The Big Tell is Back for its Eighth Year – Welcoming the 2024 Winter Cohort

The Big Tell is a regional filmmaking program offering grants for the production of 5-minute short documentaries that feature stories from California’s great Central Valley.

In 2023, over 200 applicants submitted their best ideas for a film about an undiscovered story from the six county region: Merced, Mariposa, Madera, Fresno, Tulare, and Kings counties. A panel of judges evaluated the film concepts based on criteria including film subject, diversity among filmmakers and the stories they tell, and how the film will contribute to the rich and compelling narrative of the Central Valley.

Community Media Access Collaborative awarded 26 grants of $8,000 each for the creation of short films about the amazing people, places, and activities that make the Central Valley so remarkable. These grants were divided into a Fall Cohort and a Winter Cohort. As of the start of 2024, the filmmakers who comprise the Winter Cohort have begun working on their films!

Winners have three months to complete their short film and will receive one-on-one mentorship from Emmy-nominated documentarian Sascha Brown Rice.

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The Big Tell 2024 – Winter Cohort

Rebecca Adams

The Best Little Museum West of the Mississippi

In this charming short film, experience a captivating journey through time at the Mariposa Museum & History Center, showcasing the rich heritage of a small town. Discover untold stories, forgotten treasures, and the spirit of resilience that make it the best little museum west of the Mississippi.

Justus Briggs

“Against the Grain”

Chronicles the life and trials of Will Scott, an 82-year-old African-American farmer, who specializes in growing Southern crops in Fresno.

Joshua J. Cordero

“Papa Joe and the Redeemed Riders”

Joe grew up disowned by his biological father and hated by his step-dad for being a symbol of his wife’s unfaithfulness. Despite his upbringing, Joe launched a ministry of collecting broken bicycles, repairing them and giving them away to children from broken homes; earning him the name: Papa Joe.

Jamillah Finley

Roots Run Deep

 Back to the beginning, local spoken word poet Lila Imani, chronicles the restorative practices of local Black and Brown organic farmers as they reach back to their roots to retain and restore cultural traditions in an effort to heal the earth and themselves.

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Kaylee Josefina

“The First”

A look at how Fresno City College – reputedly a sleepy little college in a middle-of-nowhere town – began as the first of California’s 116 community colleges, and became the catalyst for reshaping the entire system of higher education in America.

Jose Romo Jr.

“Elite”

From street survival to shop owner. Barber Carlos Pompa, owner of Elite Barber Studios, creates a haven not just for his customers, but for aspiring barbers looking for a chance in the industry. He hopes to empower young barbers to thrive, encourage growth, and nurture in an inclusive environment.

Karina E. Turner

“Ballico Taiko”

Ballico Taiko has been developing character and confidence in children for over 20 years. Through the ancient art of Japanese drumming called Taiko, Chris Kubo helps to build confidence and a sense of community in children as they learn drumming skills and collaborate to perform the art of Taiko.

Jacqueline Álvarez

“Skateboards in Prison”

Good things happen when the Central Valley community works together toward a common goal. A local non-profit called Fresno Skateboard Salvage earns funds through the participation of inmates’ artwork on old skateboards. That money is then used to buy new high-end skateboards and gear for children.

Evan Christensen

“In the Shadow of Giants”

Guided by environmentalist Ali Sheehey, the story of Sequoias living and dead in Long Meadow Grove (the “Trail of 100 Giants”) provides insight into how we can live more harmoniously with nature, and with greater humility.

Charlene DeCicco

The People From The Lake

The Yokut tribe of Kings County built their life around the Tulare lake. The lake they call Pa’ashi which means, “big water”. The lake has been dried up for many years and now has mysteriously returned. The Yokut believe the lake is alive and speaking, and they are listening. This is their story.

Brandon Ezequil Hernandez

The Tagus Ranch Peach Strike

In 1933 Tulare, California, Patrick Chambers, secretary of the Cannery and Agricultural Workers Industrial Union, spearheads the Tagus Ranch peach labor strike against the unyielding H.C. Merrit Jr., sparking a statewide uprising for fair wages and workers’ rights.

Kristin Lesko

“La Milpa”

A farmworker-led permaculture farm in Fresno is preparing for its first harvest – a bountiful crop of marigolds in celebration of Dia de los Muertos.

Jes Therkelsen & Kerry Klein

“Gaps in Care:The Closing of Madera Community Hospital”

Gaps in Care explores gaps in healthcare access, particularly for rural residents that make up the backbone of the U.S. agricultural industry. After Madera County’s only hospital closed earlier this year, what is next for an already vulnerable population?

