The National Asian American Telecommunications Association
When was NAATA created?
NAATA was created in 1980. In 1982, it secured funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) to present Asian Pacific American programming to the PBS system.
What is its on-going relationship to CPB?
The taxpayer-supported CPB gives NAATA funding each year to re-grant to Asian American filmmakers with the goal of increasing the quality and quantity of Asian American works on public television. CPB funds are also used to acquire, package, and promote works on public television.
What is the total amount of funding NAATA receives from CPB?
The driving philosophy behind NAATA is . . .
To present American audiences with accurate and real portrayals of historic and contemporary Asian American experiences. Even in this “enlightened” day and age, there continues to be a rash of stereotypical, inaccurate, and culturally insensitive images of Asian Americans in the theaters and on television. It is important that our own communities work to get our voices heard and our stories told.
Are the projects NAATA funds broadcast on PBS? Do you have a regular series?
Silk Screen was a series that NAATA presented to the PBS system from 1983 to 1987. No other series replaced Silk Screen. After that, we began submitting single programs and Asian Pacific American heritage month packages to the system directly. We submit programs to national PBS, local stations, regional strands, and to series such as P.O.V.
Is there symbiosis between NAATA’s other exhibition and distribution components and its funded projects?
Projects funded by NAATA are contractually obligated to screen in our San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival or another exhibition venue. NAATA holds special screenings throughout the year outside of the festival. For example, we program one night a month for an arts center here in San Francisco. We also use this relationship to help secure an educational distribution agreement with the filmmaker, although this is not a contractual obligation.
Is this educational distribution agreement through NAATA Distribution?
Yes. NAATA Distribution is our self-sustained educational distribution arm. It introduces high-quality works by and about Asian Pacific Americans to schools and universities, libraries, museums, and public television stations worldwide.
What percentage of your overall funding goes towards film or video projects?
75% of CPB funds.
When and why did the NAATA Media and Open Door Completion Funds come into being?
NAATA created the Media Fund in 1990 as a way of supplying Asian American programming to public television beyond acquiring completed works.
The Completion Fund was created in 1996 as a way of quickly addressing filmmakers’ postproduction needs while preparing the program for broadcast distribution.
How many awards are given out per year for each fund? What is the total amount awarded annually?
The amount and number vary from year to year. To give an example, in 1997, NAATA granted awards totaling $370,000 to 14 projects through our funding initiatives. This total doesn’t include works we executive produce or support outside of these two funding programs.
What is the average size of a grant?
The average amount for both the Media and Open Door Funds is $30,000.
What percent of applicants actually get funded?
Approximately 10 to 15 percent.
What are the restrictions on applicants’ qualifications (e.g., ethnicity, geography, medium)?
The restrictions are as follows: that the project be of standard television length (in half-hour increments); that either the producer or the subject matter be Asian or Asian American; that the project meets PBS standards for quality and content; that the project appeals to a wide variety of audiences, Asian American or otherwise; and that the project sheds light on the Asian American experience in a creative and educational way.
Does NAATA fund projects at various stages of production (e.g., script , development, production, distribution, etc.)?
We currently fund only production and postproduction phases.
Name some of the best known titles and/or artists NAATA has funded.
AKA Don Bonus, by Spencer Nakasako (1996 Emmy Award); Picture Bride, by Kayo Hatta (Audience Award, 1995 Sundance Film Festival); My America . . . or Honk if You Love Buddha, by Renee Tajima-Pena (Cinematography Award, 1997 Sundance Film Festival); Licensed to Kill, by Arthur Dong (Filmmaker’s Trophy & Documentary Director’s Award, 1997 Sundance Film Festival); Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision, by Frieda Lee Mock (1996 Academy Award).
Explain your funding cycle and deadlines.
The Media Fund is a national open call for submissions that happens once a year, usually in the summer. A panel of filmmakers, public television programmers, and other professionals from the field meets in the late summer or early fall, and decisions are made in late fall. Contingent on the availability of funds, the Completion Fund has several deadlines throughout the year, usually at three-month intervals. Decisions are made within six weeks of the application deadline.
Who are the Program Officers of the Media Fund? Of the Open Door Completion Fund?
Janice Sakamoto and I administer both funds.
Who makes the awards decisions?
Media Fund submissions are judged by an independent panel of filmmakers, public television programmers, and other professionals from the field with some staff input. The Completion Fund is evaluated by the program committees of the NAATA staff and Board of Directors. Final decisions for both are approved by NAATA’s Board of Directors.
What advice do you have for media artists in putting forth a strong application?
The proposal is very important. It must be clear, concise and well-written. You must be able to give the panel a clear sense of the project’s stylistic treatment. Your proposal should have an engaging narrative structure and address story development and thematic threads in detail. Your proposal should not be weighed down with vague concepts or abstract ideas. If after reading it, we still have no idea what your film is about, then there’s a problem. If you’re doing a documentary about a topic that’s been done often (e.g., Japanese internment camps), what sets yours apart? What makes it different from something that’s been done before? This needs to be right at the top of your proposal. If it’s buried, then you’ve already lost us.
Pay attention to detail. Our panelists always notice if a budget is unrealistic, a concept isn’t clear, or a filmmaker is in over his/her head. Also, if you’re submitting a work-in-progress, it’s very important to have a strong sample tape or rough cut.
What is the most common mistake applicants make?
Having a budget that’s unrealistic. This shows the filmmaker is inexperienced.
What would people most be surprised to learn about NAATA and/or its founders?
We do not give outright grants; we are buying the program’s public television licensing rights, something similar to a pre-sale. As such, we are obligated to pass on requirements from CPB to our awardees.
Other foundations or grantmaking organizations you admire.
Paul Robeson for its progressive agenda; ITVS for the diverse works it funds.
Famous last words:
Don’t be discouraged.