Submissions FAQ

Got a question about submitting your film to Independent Lens? Read our submissions FAQ below.

My film already aired on American television. Can it still be considered?

No. Independent Lens requires the U.S. television premiere.

My film aired in another country outside the U.S. Can it still be considered?

Yes. We only require the U.S. television premiere.

Will you provide me with feedback about my submission?

Unfortunately due to the volume of submissions that we receive, Independent Lens is unable to provide feedback. We appreciate your understanding.

What are you looking for when you select programs?

The programming process involves many factors. The most important is quality. Is the program compelling? Did the filmmaker have the necessary access? Is it timely? Is it fair and accurate, even if it has a point of view? Has the story been told before? Is this a new perspective? Is the program well-shot and well-edited? Has the content already been explored on other PBS series? Was the program satisfying from beginning to end? In addition to looking at programs individually, we look at the mix of programs over the course of our broadcast season to assure a varied slate.

What types of programs do you want?

Independent Lens acquires a range of nonfiction programs with a focus on social issue documentaries that speak to our diversity and inclusion mandate. Review our programming pipeline to see the types of programs we fund and present.

How do I submit my program?

We program from October through April for the next season. To have your program considered please complete the Independent Lens Online Submission Form, and provide a Vimeo link and password to view your film. We will not accept DVD’s or hard copy applications.

When will I learn if my program was accepted?

We screen approximately 700 programs each year. Most filmmakers will receive a response from Independent Lens within 4-12 weeks from the day of submission, or as programming decisions are made.

How will Independent Lens support my program?

We work with filmmakers to help deliver the program to meet PBS packaging and technical requirements. We also implement an extensive marketing campaign that includes publicity, online marketing and social media, community outreach, station relations with public television stations, website, viewer comments, and much more to support the television broadcast.

Will you review rough cuts?

We usually acquire programs in advanced rough cut stage and beyond. If you are seeking finishing funds, we urge you to apply for open call funding from ITVS at

Does Independent Lens acquire shorts? What length?

Yes, we acquire a limited number of shorts, ranging in length from 2 to 10 minutes.

Do I have to clear rights for public television broadcast?

Yes, you will need to clear rights prior to broadcast.

Do I need E&O (Errors and Omissions) Insurance?

Yes. You are required to have E&O insurance in place prior to broadcast (but not prior to submission).

What is the Independent Lens standard broadcast length?

The total running time (TRT) is 53:25 minutes for a “TV hour” and 83:25 minutes for an “hour and a half” slot.

Can there be a theatrical release prior to broadcast?


How long is the required PBS broadcast license period?

PBS requires an exclusive three-year broadcast license agreement.

What is the Independent Lens acquisition fee?

Independent Lens negotiates a license fee that is relevant to market rates.

Can you confirm delivery receipt of my submission?

After you confirm and click “submit” on the application form you will receive a message that your application was successfully submitted.

Who do I contact if I have additional submission questions?

Please email