FAQs

The Big Tell is a regional filmmaking contest offering grants to filmmakers to produce 5-minute short documentaries that feature stories of California’s six-county Central Valley.  Now in its seventh year, The Big Tell is coordinated by the Community Media Access Collaborative (CMAC), an organization committed to empowering voices in our community to share their stories using media.

This year we will be awarding 26 filmmakers grants of $8,000 each. Filmmakers have three months to create their films which then premiere together at The Big Tell Showcase. Each filmmaker will prerecord an interview to introduce their film at the Showcase.

Filmmakers receive one-on-one mentorship from Emmy-nominated documentarian, Sascha Brown Rice. The Big Tell 2023 is presented by the James B. McClatchy Foundation and the Central Valley Community Foundation and made possible thanks to grant funding from Kern Dance Alliance Creative Corps.

Individuals who live in Fresno, Kings, Tulare, Madera, Merced, or Mariposa counties are eligible to apply. Women, people of color, and people who identify as members of minority or underrepresented groups are strongly encouraged to apply.

Although films are often collaborative, we will only recognize one individual as the filmmaker of record. The person who fills out the application should be the lead filmmaker on the project.  Only this person will receive programming information and will be listed on all promotional materials. You may recognize all members of your team on the film credits.

For the 2-minute interview for the showcase, the filmmaker may bring a guest – a member of the film team, the subject of your film, etc. to introduce your film.

Yes. All past applicants and winners can apply if they meet this year’s eligibility requirements. Please note that requirements may have changed from pervious years.

13 winners will be chosen for our Fall Cohort and 13 winners for our Winter Cohort (26 winners total). Winners must be available to fulfill all the grant requirements in the timeline below.

April 25, 2023             Applications Open

May 16                           Application Q&A on Zoom (optional)

July 4                             Applications due at midnight

July 26                          Winners notified

Fall Cohort

Aug 11                            Meet & Greet w/ Sascha Rice @ CMAC

Aug – Nov                     Four check-ins with Sascha Rice (virtual)

Nov 13                           Final Cuts due by midnight

Nov TBD                      Filmmaker Interviews

Nov 30                          The Big Tell Showcase at Tower Theatre

Dec TBD                       The Big Tell Showcase on Valley PBS

Winter Cohort

Nov 29                          Meet & Greet w/ Sascha Rice @ CMAC

Dec – Mar                     Four check-ins with Sascha Rice (virtual)

March 11                       Final Cuts due by midnight

Mid-March TBD         Filmmaker Interviews

Mid-April TBD            The Big Tell Showcase

Filmmakers and their teams/partners will participate in one-on-one mentoring sessions with Emmy-nominated documentarian Sascha Rice. Those dates will be determined between the filmmaker and Ms. Rice. These sessions are required for all filmmakers.

Final films must be submitted by the deadline as an MP4 file, must be 1920×1080 resolution, 16:9 aspect ratio, and meet television broadcast requirements for production quality and decency standards. Failure to meet submission requirements, meeting attendance, or deadlines will result in forfeiture or return of grant funds and your film will not air at the Showcase.

Applications are reviewed by a panel of judges who evaluate film concepts on four criteria:

  1. The Story: Is this story truly original in theme, idea, or storytelling technique? Does the film idea have a clear structure, plot, and story arc? Is the story original and engaging?
  2. Filmmaker: Whether novice or professional, will this filmmaker create a compelling film (based on what is included in the application – samples of previous work, experience and/or promise)? Is it likely the filmmaker can deliver the vision laid out in the application?
  3. Diversity: Does this application contribute to our goal of diversity among filmmakers, storylines, and geographical focus? We commit to having at least 1 film representing each county in our service area (Merced, Mariposa, Madera, Fresno, Tulare, Kings).
  4. Other/Subjective: What do you find, compelling, interesting, or unique about this application, above and beyond the other scoring criteria? Is this a film you want to see? How will this film relate to the other 9 films when they premiere together at the Showcase (i.e., We are unlikely to select two films with similar subjects, despite both being strong applicants).

We receive over 100 applications each year and can only accept a set number of films. Every year, we turn away incredible film concepts that score high on those four criteria because we can only fund a set number films. This is a highly competitive program.

The most common reasons applications are not selected are:

  1. The idea is too similar to a previous film; or, too similar to another film selected for this year
  2. Execution plan seems unlikely (i.e., Timeline is too aggressive or unreasonable; Ability to actually interview subjects – do you really have access to elected officials, institutional/business leaders?)
  3. Idea is good, but too generic. We can only judge based on what you share, so make sure to paint a compelling picture that shows you know your subject matter and have thought through the story arc. Which film idea sounds like a winner:

“This film will detail the impacts of COVID on our community” vs “This film tells the story of local restauranteur Lynnette Johnson as she fights to keep her business open during a global pandemic. She finds the answer in an unlikely place – her grandmother’s attic.”

