Black Public Media trains and supports filmmakers of color to diversify multi-platform digital authorship.
BPM has a legacy of proudly supporting producers and digital media storytellers who represent the global Black experience. It’s a our goal to provide funding and distribution within our affiliated public media networks including representation on our dedicated online/web series channel BlackPublicMedia.org.
Our executive producers review and consider films for distribution on a rolling basis. We give priority to films that are current and relevant depicting black life and experience in a unique and often overlooked context, largely ignored by popular culture and films. We work with producers who’ll deliver exciting, entrancing stories and locales in a professional manner.
In 2020, Black Public Media (BPM), MIT Open Documentary Lab (ODL), and MIT Center for Art, Science & Technology (MIT CAST) created this fellowship to support Black creatives who use emerging technologies as their nonfiction, storytelling mediums. New this year, Fellows will have the option to do the fellowship either remotely or in person. ODL meetings begin on September 14th. If a Fellow wants to audit an MIT class, they should choose the course as soon as they are selected, because classes begin on the September 8th.
Fellows who decide to relocate to the Boston area would cover their own travel and living expenses. Neither part-time nor full-time students qualify for this fellowship, per MIT requirements.
The 2021 MIT & Black Public Media Fellowship is designed to support a Black filmmaker, artist, journalist, or creative technologist, who uses emerging technology to make nonfiction experiences. The mission of the Fellowship is to encourage and develop the emerging-tech storytelling skills of a Black maker and connect the Fellow to MIT Open Documentary Lab’s network of storytellers, scholars, and technologists.
The Fellowship provides one academic year (9 months) of independent study within the OpenDocLab community, which is deeply engaged with creating, testing, and exploring new storytelling technologies and co-creation methodologies. Each Fellow also meets regularly with a Black Public Media producer or adviser to clarify their project goals and develop their pitch and prototype materials. The purpose of the Fellowship is to research and develop an emerging-tech documentary or nonfiction project and move the conceptualization or execution of the project forward in some significant way. Fellows also may apply with a nonfiction project that is already in pre-production or production, again with the goal of making major progress during the Fellowship.
We are looking for someone who is interested in engaging creatively and critically with emerging technologies, such as virtual reality, augmented reality, artificial intelligence, and/or using older technologies, such as 3D animation, projections, or motion capture, in novel or new ways. The Fellow will join an interdisciplinary, international, and collaborative community composed of other fellows, faculty, researchers, and students and will engage in a rich exchange with them.
Black studio heads, creative directors, lead engineers, directors, lead artists, and writers are far and few between at emerging-tech content studios, divisions, departments, and on A-list emerging-tech production crews. The MIT & Black Public Media Fellowship is designed to connect a Black maker to a community of emerging-tech practitioners, researchers, and thinkers. The BPMplus Initiative at Black Public Media focuses on reducing and eliminating barriers to entry, plus increasing participation of Black creatives in emerging-tech storytelling. This fellowship with MIT is one of more than seven BPMplus programs.
Previous MIT & Black Public Media Fellows
Mapping Blackness by Carla LynDale Bishop
Uses traditional film, augmented reality, and geo-tagged media assets to co-create profiles of historically Black communities all over the United States with members of each community.
Carla teaches film at Arizona State University's Sidney Poitier New American Film School.
Learn more about the project and the filmmaker.
Watch Carla's pitch video from April 2021.
Read her OpenDocLab profile.
Watch her interview on The Technically Brilliant Show.
Meshmemories by Fabiano Mixo
An augmented reality sculpture of Mãe Beata de Iemanjá, a Brazilian writer, activist, and religious leader.
Fabiano runs Vild Studio, a film and AR/VR production company in Rio de Janeiro.
Learn more about the project and the filmmaker.
Read his OpenDocLab profile.
Watch Fabiano's interview on The Technically Brilliant Show.
