Realscreen May/June 2022

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MAY/JUN 2022




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Broadening the market for adventurous docs; entering the “stream-cutting” era


How to reach the 100-episode milestone; tech advances impacting unscripted



VR, XR, AR... We examine the growing role of these acronyms in unscripted production. (Photo from Dark Slope)

First-time feature filmmakers talk process and passions

45 DIALOG SPOTLIGHT Meet the 20 unscripted execs joining our DIALOG program

53 PRODUCTION MUSIC NOTES Three music house execs riff on the trends shaping production music today


Doc-maker Simon Nasht on engaging with benefactors for funding


Thinking of Selling your Company or Buying a Business? ACF is a global investment bank with offices in Los Angeles and London. We specialize in selling, buying, fundraising and pre and post deal services for businesses in Media and Entertainment. Our team have completed over 100 deals with a total deal value of over $5 billion. A SELECTION OF OUR SCRIPTED AND UNSCRIPTED DEALS m ss ng p eces

Nent Studios UK (Formerly DRG)

Broke & Bones

Bear Grylls Ventures

Plimsoll Productions

Leftfield Entertainment

Sale to Tribeca Enterprises

Sale to All3Media

Sale to Netflix

Sale to Banijay

Investment from LDC

Sale to ITV plc

ACF acted as Investment Banker to m ss ng p eces

ACF acted as Investment Banker to Nordic Entertainment Group

ACF acted as Investment Banker to Broke & Bones

ACF acted as Investment Banker to Bear Grylls Ventures

ACF acted as Investment Banker to Plimsoll Productions

ACF acted as Investment Banker to Leftfield Entertainment

Pilgrim Studios

Litton Entertainment

Jupiter Entertainment

Magical Elves

Love Productions

Top Gear

Sale to the Tinopolis Group

Sale to Sky

Sale to BBC Worldwide

ACF acted as Investment Banker to Magical Elves

ACF acted as Investment Banker to Love Productions

ACF acted as Investment Banker to Jeremy Clarkson and Andy Wilman

Sale to Lionsgate

Sale to Hearst

Sale to Sky

ACF acted as Investment Banker to Pilgrim Studios

ACF acted as Investment Banker to Litton Entertainment

ACF acted as Investment Banker to Jupiter Entertainment

A. Smith & Co Productions

Jerry Bruckheimer Television

Paddington and Company


Critical Content

Orion Entertainment

Sale to the Tinopolis Group


Sale of IP

Sale to eOne

Sale to SK Global

Sale to Red Arrow

ACF acted as Investment Banker to A. Smith & Co Productions

ACF acted as Investment Banker to Jerry Bruckheimer Television

ACF acted as Investment Banker to Paddington and Company

ACF acted as Investment Banker to Renegade

ACF acted as Investment Banker to Critical Content

ACF acted as Investment Banker to Orion Entertainment

If you are thinking about selling your company, buying a business, fundraising, or you are coming up to the end of your existing deal and you would like to discuss options with us, please email or call +1 424 332 0450 to arrange a meeting.


typing this a few weeks in advance of Realscreen’s first in-person event since January of 2020. Back then, when we lowered the curtain on that edition of the Realscreen Summit in New Orleans, we had no idea we would be pressing the pause button on our semi-annual conference schedule, but circumstances dictated that necessity. While we were fortunate to be able to bring the global non-fiction and unscripted entertainment industry together via a couple of virtual events, we at Realscreen are also well aware that this business is propelled by networking and community — elements that thrive best in an in-person environment. Another area of the conference experience that functions best IRL as opposed to virtually is the exchange of ideas and opinions regarding the events shaping the industry. While our virtual events strove to illuminate how every sector of the unscripted content world was contending with the shifts thrust upon it by the pandemic, the rate of change has seemed dizzyingly rapid in some areas, and I’m sure there will be an abundance of things for all assembled at Dana Point to catch up on. Speaking of change, each of us, in our own way, has come out of the past twoand-a-half years different than we were beforehand. And, to an extent, those of you who will be on hand at our almost-summer Realscreen Summit will be presenting your new selves in addition to whatever projects you may be pitching. For me, this was brought into focus when I attended MIPTV in April, my first inperson event since the shutdowns of the pandemic. I knew that I greatly missed the travel aspect of my gig — believe it or not, I was repeatedly dreaming of reading magazines in airports — but as the day for my transatlantic flight approached I had my fair share of trepidation. Every step of the process required a “check-in” to evaluate my comfort level with the situation and to react accordingly. Giving myself that space and that self-care allowed me to enjoy the various aspects of the event that perhaps I was guilty of taking for granted in the “before times” — the hustling to meetings outside of the Palais, banging out stories in the press room while fueled by strong espresso, stealing the odd sideways glance at the immeasurable beauty of the Mediterranean horizon while speeding along the Croisette. So, as we gather once again in person after far too long of a separation, the best advice I can offer to anyone who is feeling a little apprehensive is, to borrow from Fleetwood Mac, “go your own way.” Give yourself the attention you need, move at your own pace and at your own comfort level. Some of you will have already attended several conferences prior to the Summit, while for others this might be the first in a long while. Either way, I’m reminded of a quote attributed to the incomparable Kurt Vonnegut: “We are here to help each other get through this thing, whatever it is.” I think I speak for all of us at Realscreen when I say we’re happy to help. Lastly, a correction regarding last issue’s MIPTV Picks, in which we stated an incorrect length and volume for Stacey Dooley: Stalkers. The project is actually 2 x 47 minutes. We apologize for the error.


