event was hosted by Donald Thoms, a veteran public television executive and producer, at the Jerome L.Greene Performance Space in Manhattan, New York. The pitching session was the culmination of NBPC’s six-week boot camp and mentorship program.

The three winning teams received cash prizes of $100,000, $75,000, and $50,000 respectively.

Face2Face Africa reached out to Kay Shaw, the NBPC Director of Programs and Acquisitions to learn more about their efforts in celebrating the Black experience.

F2FA: Talk to us about the inspiration behind the annual National Black Programming Consortium 360 Incubator and Fund.

Kay Shaw: NBPC recognizes that there is a need to provide more professional development support to creatives to usher their projects into the pipeline more quickly. The demand for content is so great in both the commercial market and public media that producers don’t have the luxury of taking 10 years to complete a documentary, not to mention it’s not cost effective or a model for sustaining a career.

We decided that a 360 approach was what was needed—giving birth to strong concepts, nurturing projects in development, maturing them in an incubator, and then funding them. We thought if we could incubate up to 10 promising projects, give them the care, mentorship, additional professional development in non-production areas such as engagement, audience development, and marketing—and fund three to four, we could have real impact in driving more content into the public media system.

F2FA: Who are some of the most-successful beneficiaries of the NBPC program?

KS: This is only our second year, but if you are talking about public media organizations, I would say ITVS Digital picked up one of our web series,“Pops,” and is funding the first season. The WORLD Channel embedded the pilot for “My Africa Is,” meaning it hosted and mentored the producer and helped prepare it for broadcast on “AfroPoP: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange,” which WORLD presents to the system. “My Africa Is” has since won two national awards, a first for “AfroPoP.” We have high hopes for “Street Cred,” which is wrapping post production and is embedded at Detroit Public Television.

We have attracted more new producers and exciting, diverse stories than we could have imagined. Our producer portal has registered almost 3,000 producers globally and has pushed us to launch a series of online professional development webinars (we are up to 15) that can be viewed anytime on YouTube to provide professional development support when they are ready to apply for discretionary funding or the 360 Incubator.

F2FA: Does the consortium allow participants from Africa? 

KS: Our public funding doesn’t allow us to fund projects of producers living outside of the United States.  However, we can acquire completed projects, which we do for the “AfroPoP: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange” series on public television and our website, as we did when we launched “Caribbean Shorts.” African-born producers living in the United States are eligible to apply for funding or the 360 Incubator. Nosarieme Garrick, the producer of “My Africa Is,” lives in America and was born in Nigeria.

F2FA: Does the consortium expect a specific style of programming or content from the participants?

KS: We try not to put restrictions on style of content or topics because we are trying to attract and cultivate an African-American adult audience to public television. With that in mind, we look for topics and contemporary stories that appeal to our community.

We prioritize content that we can get picked up for broadcast on public television or web content for the Public Broadcasting Service. We also have other distribution options to the public media system via the WORLD Channel, American Public Television, and the National Educational Telecommunications Association. Further, public media is programming and seeking more original diverse content online aimed at younger audiences, which is presenting more opportunities for NBPC and our producers.

F2FA: Who were the winners of this year’s competition and what set them apart?

KS: Our 2016 winners are the producers of “Beyond the Book,” a web version of “Reading Rainbow” for Millennials; “Saltbox,” a lifestyle cooking broadcast series that will explore the historical and cultural food traditions of the Black South; “So Young, So Pretty, So White,” a feature documentary about skin bleaching and the historical and cultural influences and role of multi-national corporations that manufacture and market lightening and “brightening” products around the world.

What set these producers apart is strong interest in their content by public media and the strength of their production capabilities. The program must be more than a good idea.  We must have confidence that a pilot can be completed within 18 months.

F2FA: Apart from the prize money, what other benefits do the winners enjoy?

KS: Each project is embedded with a public television or public media organization to receive production and editorial input. Independent producers of color learn more about the operations of public media or a station and public media expands their experience working with independent producers of color.

The 360 Incubator positions us to help producers who have good production experience under their belts and are ready to take on a series or major feature. We no longer give them funding and say come back when you have something. We are creating a culture of collaboration with producers and among producers who were working in isolation before.

F2FA: How instrumental was Nonso Christian Ugbode to the consortium?

KS: We cannot say enough about the role Nonso played in launching NBPC into the digital media space. His intellect and temperament forged new relationships for us with major players in this space and he kept us on top of every new trend. Nonso was instrumental in our collaboration with ITVS on the Ford Foundation-funded Black Masculinity Project and he worked closely with Angela Tucker on “Black Folk Don’t,” probably our most successful ongoing web series to date. He was a joy to work with and gentle, but he consistently pushed us to keep up with social media trends, new technologies, and everything digital. He is a great loss to NBPC both personally and professionally.

F2FA: You mentioned that there is a fund set up in honor of Nonso Christian Ugbode, tell us more about it.

KS: It is still in its infancy and will probably change as time goes on, but the idea is to fund promising young creatives under 30 who are exploring the application of new technologies in storytelling. Christian was only 24 when he joined NBPC 10 years ago. He was like a super nova of ideas and had skills to implement them.  But in the end, for us as well as it was for Christian, it’s about the story. Technology for technology sake is meaningless without story.

F2FA: Anything else you would like to add?

KS: We encourage producers to sign up at our producer portal to get the latest news about opportunities at NBPC. And everyone should be sure not to miss our web series “Black Folk Don’t,” a politically correct, politically incorrect take on stereotypes about Black people. Both can be found on our website. Finally, be sure to look out for the ninth season of our signature series, “AfroPoP: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange” on public television in January!

Last Edited by:Abena Agyeman-Fisher Updated: November 4, 2016


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