Dream to Screen | Interviews | Television

Planting the Seeds of Tolerance

1 Oct , 2006  

Written by Gita Pullapilly | Posted by:

Looking for a place to view your film? Current TV’s Seeds of Tolerance contest gives filmmakers exposure, air time, and a whole lot of cash. But there’s more to this current competition than you think...

It’s a filmmaker’s dream to have a cable channel greenlight a project. Yet, with more and more filmmakers out there, it is getting even harder to break through the barriers to get your film picked up.

Current TV is giving filmmakers the opportunity to showcase their work to 30 million homes while earning some cash. Through a major initiative called "Seeds of Tolerance," one filmmaker could even win $100,000.  And even if you do miss this contest’s deadline, Current TV is always welcoming shorts to be submitted — each short is rated by the community, allowing the highest rated films to air on the station.

We spoke with Ezra Cooperstein, the Director of Development and Production for Current TV, about this new market and its Seeds of Tolerance competition.

Gita Pullapilly: What is Current TV?

Ezra Cooperstein: Current TV is a new satellite and cable television network in 30 million homes across the United States. It is all about what is going on for young adults, in their voice and from their point of view. We specialize in short-form, nonfiction contact, and the topics aired are basically anything relevant to someone from my generation, from the environment, to fashion, cultural trends, parenting, finances, and politics. What makes the network unique is that it’s the first TV network created by, for and with a young adult audience. We’ve pioneered "viewer created content," which allows the audience to help produce the TV they want everyone to watch. Right now, our "viewer created content," or VC2, makes up about one-third of our broadcast.

You can see us on Direct TV (channel 366 nationwide), Time Warner (channel 103 in New York and channel 116 in Los Angeles), and Comcast (channel107 nationwide) or visit us online at www.current.tv.

GP: Current TV is trying to help filmmakers by giving them an avenue to showcase their short films. But what are you doing to attract filmmakers?

EC: Right now, our "Seeds of Tolerance" contest is underway. It is sponsored by Current TV and the Third Millennium Foundation, and designed to attract really high-quality viewer created content, and collect the most compelling short films around the subject of tolerance. This is the largest and most aggressive VC2 campaign to date.

We are looking for non-fiction films between 3-5 minutes in length. The videos must explore the theme of tolerance, which may include topics like racism, sexism, homophobia, or issues related to class, disability, age or religion.

It is open to U.S. residents 18 years of age or older. The competition is open to everyone from filmmakers who don’t have a lot of experience to veteran producers. We really want to bring in new faces and new voices.

Current TV staff will review all films submitted and make an initial selection. Those submissions will then be presented to the celebrity panel for review. The judges include: M. Night Shyamalan, Jeffrey Wright, Edward Norton, Paul Haggis, Melissa Etheridge and Margaret Cho. They will help choose five semi-finalists, and our audience will be able to view them online and cast the final vote on who will win the grand prize.

The grand prize is $100,000 plus $15,000 to the winner’s charity of choice. Two other finalists will each receive $10,000, and every submission will be considered for air on the network.

The deadline for the competition is October 2, 2006.  [Ed. note: Current TV also accepts submissions for airing on their station on all subject matter throughout the year.]

GP: Aside from the competition, do filmmakers get paid for other projects submitted to Current TV?

EC: We are constantly looking to find new filmmakers and showcase their work on a national TV platform. If a video is selected for air, we will pay between $500 and $1000 to the producer. We also do a tremendous amount of commissioning for filmmakers. If we find a talented producer, we often go back and ask them to create more stories.

We are constantly looking to expand our content for viewers. We would love to see the number of submissions grow. We only program high quality content, so we are looking for great stories and talented filmmakers who can help shape our programming.

For more information on the ‘Seeds of Tolerance’ contest and Current TV, visit www.current.tv

For more information on the 'Seeds of Tolerance' contest and Current TV, visit www.current.tv