Go your own way May + June 2022 Volume 25, Issue 4

Realscreen is published 4 times a year by Brunico Communications Ltd., 100- 366 Adelaide Street West, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5V 1R9 Tel. 416-408-2300 Fax 416-408-0870

SVP & Publisher Claire Macdonald Content Director & Editor-in-Chief Barry Walsh Art Director Mark Lacoursiere Associate Editor Andrew Tracy News Editor Andrew Jeffrey Senior Staff Writer Justin Anderson Contributors Simon Nasht, Scott Purdy, John Smithson Conference Producer Jennifer Fitzgerald Associate Publisher Joel Pinto Senior Account Manager Kristen Skinner Marketing & Publishing Coordinator Karyna Dovnich


President & CEO Russell Goldstein EVP, Canadian Media Brands & Editorial Director Mary Maddever Director, Finance and Administration Michelle Plaskon Creative Services & Distribution Manager Adriana Ortiz Manager, Customer Experience Christine McNalley All letters sent to Realscreen or its editors are assumed intended for publication. Realscreen invites editorial comment, but accepts no responsibility for its loss or destruction, howsoever arising, while in its office or in transit. All material to be returned must be accompanied by a stamped, self-addressed envelope. Nothing may be reproduced in whole or in part without the written permission of the publisher. ISSN number 1480-1434

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U.S. Postmaster: Send address changes or corrections to realscreen, PO Box 1103, Niagara Falls, NY, 14304 | Canadian Postmaster: Send undeliverables and address changes to realscreen, 8799 Highway 89, Alliston ON L9R 1V1. Canada Post Publication Agreement No. 40050265 Printed in Canada To subscribe, visit, email, call 416-408-2448, or fax 416-408-0249. Subscription rates for one year: in the US, US$59.00; in Canada, CDN$79.00; outside the US and Canada, US$99.00. ™ Realscreen is a trademark of Brunico Communications Ltd.

Be well, Barry Walsh Content director and editor-in-chief Realscreen


Premium factual series from exceptional storytellers



06/05/2022 14:41


Finding equilibrium



September/October 2022 Editorial features include: • MIPCOM Picks • Specialist Factual Focus • Realscreen 25th Anniversary Special Report

Bonus distribution: • MIPCOM • World Congress of Science and Factual Producers (Digital)

• IDFA • Wildscreen (Digital) Booking deadline: September 6, 2022 Digital advertising: Daily newsletter and

Contact Realscreen sales: For information on these opportunities, or if you’re interested in sponsorship or private meeting space at Realscreen Summit January 23-26, 2023 in Austin, email us at or call 416-408-1376.

we dust ourselves off and slowly emerge from the clutches of a global pandemic, it’s cathartic to take a breath and reflect on all the change that has occurred over the past two-anda-half years. I think it’s fair to say that while there has been an abundance of detritus that’s come along with COVID-19, the pandemic has also perhaps accelerated some long-overdue changes. First off, and perhaps most importantly, we have faced the reality of inequity in representation of people from historically marginalized communities. This was thrust into the public consciousness with the murder of George Floyd by a police officer in May of 2020, and from there, came renewed attention towards the myriad atrocities against Black men and women that preceded it. Even with a world on pause due to the still-new pandemic, worldwide protests led by nonwhite communities were mounted, and those protests were heard, understood and acknowledged by a swath of humanity that sadly might not have paid much attention pre-COVID. In our industry, like many others, representation of various ethnic groups and disabled and d/Deaf people is not where it needs to be. But there has been a sea change in priorities and programs designed to foster some sense of equity in front of and behind the cameras. There’s still a long way to go, as there are still few execs from these communities in senior roles at networks and the larger prodcos, but there are now multiple efforts underway that will, one hopes, drive the necessary change. The next correction on deck is work/life balance. In the lead-up to COVID-19, those of a certain vintage might have been heard grumbling about those “entitled millennials.” Now, after two-and-a-half years of juggling homeschooling and life in general with work, there seems to be greater respect for private time than there has been in the past — certainly during my career. Hybrid work models, flexibility, and a focus on mental health and wellbeing are de rigueur now, where they might not have been priorities for management before. I’d be surprised to see a return to the old ways. And finally, while this does not always hold true, there does seem to be a much kinder and more sympathetic vibe out there. Everyone is exhausted and needs to give and receive in a more mindful and positive way, and these nuances affect us in our personal and professional lives. Long may this more caring attitude prevail. Let’s get back to business — kindly. ‘Til next time, go well. Claire Macdonald SVP and publisher Realscreen


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A GEOGRAPHY OF SOLITUDES? The audience for documentary films has exponentially increased in the streaming era. Has this tide helped lift more unorthodox or formally daring non-fiction films towards wider audiences? By Andrew Tracy

Jacquelyn Mills’ meditative Geographies of Solitude won three awards at the 2022 Berlinale.



