LPB Funds TV, Film Projects For Latinos

Apr 26, 2004  •  Post A Comment

“Farmingville,” which will air June 22 on PBS throughout the country, took a big step toward completion in the summer of 2002, when Latino Public Broadcasting gave it a $70,000 boost.
Inspired by the 2001 case of the attempted murders of two Mexican laborers in Farmingville, N.Y., filmmakers Carlos Sandoval and Catherine Tambini spent nearly a year working and living in the city, getting firsthand accounts of immigrants’ struggles in the United States. In 2002 the filmmakers applied for and received financial support from LPB for the post-production of their film.
The documentary recently received the Special Jury Award at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival and the Best Documentary Feature award at the 2004 San Diego Latino Film Festival.
The project is the latest success story for Latino Public Broadcasting, which holds an annual open call for independent producers throughout the United States to apply for funding for the development, production and distribution of television programming that represents Latinos and their culture.
“I see it as a haven for many producers,” said Luca Bentivoglio, executive director the Los Angeles-based nonprofit organization. “These producers have the opportunity to look for funding to develop their programs that will eventually hit the air on PBS.”
LPB was created in 1998 by Edward James Olmos and Marlene Dermer and is part of the National Minority Consortia, a division of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The Minority Consortia includes five divisions, each of which receives funding from CPB to finance programs representative of their respective minority communities.
Independent producers, who apply for funding from LPB during the first week of June each year, hope to receive grants-generally between $5,000 and $100,000-to help support their projects at any phase of production.
While LPB focuses primarily on the promotion of Latino projects and subject matter, Mr. Bentivoglio does not see the target audience as strictly Latino.
“They are Latino stories, Latino producers, Latino subject matter, but I believe the success is measured in terms of [whether] we bring the story to the general market,” said the Venezuelan-born Mr. Bentivoglio. “The idea is to have a broad appeal, as broad as possible. We expect and we hope that we are reaching out to everybody. That is our goal.”
Because the programming that LPB supports is noncommercial and conveys an educational and cultural message, PBS is currently the only viable outlet. “PBS is not like NBC, where you are trying to target 18 to 34,” Mr. Bentivoglio said. “The mission of PBS is not to do that. It’s to give an alternative that you can’t get anywhere else.
“PBS has to deal with many different issues and many different demographics. Yes, we want to be successful and we do all the outreach possible, but our goal-PBS in general and us-is to tell stories that are important, that are relevant to our times, not to please [advertisers].”
LPB is also anticipating the PBS broadcasts of several other projects it has helped finance. “Visiones: Latino Art & Culture,” and “The Life and Times of Frida Kahlo” are both set to premiere on PBS in the fall.
The creation of independent filmmaker Hector Galan, “Visiones” is a three-episode documentary series that examines how Latinos have traditionally relied on the arts to express their culture, ideas and opinions.
“Frida Kahlo,” written, directed and produced by Amy Stechler, looks at the renowned artist’s life, her work and the times in which she lived.
LPB has seen a large increase in the number of proposals received at open calls. In 2003 the organization read 135 proposals, an increase of more than 40 percent from the previous year. Out of the 135 bids, 14 were selected to receive funding.
For four months before each year’s open call, LPB executives travel around the country, holding workshops to inform producers how to apply for funding. This year they flew to Puerto Rico as well. Mr. Bentivoglio said he hopes the visit will garner at least two or three submissions. “Every year we try to expand our reach,” he said.
LPB has also seen a rise in the hours of programming it has helped produce. This year the nonprofit will have amassed 30 hours of Latino-oriented programming, compared with 23 hours last year and 16 the year before. “We’ve seen many, many programs go on the air and go into festivals and get good reviews,” Mr. Bentivoglio said. “It’s very rewarding not only for me but for the producers and the community alike.”
While he sees the growing representation of Latinos in television programming as a promising trend, Mr. Bentivoglio said more progress is needed.
One thing he said he hopes to see someday is a channel dedicated to noncommercial Latino programming.
“Latinos are a very loyal audience,” he said. “The more good programs that you bring in that have a Latino flavor, the more Latinos that are going to watch.”