There is no fee to apply. Applications are due by midnight on July 4, 2023. You may submit as many applications as you like. Each film concept must have its own complete application.

No.

This grant is for the production of new, non-fiction material. We will not accept completed films or work that has been publicly viewed. You may use footage that you already have on hand, but the film itself must have been completed for The Big Tell this year.

Films must be authentic, original, non-fiction, short documentaries, not less than four minutes and not more than five minutes in length, including opening and credits.  The stylistic or artistic approach and techniques are at the discretion of the filmmaker.

Applicants are strongly advised to look at films from previous years.If your idea is similar to a film from a previous year, it is unlikely to be selected. Films from previous years can be found on this web page.

For the purposes of this program, applicants must be a resident of Fresno, Kings, Tulare, Madera, Merced, or Mariposa counties. Further, your story must be about a person, place, event, or activity in at least one of those counties.

Finalists for both the Fall and Winter Cohorts will be notified by July 26, 2023. 

The finalists selected to participate in the Fall Cohort will be notified by July 26, 2023.

The finalists selected to participate in the Winter Cohort will be notified by the beginning of November 2023.

The grant winners are required to:

  • Attend the Filmmaker Meet & Greet with Sascha Rice.
  • Present rough cuts, and participate in one-on-one mentoring sessions
  • Participate in the recording of a 2-minute introduction to your film.
  • Winners must provide at least 2-minutes of behind the scenes footage and up to 10 behind the scenes photos that can be used as b-roll for your 2-minute introduction.
  • Submit your final film to CMAC by the established deadline.

The films will premiere at The Big Tell Showcase – which will consist of a theatrical presentation and a broadcast television presentation. There will be a showcase for the Fall Cohort in November 2023 (dates TBA) and for the Winter Cohort in April 2024 (dates TBA).

Keep in mind, films cannot be publicly screened prior to these events. After the events, you are welcome to share your film as you like.

We can not consult with you on story development. However, we encourage you to consider stories in the following topic areas:

• Social justice and community engagement
• Civic engagement, including election participation
• Water and energy conservation, climate mitigation
• Emergency preparedness, relief, and recovery
• Public health

This program is only open to filmmakers and each application must be submitted by the lead filmmaker on the project. However, amateur and student filmmakers are encouraged to apply.

No. CMAC offers access to training and tools including production studio, private editing suites, meeting rooms, classroom space, and a computer lab, along with a variety of portable production gear.

All winners will receive a one-year membership to CMAC.  Use of CMAC equipment is not required for participation in The Big Tell but is encouraged for filmmakers who can benefit from it.

The film becomes shared property between the filmmaker and CMAC and cannot have prior ownership. Additionally, your project cannot be publicly available or viewed publicly or commercially before The Big Tell Showcase in November 2023 or April 2024. Our broadcast partner will also have rights to broadcast your film for The Big Tell Showcase, a 90-minute television special.

CMAC reserves the right to unlimited and non-exclusive broadcast or sharing of your film for purposes that include but are not limited to marketing, promotions, fundraising, or coalition-building.  Filmmakers will sign a contract with CMAC that further outlines the terms of the agreement.

Filmmakers assume liability for the short documentary’s content and are expected to take all steps necessary to secure proper permissions for copyright, as well as location and talent releases and permits.

You will sign a contract with CMAC and then submit an invoice for $8,000 for payment processing. Funds will be made available within one month of contract signing. There is no restriction on the use of the funds, but be advised that no additional funds will be administered for any reason.

Failure to submit a completed film by this date will result in forfeiture of grant funds and the applicant will be expected to return the full grant to CMAC. No exceptions.

Failure to participate in mentorship activities, or public events can result in similar sanctions, at the discretion of CMAC.

Failure to adhere to the film’s time limit (not less than four minutes and not more than five minutes), will result in forfeiture of grant funds and your film will not be screened at the Showcase. This means a hard stop at 5 minutes, including title card and credits.

We require that all films recognize CMAC and other sponsors in the credits, and recognize Sascha Rice as “Consulting Producer” on official credits (e.g. IMDB). Guidelines for credit recognition will be provided to filmmakers.

Past Participants

If you missed our showcases, no problem! You can now watch all the previous films of The Big Tell here.  We hope you enjoy!