KPMG’s Scott Purdy on the challenge of churn

John Smithson on the plight of the PSBs


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you have any ideas, I’m all ears!” laughs filmmaker Jacquelyn Mills, speaking to Realscreen about her new project, Geographies of Solitude. The Montreal-based director’s second feature documentary is an intimate, meditative portrait of Sable Island, a tiny yet visually striking and ecologically rich atoll off the coast of Nova Scotia where naturalist Zoe Lucas has spent more than 40 years living alone and patiently studying, classifying and cataloging the native flora and fauna, which includes a herd of wild horses and the world’s largest colony of grey seals. The question that elicited Mills’ amusement was about what kind of life she foresaw for her film beyond its already highly successful festival run, which has thus far included Mills three awards at the 2022 Berlinale. Despite what seems Bartlett like the highly “saleable” aspects of the doc — not least its obvious relevance to the topics of climate change and ecological destruction — the very things that mark it out as unique could well work against its chances for wider exposure: Hynes its determinedly meditative pace, its experimental visual elements, its oblique treatment of its protagonist, and its refusal to package its subject as either an ecomessage movie or a traditional character portrait (or both). “Although there is a lot of abstraction [in the film], there was [also] an intention to make it accessible and generous… to make it challenging, but also inclusive,” said Mills. “So in that way, I hope that it can have a larger life than the average experimental film.” Reichert The case of Geographies of Solitude presents an opportunity Rodriguez to examine two roughly contemporaneous developments together. On the one hand, there is the increasing space and acceptance that film festivals have been according to more formally adventurous works of non-fiction over the past 10 010

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Mills says she endeavored to make her film “challenging but also inclusive.”

or 15 years. On the other, there is the increasingly healthier appetite among both buyers and audiences for more documentary fare — spurred by the streaming explosion and the consequent competition among platforms to offer viewers as much content as possible. The question we put to a panel of filmmakers, programmers and

There is a possibility of crossing those lines, but filmmakers can’t do it alone. It requires a whole bunch of people, from different parts of the industry, to take risks.” exhibitors: Has the proliferation of content-hungry outlets at all increased the likelihood of more experimental non-fiction work finding larger audiences beyond the festival circuit? “I think that people now are interested in diversity of content, but not diversity of form,” says Colombian–Canadian filmmaker Lina Rodriguez, whose documentary Mis dos voces (My Two Voices) screened alongside Geographies at Berlin. Like Mills’ film, Rodriguez’s is both entirely legible in terms of its content — it spotlights three Latin

American women who reflect, sometimes movingly and always relatably, on their experiences as immigrants to Canada — and surprising in terms of its form, as the filmmaker keeps her protagonists’ faces (though not their hands, homes and everyday surroundings) offscreen until the very end. Even with its hot-button subject of immigration, Rodriguez is keeping her expectations low about the extent to which the film can travel. “I do think there is a way for people from different communities, different age groups to engage [with films like this], and they don’t have to feel down for not ‘getting something’ [about the film],” she says. “So I think there is a possibility of crossing those lines, but filmmakers can’t do it alone. It requires a whole bunch of people, from different parts of the industry, to take risks.” For some films, those risks have indeed been taken. Eric Hynes, who has spent the better part of a decade making a case for precisely this kind of adventurous doc-making as curator of film at New York’s Museum of the Moving Image, points to some recent examples of “experimental, hybrid, formally nimble non-fiction works’’ that have been the beneficiaries of robust distributor support on both the streaming and theatrical side, such as Jessica Kingdon’s Ascension (picked up by MTV), Robert Greene’s Procession (Netflix) and Sara Dosa’s Fire of Love, which is receiving a theatrical release from

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Neon before heading to Disney+ later this year via National Geographic. However, Hynes also contends that the awardmongering ambitions that largely motivate these acquisitions undercut the notion that there is a more generally increased interest for decidedly daring non-fiction work from the big players. While distributors cherry-picking unconventional films they feel they can do something with is by no means a necessarily bad thing, one could also suggest that a mosteggs-in-one-basket approach to promotion can transform these titles into remarkable singularities (in market terms) rather than representatives of a broader, richer movement of non-fiction filmmaking. “You look at [the success of] something like Fire of Love, and then you look at films that showed alongside it at festivals like Sundance that are no less adventurous, and how there’s just no traction at all for them [in terms of distribution],” says Hynes. Although documentarian Jeff Reichert — whose films range from the self-funded fiction/ documentary hybrid Feast of the Epiphany to the Netflix-acquired Oscar winner American Factory, which he produced — largely concurs with this assessment, he does see a few more glimmers of promise. “As the amount of films proliferates, I think it almost forces [platforms] to diversify their menu, at least a little bit,” he suggests. “And I also think that the audience for documentary films has developed to a degree that you’re able to think about that audience not just as a unified, holistic thing. There aren’t just people who ‘like non-fiction films,’ but [different groups of] people who like certain kinds of non-fiction films. So I think that documentary audiences have begun to self-select a little bit,