Sample MIT OpenDocLab Projects
The makers behind the projects, below, made fundamental project-design shifts during their fellowships. Being immersed in the ODL is ideal for a filmmaker or creative technologist who wants to embark on a process of discovery that may result in a new format for their story, a new technology to incorporate into their piece, a new process for creating their project, or new collaborators. At its most basic, being part of ODL is about the exchange of ideas. Learn more about OpenDocLab Fellows here.
Chomsky vs. Chomsky (2020)
MIT OpenDocLab Fellow Sandra Rodriguez and Alum Cindy Bishop To Premiere Chomsky vs. Chomsky at 2020 Sundance Film Festival
Chomsky vs. Chomsky: First encounter
Voices of VR Podcast: Episode #898: Sundance: Questioning AI of Chomsky Trained with 60 Years of Data in ‘Chomsky vs Chomsky’
Diving With a Purpose (2019)
2019 MIT OpenDocLab Fellow: Tara Roberts
(Video) National Geographic Education: Diving with a Purpose: Explorers in the field
(Video) National Geographic Society: Storytellers Summit: Putting the self in the story
Yes! Magazine: Uncovering Stories of Slavery Under Water
Porton Down (2019)
2016-2018 MIT OpenDocLab Fellow: Callum Cooper
2019 Venice Film Festival: Porton Down
Additional Emerging-Tech Projects
These projects are great examples of big vision, blue sky projects that would have been suitable for the MIT & Black Public Media Fellowship.
Red Summers: Domestic Terrorism from 1917-1921 by Bayete Ross Smith
Watch the pitch video from April 2021.
Watch Episode 1: Tulsa from May 2021 on The Guardian.
Manacapuru VR by Fabiano Mixo
Tech: Unity VR
Watch the pitch video from April 2021.
Please note that the video contains some graphic, historical imagery of enslaved people.
Movement Portraits by LaJune McMillian
Tech: Mocap (Perception Neuron), Unreal Engine, Motion Builder, Maya
Watch the pitch video from April 2021.
Each Fellow will be a member of MIT Open Documentary Lab for one school year, beginning September 8, 2021, and receive an unrestricted, $7,500 honorarium after completing the necessary paperwork. Although we encourage applicants to have at least one completed emerging technology production on their resume or filmography, previous emerging technology experience is not required to apply. However candidates must demonstrate a working knowledge of their chosen tech platform(s) and of similar emerging-tech projects.
The deadline to apply is Sunday, August 8, 2021, at 9 PM ET. The Fellow(s) will be announced by early September 2021.
ODL programming begins on Tuesday, September 14, 2021, and ends Tuesday, in May 2022. Aside from mandatory ODL programming every Tuesday, Fellows are free to create their own MIT schedules. In addition, Fellows will have production meetings every 2-3 weeks with their Black Public Media producer or adviser to work on their pitch and pitch materials.
Deliver the following assets to Black Public Media by March 2022:
- 1-paragraph pitch
- 1-page treatment
- 10-slide pitch deck
- working prototype or a simulation
- 4- to 5-minute pitch video for PitchBlack, Black Public Media's pitch event. Each Fellow will present their project during PitchBlack, which will be held in April 2022.
Deliver a proposal, prototype, or rough cut to MIT CAST by May 2022.
Please budget 2-4 hours to complete your application. Read through the entire application before you begin.
- A resume and/or filmography.
- A budget for the applicant's Fellowship Project.
- A schedule and scope-of-work for the applicant's Fellowship Project. The schedule must provide 2-week milestones for 18 weeks total.
- A one-page treatment for the applicant's Fellowship Project.
- Please note that Fellows may not be enrolled as part-time or full-time students while completing the Fellowship from September 2021 to May 2022.
- Start the fellowship on Tuesday, September 14, 2021, in order to participate in the orientation for the new cohort of OpenDocLab Fellows.
