Programs/Publications

Feature article from the October 2011 AIRblast  

This Indie Filmmaker Crosses Over

By Noland Walker


Last month, AIR launched an exciting new initiative aimed at nothing less than widening the reach of public broadcasting and broadening its service to the American public. To this end, Localore will identify talented, inspired, and highly motivated media makers — radio and television producers, reporters, filmmakers, gearheads, and sound artists — and provide them with the resources and support to take public media "outside" to the far reaches of communities where public broadcasting is seldom engaged. They’ll do this by creating collaborative projects with public media stations around the country. In this way, AIR hopes to build new capacity for experimentation in local markets and encourage a new culture of research and development.Administered by AIR and funded by CPB, the MacArthur Foundation, the Wyncote Foundation, and the NEA, Localore will distribute more than $1 million to 10 producers leading the projects.
Localore's executive editor, Noland Walker, introduces you to himself and the project.


Meaningful work. We all want it. I can’t imagine there’s a person reading this article who, at some level, doesn’t wish for the kind of work that reconciles the need to make a living with the need to feel that what you’re doing matters. Of course, "meaningful" and "matters" look different for everyone.

For me, it's always been about doing work that affords me a powerful connection with other people, either through the stories they’re telling me or the stories I’m telling them. That’s where everything starts for me. Additionally, I've always been interested in endeavors that somehow challenge people’s conception of what is possible.

I’ve worked in television and documentary film for literally half my life and have had the opportunity to work on several projects that — at the time they were produced — were somehow groundbreaking, revelatory, and/or deeply resonant for the people who saw them (as well as those of us who worked on them).

My first job in film was on one of those special projects — the Emmy-winning and Academy Award-nominated Eyes on the Prize series about the civil rights movement and the shifting, contested political and racial climate in the decades that followed. I started there as a production assistant and moved up to assistant editor, learning far more than either of those job descriptions implies, through working with Henry Hampton, the series’ visionary executive producer, as well as the rest of the producing, editorial, and production staff that included some of the most influential documentary filmmakers of the last 25 years.

My first job as a producer/writer/director came on WGBH’s Africans in America, a series that was a game changer not only for its content and aesthetics but also due to a brilliant educational outreach and distribution strategy that has made it one of PBS’ all-time top-selling DVDs to this day.

More recently, I wrote and co-produced a documentary called Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple (PBS, theatrical release) that — among other things — got viewers to rethink the phrase "drinking the Kool-Aid" by challenging their understanding of the individuals and families in Jim Jones’ Peoples Temple who thought they were joining a social justice movement but ended up victims in one of the largest murder/suicides in recorded history. Working on Jonestown was personally wrenching — I have an aunt, an uncle, and three cousins who defected from the Peoples Temple three months before the organization fled the U.S. for Guyana, where nearly everyone perished.

All of the above projects are part of a rich body of work that has been extremely meaningful to me and, in many ways, has helped shape me. I hope to continue that experience of meaningful, satisfying work with Localore. Over the past year, I’ve become more and more immersed in the world of public radio while working with (the amazing) Sue Schardt and AIR to help expand the scope of their tremendously dynamic and successful MQ2 project. Also on our team is (the freakishly-smart) Jessica Clark, a journalist and tech-savvy social media strategist and researcher by training. Together, our little team — a hard-core public radio person, a filmmaker, and a social media maven/academic — has combined our experience and know-how to shape a project designed to direct the energy, creativity, ingenuity, and determination that independent producers like you typically bring to your work and focus it on a specific challenge.

By the time you read this, the process will already have begun. We launched our new Localore website on September 15, 2011 (http://www.Localore.net), effectively opening the competitive application process. Applications will be accepted online only until November 10, 2011.

The site features a carousel of media (slide show, video, or audio) from dynamic, forward-thinking public radio and public television stations across the U.S. We call this carousel the Runway. On our Runway, stations are saying to prospective producers, "This is who we are, this is the kind of work we do, this is what makes the community we serve utterly unique and like no other."

Perhaps more importantly, stations are saying, "This is where we are … but over there is where we want to be. Are you the producer with a project that can help us get there?"

Producers will view the Runway media on the Localore site, looking to identify a station where the culture, outlook, personnel, and community where that station resides sparks something in them. Producers will then contact a designated individual at the station they’ve identified from the Runway to begin a conversation about what a producer/station collaboration might look like. We expect producers and stations will begin these conversations and come to the table with prospective partnerships lined up. In broad terms, the project idea and execution will come from the producer while the station will provide material support, editorial input, and a way into the local community where the project is to be based.

Once both parties agree upon a potential producer/station collaboration, producers will submit an application on the Localore website, listing which station they want to partner with. While we strongly encourage producers to apply with a public media station attached to their project, producers may apply without a prospective station relationship in place. In such cases, the project selection committee may match unattached producers with a prospective station as their application advances through the evaluation process.

By December 2, 2011, the project selection committee will review the submissions and invite up to 30 producers to submit full proposals. Producers invited to submit a proposal must do so by January 6, 2012. The committee will convene to deliberate, and by January 20, 2012, all 10 producers and their matched incubator stations will be notified. The selected producers will implement their proposals between March 2012 and February 2013, on a rolling basis.

Finalists will be chosen by our selection committee, which is made up of individuals who are uniquely placed at the networks and leading producer stations across the country. They've been chosen for this assignment because they have strong taproots into the creative center of their respective organizations; they have receptive ears for the "new"; and collectively, they understand the cultures of both freelance production and public media stations. We have also invited them to recommend, as they evaluate both talent and proposals, where we will best incubate the projects we select.

Collectively, our Localore producers and their teams will plant new seeds to lead us all to a new vision and understanding of the full spectrum of America in all its rich complexity.

As the executive editor of Localore and a member of that selection committee, I look forward to reading your proposals and learning about your great project ideas. I’ve met many of you at AIR mingles in different cities and at conference events like Third Coast and PRPD. If your intelligence, talent, and enthusiasm are any indication, I already know that Localore will prove meaningful for us all.

Noland Walker
Executive Editor, Localore

Have questions for Noland? Email him at noland@airmedia.org.

AIR welcomes inquiries about republishing this feature article in its entirety or in part. Please contact us at airblast@airmedia.org.