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which does create space for works that are more oppositional or formally adventurous.” If the streaming tide doesn’t necessarily lift all boats, then, it has perhaps expanded enough laterally to allow for smaller but

these lauded classics of world cinema, and the trust that viewers place in our curation [can] encourage them to take risks and check out films they might not otherwise have been exposed to.”

As the amount of films proliferates, it almost forces [platforms] to diversify their menu, at least a little bit.” still sustainable tributaries where those audiences so inclined can discover such work. “We can take risks with Channel programming that can be challenging to take even in our physical-media line,” says Penelope Bartlett, programmer for the Criterion Channel, the streaming platform of art-house DVD/Blu-ray label the Criterion Collection and its theatrical-distribution parent, Janus Films. For formally audacious works of non-fiction, Bartlett says, “there’s a certain cachet associated with being on the Criterion Channel alongside

As Bartlett points out, the context of a given film’s surroundings in a catalog helps create expectations about it that can drive viewership. Therefore, it would hardly be surprising to conclude that platforms such as Criterion are the most viable spaces for artistically unorthodox documentaries to find a home. While it’s not wholly unreasonable to suggest that the plangent environmental theme of Geographies of Solitude (not to mention the archival cameo by Jacques Cousteau) could bring it some unexpected

Lina Rodriguez’s Mis dos voces doesn’t show its protagonists’ faces until the end of the film.

appreciation from nature-doc enthusiasts if they encountered it on Nat Geo alongside Fire of Love, it could be argued that a greater audience for the film would be found amongst those viewers who appreciate and seek out the unexpected. If this is indeed the case, then perhaps the matter is less about how to bring more of these types of non-fiction films to the attention of “deep-pocketed suitors” — as MOMI’s Hynes says, not uncharitably — than about how the outlets in the streaming space that cater to these (sometimes sizable) margins can continue putting this kind of work out into the world. For his part, Hynes floats an interesting notion that would see more art-house streamers such as Criterion not just acquiring, but also “actually helping to finance movies that then wind up on their streaming platform — because if [these filmmakers] don’t have the money or the momentum anymore to make them, where are [the streamers] going to get them from?”

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THE DAWN OF “STREAM-CUTTING” Are consumers beginning to reach a saturation point with streaming content? Scott Purdy, U.S. Media Industry Leader, KPMG U.S., examines the question.


you’re like me, those initial weeks and months of the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic were spent inside to a large degree, passing the time by binge-watching content on Netflix or Disney+. Fast-forward to today, and it’s now a challenging time for streaming providers who are experiencing slower subscriber growth and intense competition. As consumers continue to venture outdoors for travel, entertainment, and other activities after two years spent largely isolating at home, I believe that we are now entering a period of “stream-cutting” — where consumers are beginning to decrease the number of streaming services that they subscribe to. Does this mean streamers are consigned to negative subscriber growth in 2022? Not at all. In fact, the U.S. market will still grow in terms of overall subscribers, and the opportunities remain immense for such services. So as we look at the back half of 2022 and look ahead to 2023, two key questions facing streaming services are: how did we arrive at this point and what does the market look like going forward?

HOW DID WE GET HERE? The pandemic accelerated demand for streaming services by several years, and we are now dealing with the harsh reality of over-saturation, with slow or even no growth for many services. We essentially find ourselves in “2025” already in terms of subscriber penetration, and forecasts will need to adjust accordingly. This stream-cutting (or consolidation of streaming spend) phenomenon is driven by a few key trends: • Inflation, including the rising prices of services; • Fatigue/overload, as people have binged content for more than two years; • Pent-up demand and greater competition for people’s time with travel, dining, and other experiences now possible; and • The greater variety and quality of free, ad-supported services. 014