- Attend online project presentations by ODL Fellows every Tuesday at 10 AM ET/2 pm UTC. [Mandatory attendance]
- Attend online guest lectures at noon ET on Tuesdays. [Mandatory attendance]
- Attend ODL workshops and meetings on a range of topics, from co-creation to augmented reality and public space. [Optional attendance]
- Present your project idea to the ODL community.
- Deliver a Fellowship Project proposal, prototype, or rough cut to Black Public Media in March for PitchBlack 2022.
- Present your Fellowship Project to the Black Public Media community at PitchBlack 2022 in April. (Please note that this might be a live, in-person pitch.)
- Deliver a proposal, prototype, or rough cut to MIT CAST by May 2022. (You may use the same materials you submitted to BPM in March)
- A $7,500 honorarium after the first 30 days of the fellowship. This payment is dependent on completion of all MIT and Black Public Media contracts and agreements. Payments may be made to individuals only, not to their companies.
- Access to MIT's community of artists, scholars, and technologists
- Access to Black Public Media’s community of Black filmmakers and creative technologists
- Ability to audit one (1) MIT course [requires permission of the instructor]. If a Fellow wants to audit an MIT class, they should choose the course as soon as they are selected, because classes begin on the September 8th.
- Access to MIT’s library system and other online resources
- Receive a potential showcase of the maker and/or the maker’s project at a Black Public Media event. If the prototype or finished production were an augmented reality app, a VR experience, or an AI app, for example, BPM could help drive traffic to the maker’s project or help recommend exhibition opportunities. Black Public Media has screened AR/VR experiences for more than 650 people since 2018. Introducing the world of spatial computing and other emerging storytelling technologies to Black creatives is a major focus of the BPMplus Program.
Please note: This fellowship does not provide software, hardware, or crew. Applicants may not be enrolled as part-time or full-time students while completing the Fellowship from September 2021 to May 2022. Applicants must be 18 or over.
About Black Public Media
The mission of BPMplus is to increase the participation of Black storytellers in extended reality and other emerging-tech industries. Black Public Media is a 41-year-old nonprofit that supports Black filmmakers. BPM funds and distributes content about the Black diaspora. The company is based in Harlem area of New York City.
About MIT Open Documentary Lab
Drawing on MIT’s legacy of media innovation and its deep commitment to open and accessible information, the MIT Open Documentary Lab brings storytellers, technologists, and scholars together to explore new documentary forms with a particular focus on collaborative, interactive, and immersive storytelling. OpenDocLab is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
About MIT Center for Arts, Science, and Technology
A major cross-school initiative, the MIT Center for Art, Science & Technology (CAST) creates new opportunities for art, science and technology to thrive as interrelated, mutually informing modes of exploration, knowledge and discovery. CAST’s multidisciplinary platform presents performing and visual arts programs, supports research projects for artists working with science and engineering labs, and sponsors symposia, classes, workshops, design studios, lectures and publications. The visiting artists program is a cornerstone of CAST’s activities, which encourages cross-fertilization among disciplines and intensive interaction with MIT’s faculty, students, and researchers. CAST is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
MIT Open Doc Lab, Black Public Media, and the MIT Center for Art, Science & Technology are delighted to be able to offer this opportunity.
AfroPoP: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange has delighted audiences for 13 seasons. Its stories are as beautiful as they are poignantly told. Black Public Media (BPM) is committed to bringing to the American public dynamic stories that celebrate the art, culture, and creativity of people of African descent.
We are looking for strong stories that will capture the breadth and scope of the diversity of experiences of contemporary African peoples. Programs can be about music, art, human rights, sports, politics, health, or anything in between. They can be set on the African continent, the US, Caribbean, South America, Europe, Middle East, South Pacific, Asia, or wherever people of African descent have made an impact.
Programs should be accessible to a broad audience, have the potential for a national broadcast, and can be used for effective outreach and engagement activities to reach audiences beyond the public television broadcast. Completed programs must be able to meet PBS technical standards. We seek primarily documentaries but will consider narrative shorts less than 30 minutes.
AfroPoP programs are considered year-round.