New York, NY – January 14, 2021 - American Documentary, Inc. (AmDoc) announced today that it will sunset POV Spark, the interactive arm of the long-running PBS series, this spring. The initiative, which grew out of the organization’s digital department, launched in 2018 to create and advance experiential forms of storytelling and programming. Executive producer Opeyemi Olukemi will continue as a consultant for current projects then step down in March 2021.
Under Olukemi’s leadership, POV Spark embarked on ambitious programming to address issues of incubation, production and distribution in the interactive field. The African Interactive Art Residency provided two artists with mentorship and training over three months in New York City and Washington, D.C., culminating with a visit to VR Island at the 2019 Venice International Film Festival. POV Spark also launched its first immersive co-production Atomu, a participatory movement piece that premiered as part of the 2020 Sundance Film Festival’s New Frontier exhibition, and Public Update, an online platform that acquired and distributed nontraditional nonfiction projects for curious audiences on the Webby Award-winning AmDoc website.
"In the midst of immense societal and organizational changes, POV Spark envisioned a different approach to public media. In some ways we were successful and in other ways we failed, but what is important is that through our efforts, we were able to support some incredible artists and projects. The seeds planted within POV Spark will continue to encourage, challenge and motivate public media to innovate," said Olukemi, who joined the organization in 2017 as vice president of digital production and innovation. She will stay on board to roll out the final POV Spark slate, including soon-to-be announced VR projects and a short documentary series on Instagram Stories.
POV Spark represented the latest chapter of the organization’s decades-long experimentation with digital production and innovation for public media. This included the launch of ‘POV Online’ in 1994 and the work of POV Digital in the early 2000s, which featured the first interactive series ‘POV Borders,’ nationwide hackathons and award-winning collaborations on The New York Times and SnapChat. Plans for future digital initiatives will be among the priorities for the incoming executive director of American Documentary, slated to be announced in the coming months.
Produced by American Documentary, POV is the longest-running independent documentary showcase on American television. Since 1988, POV has presented films on PBS that capture the full spectrum of the human experience, with a long commitment to centering women and people of color in front of, and behind, the camera. It's on POV where American television audiences were introduced to groundbreaking works like Tongues Untied, The Act of Killing and American Promise and innovative filmmakers including Jonathan Demme, Nanfu Wang, and Laura Poitras. In 2018, POV Shorts launched as one of the first PBS series dedicated to bold and timely short-form documentaries.
Over a generation, POV has championed accessibility and innovation in nonfiction storytelling. POV Engage works with educators, community organizations and PBS stations to present hundreds of free screenings every year, inspiring dialogue around today's most pressing social issues. The series' interactive arm, POV Spark, creates and advances experiential forms of storytelling and programming, redefining U.S. public media to be more inclusive of emerging technologies and interactive makers.
POV films and projects have won 42 Emmy Awards, 25 George Foster Peabody Awards, 14 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards, three Academy Awards and the first-ever George Polk Documentary Film Award. Learn more at pbs.org/pov and follow @povdocs on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.