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HOW WILL THE MARKET REACT? Against this backdrop, consolidation will happen, and we are already seeing it. Streaming services are either folding into one another, consolidating through M&A, or even shutting down. One can name at least two examples in each of the aforementioned categories in the last 18 months, and we can expect to see more. There’s simply no room for 10 services with 50-100 million subs in the U.S. With that in mind, here are some important considerations for companies offering streaming content and services: • Revisit content budgets, because there’s so much content out there and it’s not driving subscriptions as effectively as it once was. Inflation is also driving a need to be more efficient with production dollars. • Double down on customer-churn prevention and reduction measures such as promotions, loyalty programs, return to weekly episodes for some key franchises, etc. • Take a hard look at customer acquisition costs to see how various channels are performing. This may mean changing the marketing mix and strategy for acquisition. • Consider striking up partnerships to enable bundling with other services to enhance marketability. • On the operations and tech side, there are likely consolidation and efficiency opportunities within the technology stack, platforms, systems, and the way the streaming service itself is distributed. Finally, streaming providers are already looking at ways to better monetize their audiences. Advertising is obviously the biggest and easiest avenue to go down for subscription-based streaming services. Others will try such things as gaming, increased consumer product and merchandise tie-ins, and even live events and experiences. I would also recommend streaming services look into NFTs and the Metaverse as opportunities — both shortand long-term — to both increase audience engagement and also for the purposes of monetization and loyalty. While streaming services face a multitude of challenges, much opportunity still remains. We are likely at the dawn of a new, exciting era — in fact, 100 million subs were added in the U.S. from March of 2020 until the end of 2021, which will likely go down as the largest subscriber-add period we’ll see. Just as we are adjusting to a new normal in all aspects of our lives, we’ll have a new normal in the streaming world. We have a lot to be optimistic about in the streaming landscape, and the providers that innovate and take action today can position themselves to succeed in the future. The views expressed are those of the author alone and do not necessarily represent those of KPMG LLP.

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By John Smithson


orgive the UK-centric focus of this piece, but things are happening here that could resonate across the non-scripted world. The creative industries have been among the UK’s few recent economic success stories, contributing billions to the nation’s economy and performing considerably better than other business sectors. UK television producers, a key part of the creative economy, have been adept at sustaining their domestic work, building international production relationships (especially in the U.S.), and becoming key suppliers to the streamers. While both Brexit and COVID-19 have undoubtedly presented challenges, production is surging, talent has never been busier, and opportunities have never been greater. Creative regeneration has kept producers at the top of their game. Many of the top names have been acquired and are now part of big media businesses, but new companies emerge each year to start the journey, knowing there is no shortage of big players prepared to snap them up if they show promise. None of this vibrant creativity would have been possible without the bedrock of two high-quality, world-class public service broadcasters — the BBC and Channel 4. They have set high production standards, nurtured talent, and been effective catalysts to hundreds of indies. They have an abundance of creativity, a highly talented workforce, attractive terms of trade and plenty of work to feed so many mouths. The rise of streamers only added to this halcyon scene. For the last few years, the worlds of linear and streaming have coexisted happily in the UK. There’s been enough opportunity to go around. But I fear that is beginning to change, and not for the better. The first cracks are becoming apparent. Healthy coexistence is beginning to show signs of stress under the continuing advancement of SVOD, with all the big players building their UK operations and creating pressure on

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the PSBs to stay in the game. Funding ambitious production and retaining key talent (both on- and off-camera) whilst having to fulfil their public service commitments is taking a toll. To add to the misery, relations between the PSBs and the government of Boris Johnson are not exactly rosy. The BBC has been tussling with governments left and right for decades, but it has always pulled through and kept its independence intact. However, in the current febrile atmosphere, it’s looking a lot tougher. The BBC’s primary funding, the annual license fee, has been frozen for two years, putting real pressure on program budgets. We’re now in highly politicized territory, with the fog of culture wars enveloping the debate about the organization’s future. No one can be sure what will come next, especially given the massive dilemma of how the BBC will be funded. Now, Channel 4 has also become shrouded in the fog. The threat of privatization has been hanging over it for some time, and while it is funded entirely by ad revenue, the government is now committed to a sell-off. There is widespread opposition across the production community, and the legislation might not make it through Parliament.

For the last few years, the worlds of linear and streaming have coexisted happily in the UK. But I fear that is beginning to change.” Will the PSBs become marginalized bit players in a global mega-content business? Many of the big public broadcasters in other countries have been sidelined — can the UK networks stay relevant? Certainly, their recent coverage of the events in Ukraine has done much to help appreciation of their value. And what does this all mean for indies? As always, we roam where the work is. Many indies are already working substantially outside the UK, or bringing in big commissions from SVOD. The reliance on BBC and Channel 4 commissions is not what it was. But I think that the consensus in our business is that a distinctive ecosystem, in which both public broadcasters and streamers thrive, is the best place to be. John Smithson is the creative director of Arrow Pictures, a feature and high-end factual label created out of Arrow, the UK-headquartered indie which he co-founded in 2011.










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Reaching the 100-episode mark is a cause for celebration for unscripted producers and networks alike. But with more content options than ever for audiences to choose from, and less opportunity to grow an audience, that milestone is proving to be more elusive than ever. The Dead Files, from Painless Productions, has aired 14 seasons over its decade-plus run on Travel Channel.


or more than 60 years, the threshold of 100 episodes has been a major milestone for TV series, signaling a show’s longevity and popularity. The mark has long been seen as important for a series to have enough content to rerun episodes in syndication. But it’s also a signal of a series successfully finding an audience and maintaining that viewership for several years. Reality, factual and unscripted series throughout the past several decades such as Survivor, The Bachelor, Cops and Hell’s Kitchen have all hit that milestone, and then some. But in the modern TV landscape, with more options competing for viewers’ attention than ever and the influx of


