360 Incubator+: Prepping Black Filmmakers for Careers in Public Media

By Denise A. Greene

“We’re not a genre.”  This clear, emphatic message — featured in a recent video circulating via social media — asserts a core tenet of BPM’s 360 Incubator+ program: that Black content creators are more than a passing fad.  

BPM ‘s 360 Incubator+ program exists to ensure Black content creators get the skills, connections, and consideration they need to establish a permanent and respected presence in public media. We recognize Black content creators as professional artists who are amassing a body of work.

Now in its third year, the 2019 cohort of 360 incubator+ continues our focus on career building.  The need for this focus was evident last April during the vibrant exchange at BPM’s inaugural Black Media Story Summit, hosted by Google.  At one point during the Summit, established media makers were asked how many held one, two, or three jobs while making their films. More than half those in the room raised their hands. Black content creators, like a number of other makers, are working these extra jobs because they aren’t attracting the funding they need to focus full-time on their media projects. The constant hustle for cash makes building a career in public media extremely difficult.

Yance Ford, a programmer turned Oscar-nominated filmmaker, colorfully urged his fellow makers to ignore the incessant bombardment of naysayers.  Experience has taught him that the established infrastructure will continue to deny people of color opportunities to participate in the artistic process afforded to other filmmakers. Our best option, he said, is simply to take it.

BPM has offered professional development for nearly 40 years.  Our beloved colleague Nonso Christian Ugbode, BPM’s first director of digital initiatives, envisioned an incubator/accelerator program that would prepare content creators for the demands of broadcast media while also showing them how to leverage the new opportunities ushered in by the expanding public media landscape.  The 360 Incubator+ is that program. It helps emerging and experienced media makers build on the momentum gathered on previous projects by broadening and strengthening their skillsets.

 

Who Should Apply and What to Expect

With only 10 slots open to submissions from across the country, the 360 Incubator+ program is highly competitive. Applicants to the 2019 cohort must have a social-issue-based project (broadcast or web) already in development or in early pre-production.  Selected participants will experience a three-month period of mentoring, workshops and exposure to other focused resources dealing with mediamaking infrastructure: e.g., distribution, financing, pitching, marketing, engagement and more. The 360 fellows also will get help developing a strong funding proposal and a reel.  

The 2019 Incubator+ session will culminate in time for participants to join BPM’s PitchBlack program, giving them an opportunity to pitch projects to a room of public media, streaming and cable executives for funding ranging from $50,000 to $100,000. Past 360 fellows’ projects — such as Pops (Garland McLaurin), Saltbox (Shirlette Ammons), Street Cred (Sultan Sharrief), My Africa Is (Nosarieme Garrick), and Read Awakening (Dominique Taylor) — premiered or are slated for distribution via Indie Lens Storycast, PBS Digital, or World Channel, to name of few.

As past fellows have shared with me, the beauty of the 360 Incubator+ program is the camaraderie that develops through weekly conferences with project mentors, rehearsing pitches, team deadlines, and creating stories in a dedicated, nurturing space.  

We will accept applications until Fri., Aug. 31, 2018.  The 360 Incubator+ session will be held January-April 2019.  Please see the 360 Incubator+ Guidelines for exact dates and program details.  We look forward to your submission!

Denise A. Greene is BPM’s director of program initiatives