This is the third in a four-part series highlighting case studies of PBS station engagement with independent documentaries from this year’s PBS Annual Meeting. Check back next Thursday for our final installment. 

At the 2017 PBS Annual Meeting, a screening of August Wilson: The Ground on Which I Stand featured actress Phylicia Rashad, filmmaker Sam Pollard, executive producer Darryl Ford Williams, and American Masters series executive producer Michael Kantor.

Local collaboration, education, and social impact are hallmarks of public media engagement, and WQED has creatively used these elements to produce dynamic initiatives within the Pittsburgh community. Darryl Ford Williams, the Vice President of Content oversees the development, production and program delivery for WQED. Under her leadership, the station has presented a number of compelling documentary films along with impactful engagement initiatives.

One initiative featured the highly acclaimed August Wilson: The Ground On Which I Stand, for which Ford Williams also served as the film’s Executive Producer. Presented by WNET’s American Masters series, the project was awarded with a funding grant, and embarked on an engagement tour in four major cities. The station also participated in the release of the multi-award winning The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution – the first feature documentary to provide in-depth coverage of the Black Panthers. Before the film was broadcast on Independent Lens (IL), a preview was presented to the Pittsburgh community via IL’s Indie Lens Pop-Up engagement series (see trailer here). The partnership resulted in a dynamic discussion with a former Panther member from Pittsburgh. Also, via POV’s Emmy-nominated American Promise (see trailer here), WQED worked in their community to promote a robust education initiative that helped to reshape the image of African American boys. American Promise‘s post-screening program featured filmmakers Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson, and their son Idris who is a subject in the film. Richard Gray, J.D., director of community organizing and engagement at the Annenberg Institute for School Reform also participated in the conversation, along with executive leaders from Robert Morris University, Uzuri Think Tank, Urban Innovation21, and A+ Schools.

The station has continued to build strong community ties through locally produced films such as, Your Vote, Your Voice. The documentary not only provided significant outreach to the Latino community, it also produced partnerships with institutions such as Our World Affairs Council based in Argentina. WQED was able to strengthen and expand their relationships with local businesses as well. Additional initiatives include a weekend program called the “Filmmaker’s Corner,” which showcases films by Pittsburgh filmmakers, or films about Pittsburgh.

WQED’s vast range of innovative ideas and local focus have not only created unique and memorable programs, but have also helped to provide additional funding opportunities, as well as diverse range of meaningful partnerships with local organizations, businesses, and public officials in Pittsburgh. Their engagements efforts have become a great example of how stations can creatively use independent film to serve within their communities.

Join us next week for our last installment in this engagement series!

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POV Staff
POV (a cinema term for "point of view") is television's longest-running showcase for independent non-fiction films. POV premieres 14-16 of the best, boldest and most innovative programs every year on PBS. Since 1988, POV has presented over 400 films to public television audiences across the country. POV films are known for their intimacy, their unforgettable storytelling and their timeliness, putting a human face on contemporary social issues.