By Andrew Jeffrey

streaming platforms, some producers and executives in the industry believe it’s not as easy for series to hit 100 episodes as it was even 10 or 15 years ago. “FLOOD OF CONTENT” As CEO and founder of Monami Entertainment, Mona ScottYoung has served as an executive producer on many series, most notably the Love & Hip Hop franchise. The various iterations of the series have totaled hundreds of episodes. Through her 15+ years in the business, Scott-Young says she’s

noticed it’s absolutely more difficult for a series to hit 100 episodes today than it was earlier in her career. “It’s even harder to get things on air and get things greenlit because it’s so competitive out there with all of the different platforms now,” Scott-Young says. “So the bar just keeps getting raised. It’s more and more challenging to get things past development and into greenlight to series. And then the ability to come back, to capture and hold the audience’s attention, is probably more challenging now

than it’s ever been because of the flood of content.” She adds that the bingewatching phenomenon has played a role in this as well. Viewers can go through an entire season of television in one night, and still be hungry for more. But because of the turnaround time needed to produce the next season of a series, viewers may have already moved on to other titles by the time more episodes are released. Painless Productions founder Jim Casey is the series creator of The Dead Files, a paranormal 019




investigation series that debuted in 2011 and has aired more than 200 episodes, and he agrees that it’s becoming more difficult to hit the 100-episode milestone. He says that when his series first aired, networks were looking for series that could run “as close to forever as possible.” But now he thinks that mindset has shifted. “We’re all moving towards streaming, and streamers, as we know, embrace a slightly different business model than cable and broadcast,” Casey says. “They’re mostly focused on increasing subscribers, and viewers who haven’t subscribed yet are more likely to be attracted by something new that’s not already on the service. “So I think the series that break even 100 episodes, much less 200, are going to become more and more rare, because the business model is changing.” Over the course of his career, veteran executive producer and president of Jupiter 020

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Entertainment Patrick Reardon has worked on series such as Project Runway and Snapped that have hit 100 episodes. He maintains that it has always been difficult for series to break out and find audiences, and with the barrage of content viewers face today it’s next to impossible now, he says. Reardon cites Oxygen’s longrunning true-crime franchise Snapped as an example of a series not being an overnight success, and taking time to find its audience. “The issue that I see now is that most of these networks, most of these platforms, will not tolerate anything other than a runaway hit from day one,” Reardon says. “So it is very, very, very difficult, if not impossible, to allow a series like Snapped to get to the point where it can even find an audience. The initial orders are much smaller, so maybe you’re getting six or eight weeks, six

or eight episodes to find your audience with less promotion than ever in a sea of options — more options than audiences have ever had. Anything short of a runaway hit from the first episode, and the networks lose faith very quickly.” Reardon says producers need to have more of an honest conversation with buyers to set realistic expectations for new titles, especially ones that aren’t celebrity-led or big spectacles. Even a series that became a widely watched staple of reality TV like Project Runway took time to develop into a success, he notes. GETTING THERE Still, while these producers say the 100-episode landmark is becoming more difficult to hit, it’s not impossible. Rob Sharenow is seeing the shift in the TV landscape firsthand. The president

The issue that I see now is that most of these networks, most of these platforms, will not tolerate anything other than a runaway hit from day one.” of programming at A+E Networks says that his group of nets still seeks repeatable unscripted series that can run for 100 episodes or more, even as he notes it’s getting more difficult for titles to cut through to audiences.

“There’s so much content, so many choices, so many platforms. But I also think the flip side of that is viewers are craving clarity. They are craving familiarity,” Sharenow says. “When you’re in a sea of choices, having a couple of lighthouses that you know you can rely upon and enjoy, I think, becomes even more valuable.” Looking at the stable of successful, long-running unscripted and reality series at A+E, Sharenow says Leftfield’s Pawn Stars is a prime example of what typically works for building a long-term audience, by combining a strong format with interesting characters. Alternatively, he notes series can sometimes prove surprising in how relatable and repeatable they can be, citing GRB Studios’ Intervention as an example of a program that’s proven to be more universal than he initially expected through its tackling of different kinds of addiction for more than 300 episodes. When it comes to the success of long-running reality franchises such as Love & Hip Hop, ScottYoung says the key is a continuously evolving cast, and access to the whole scope of their lives — their vulnerabilities, fears and growth — that allows audiences to feel like they’re taking a journey with them. “The advent of reality as a genre is, at its core, about pulling the curtain back on a world and exploring the subculture or exploring something that the general population may have some tangential awareness of,” Scott-Young says. “But here’s an opportunity for them to deep dive, and get to know the people living these experiences.”


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There has been a substantial amount of interest and investment in numerous tech advances hyped by some as “game-changers” for the television industry. And those who are exploring and using these technologies say their arrival is not a moment too soon.

By Barry Walsh

Toronto-headquartered Dark Slope is working with motion capture, VR, and AR to develop what it calls “hyperreality” content.


