Funder FAQ: Latino Public Broadcasting

What is Latino Public Broadcasting?
Latino Public Broadcasting (LPB) is a nonprofit organization that funds the development, production, postproduction, and acquisition of programming with educational and cultural contexts addressing the Latino voice in the United Sates. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) funds us, which means the programs we look for are ones that can be broadcast on public television.

When and why did it start?
It started in 1998 to 1999, and it started because there was
another organization prior to LPB called National Latino Communication Center (NLCC) that lost their funding. CPB looked for a new group to give the funding to, so they opened it up for various organizations to bid. Edward James Olmos, chairman of LPB, presented his case and got the funding. He put an executive director in place named Marlene Dermer, and that’s how the organization started. It’s been quite successful in the short time it’s been operating.

What’s the mission of LPB?
Latino Public Broadcasting supports the representation of Latino people and addresses issues of particular interest to Latino Americans.

How many projects do you fund on average each year?
About ten to fifteen get funded.

Are there any deadlines producers need to be aware of?
We are going into our fifth open call this year, which is on June 2, 2003. It’s always in June.

What is the average size of a grant?
[The total funding] is about $600,000 for ten to fifteen projects. The cap for each project is $100,000, and the minimum is $5,000. In the past two years, we haven’t given anything over $75,000 to one film. Our grant is ideal for a project looking for beginning or finishing funds.

How many submissions do you receive annually?
We get an average of one hundred applications each year from all over the nation.

What types of projects do you seek?
Obviously all Latino producers are welcome, but if you’re a non-Latino producer that has an idea that is connected to something with a Latino-based theme, we are interested in that project too. We would always suggest to team up with other Latinos, because our mission is to support Latino independent filmmakers and Latino themes.

Take me through the review process.
The proposals go through a first set of panelists where sixty get eliminated. Then they go through a second panel which reads all the proposals for two days and then they choose who the grants are given to. The panel is made up of programming executives from PBS, local stations, film professors, funder organization members—we try to have a good rainbow of people who understand public television. We fund development, we fund production, and we fund completion. We are one of the few organizations where you can get initial funding, and some of our projects have gone on to bigger organizations to get the rest of the money. We have seeded some good projects.

Can applicants re-apply if denied?
Yes. We are good at feedback. I always encourage filmmakers who are denied to come back to us to get the feedback. We keep track of all the panel comments. We actually record everything that was said at the panel. This has been successful. Some [applicants have reapplied and] have eventually gotten funding.
What types of projects would LPB definitely not fund?
We’re pretty open as long as there’s a connection to our mission. It has to be driven toward the Latino reality in the United States.

Other than the open call, does LPB have any other calls for projects during the year?
If you’re a successful producer with a finished project committed to airing on PBS but you need, for example, money for your outreach campaign, we’ll consider that. These are special circumstances for projects that have been pre-approved and already scheduled to go on PBS.

How do you prefer producers submit projects to you?
Through the open call. Filmmakers can find out the specifics on our website,

Are there any restrictions?
No student films; you have to be an American resident; it has to be done by a domestic company; and it has to be within the parameters of what is accepted on public television. You have to watch PBS and understand what they’re looking for—social-oriented issues, educational, cultural. We’re not talking about OZ or The Sopranos; that wouldn’t work on public television.

What has been the distribution/exhibition path of past projects?
The filmmakers own the rights to the film. For four years the program will run six times on PBS. Of course it has to be accepted by PBS first, but PBS hasn’t denied any of our projects yet. If it doesn’t get on PBS or any other public television station, then it goes back to the filmmaker and they can do whatever they want with it.

What advice do you have for producers in putting forth a strong application or proposal?
I always hope that the producers aren’t just looking for the funds but are actually interested in putting forward a project that they believe in and they have passion in. They should know exactly who their audience is and who they are targeting, because it may not be a national story and we may have to market it geography. They should always be aware of who they are telling the story to, and it’s important to know the PBS world, what they are looking for, and if the story has already been told.

What’s the most common mistake
producers make when they apply?

One is not knowing the market, coming in with a violent, sexy script—that just doesn’t work for public television. Two is not having done your homework properly. You really have to check out our website, read the guidelines, attend the workshops we run, and if all else fails, talk to us. We’re here to help producers.

About :

Jason Guerrasio was a staff writer for The Independent.