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1928, Scottish inventor John Logie Baird gave a demonstration of what was essentially the first color television transmission at his laboratory in Long Acre, London. It would take more than 25 years for RCA to unveil the first color TV set for consumers, the CT-100. It’s difficult to overstate the impact that color television had on the entertainment industry as a whole. But the fact remains that for every groundbreaking technological innovation that has propelled the medium forward — 4K resolution and streaming come to mind as recent examples — there have been several others that, for whatever reasons, just didn’t click. (Hello, 3D TV.) Still, creative entrepreneurs are consistently drawn to the new. So it shouldn’t be surprising that a number of tech advances bleeding into the entertainment business are generating their fair share of both excitement and skepticism. What might be surprising is that this time, just as with Baird’s efforts, history may prove the hype to be warranted.

TV, NFT, IP The latest acronym to create a stir for content creators and distributors in the TV business and beyond is NFT (non-fungible token). Effectively a digital collectible but also potentially much more, it has been the subject of both breathless evangelism and withering scorn. But in between these two poles, there’s a sizable amount of confusion as to what an NFT actually is, and why anyone in the TV business should give a damn. While we may think the technology exploded out of nowhere, the truth is that, like Baird’s dabbling in color TV transmissions, the arrival of the NFT into mainstream culture has been a slow, shadowy journey. The first minted NFT was created in 2014 by digital artist Kevin McCoy. Called “Quantum,” the pulsing octagon sold for close to US$1.5 million in an auction last year. Indeed, 2021 marked an explosion of activity and corporate interest in the technology from the entertainment world. Of the U.S. broadcast networks, Fox has aggressively entered the space with the formation of Blockchain Creative Labs. Headed by Bento Box Entertainment founder Scott Greenberg, the new division came out of the gate with $100 million in seed funding and has thus far delivered the “MaskVerse,” billed by Fox as the official NFT marketplace and community for The Masked Singer. Banijay-owned Bunim/Murray Productions, meanwhile, established a partnership with tech firm Virtual Arts to create Wonderfuel, a joint venture designed to develop unscripted content that will be funded through the sale of related NFTs. Audience “investors” who purchase the tokens will gain access to prizes and fan experiences, and can even have creative input on the projects.

Sneaky Big Studios provides virtual production work for clients ranging from awards shows to unscripted series.


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Dubai-based MContent bills itself as a content platform that was formed with the intent of enabling crowdfunding of film and TV projects via cryptocurrency. Earlier this year, the company teamed up with PriceWaterhouseCoopers in the Middle East to design an “immersive cinema experience” within the giant virtual playground known as the Metaverse. Dubbed the Cinemaverse, it hosted a global showing of Ripple vs. SEC, a doc produced with Insight TV and Villain Studios that centers on the legal battle between blockchain company Ripple Labs and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. MContent, led by founder Umair Masoom, has an ambitious mission: to fund up to 100 projects this year using its crypto-based platform. Still, despite the excitement in some circles, and the considerable amount of cash moving in the space — a study from and L’Atelier BNP Paribas said NFT sales reached a whopping $17.7 billion in 2021 — there are plenty of naysayers predicting a dotcom-bubble-sized burst any day now. Indeed, at the time of this writing, the cryptocurrency market has been exceedingly volatile. But beyond the promise of a big payoff, those like Masoom and Greenberg who are operating at the intersection of crypto and entertainment tout the technology as an innovative approach to both building fan communities and extending franchises beyond broadcast. For content creators, meanwhile, the ability to store rights information and royalty tracking within the blockchain could also be attractive.


BRAVE NEW WORLDS Naysayers are par for the course in the entertainment industry, according to Raja Khanna, co-founder and CEO of extended reality content company Dark Slope and former CEO of television and digital at Blue Ant Media. “My whole career has been defined by that divide,” he says. “There are always the people who will say, ‘Y’know, I’m just a few years from retirement so I’m going to keep doing what I do.’ And that’s fine. But there is always that other group that wants to innovate.” For Toronto-headquartered Dark Slope, that innovation revolves around the burgeoning world of virtual production. For several years, LED walls, motion capture and game-engine pipelines were the domain of scripted entertainment and major VFX shops, but increasingly, companies such as Dark Slope and Scottsdale, Arizona-based Sneaky Big Studios are bringing virtual production to unscripted programming in myriad forms. “The Mandalorian became the poster child for virtual production,” Khanna says. “The ideas are very simple — use an LED wall for the desert instead of flying your whole crew there. It saves a lot of money and time, and it looks great. “The part that is going to be accelerated, perhaps a little bit by COVID but more by the shift with the big streaming platforms, 026

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The idea of sitting in front of a two-dimensional screen as my primary form of entertainment is under threat.”



is that everyone is looking to reimagine big unscripted formats,” he adds. “In the unscripted world there are a lot of tired formats. It’s ready to be shaken up.” As an example, Khanna points towards a staple of broadcast television’s unscripted fare, the physical competition series. “From a showrunning point of view, when you can have an obstacle course in a show, and Guenther that course can exist in the Metaverse and defy physics and can really be anything, of course it’s going to open up new creative possibilities,” he enthuses. “Storytellers are From a financial and slowly but surely going to get creative standpoint, working educated on this, and are with a virtual set over a going to become very for its Realscreen Awards virtual edition), it’s excited about it.” not just the big, loud formats that can benefit physical one simply has Khanna maintains there is a from virtual production technology. Especially several inherent advantages wealth of virtually produced given that the pandemic is still capable of for a large range of project programming currently in throwing monkey wrenches into shooting development, and predicts schedules, the ability to shoot cast members in types and sizes.” that some of the more different locations but slot them into a virtual explosive ideas might make it set could be a show-saver. to air by next year. “From a financial and creative standpoint, working with a virtual set over a But as Scottsdale’s Sneaky Big has proven physical one simply has several inherent advantages for a large range of project via its clientele (which has included Realscreen, types and sizes,” says Sneaky Big CEO Marianne Guenther via email. Established

ONEXTRA PRINT Realscreen 2022 EE outlined FINA.pdf 1 2022-05-09 4:17:00 PM











in 2016, the company has seen an exponential increase in demand for virtual production since the onset of the pandemic, and has ramped up its capabilities considerably with the installation of a 65foot xR Stage LED Volume, in addition to an arsenal that includes Disguise XR equipment (which allows for live multi-cam virtual set technology), an Opti-Track tracking system, and design and VR/AR software such as Unreal Engine and Brainstorm. “For example, working with a virtual set designer allows for greater flexibility and speed in creating an immersive environment that matches or exceeds a physical setting or location,” she says. “Another benefit of virtual productions compared to on-location productions is not being subjected to the time of day or weather elements, i.e.,

The influence of gaming is propelling the need for innovative unscripted production techniques.

having an unlimited ‘golden hour.’ Shooting on an LED volume also reduces the need for extensive post-production, getting your content out the door faster.” According to Khanna, there are other important factors driving the push towards

virtual production, with perhaps the key one being TV’s competition for time share with other mediums — most notably gaming. A Deloitte digital media trends survey and its accompanying report from this year cast into sharp

relief the growing impact of gaming on the screen-time equation. More than 80% of respondents to the survey said they played, with Gen Z and millennials racking up the most time at 11 to 13 hours per week and Gen X close behind at 10 hours per week. Close to half



of the respondents said gaming took time away from other entertainment activities. The advent of the Metaverse — the growing digital ecosystem that encompasses fully virtual worlds, the ability to mix the digital world with the physical, and a focus on social interactivity and immersive experiences — has seen a plethora of major media companies staking out space and attempting to marry the interaction and excitement inherent in gaming with other mediums. Live, in-game events featuring top musical artists such as Travis Scott have drawn millions. And it’s not just a world for kids anymore: several studies have shown that the average age of a gamer is 35. While many content distributors and producers have been looking at the Metaverse for its exhibition capabilities, Khanna says it’s

imperative that the focus shifts from presenting to creating. “It’s not an accident that Netflix is getting into gaming,” he says. “The idea of sitting

creators to a different way of delivering entertainment? “What’s going to stop me and my six friends from creating avatars and acting out a story

in front of a two-dimensional screen as my primary form of entertainment is under threat. People should take that very seriously and ask themselves, how are we going to adapt as

in the Metaverse, and cutting it afterwards?” he posits. “You can move the camera after the fact, record all the data, recut it and create a show that you can then upload on whatever service.”

Returning to the color-TV analogy, just as the explosion of television ended the dominance of radio as the primary form of entertainment media, there are those who feel that the perfect storm of technologies beginning to disrupt the production, distribution and funding of content will potentially render television itself irrelevant. For those we talked to, however, the demise of TV isn’t a foregone conclusion — but they also stressed that, as always, adaptation is essential. “We’re not talking about the television industry coming into this world and becoming the leaders in this,” sums up Khanna. “It’s more like, ‘Do you want to come and join the unstoppable train over there, or not?’ Because that train is going to start making things that look and smell like television, and people are going to watch them.”

Join the global unscripted and non-fiction content industry in Austin, Texas to celebrate the Realscreen Summit’s 25th anniversary.









23 26 to

s u m m i t .rea l s c re e n.c om We look forward to marking this special occasion with you.


EVP, Unscripted Content NBCUniversal

Rod Aissa

SVP, Global Head of Distribution VICE Media

VP Original Content/Unscripted Tubi

Noah Pollack

Katie Maloney

Grant Mansfield

Allison Page

Laura Palumbo Johnson

Dawn Porter

Amy Winter

Jin Woo Hwang

Chief Executive & Founder Plimsoll Productions

Bo Stehmeier CEO Off The Fence

Bea Hegedus

President Magnolia Network

Tiffany Williams

EVP, Unscripted Programming & Development BET Networks

Partner Magilla Entertainment

EVP, Head of Programming Lifetime Networks

Agent, Alternative TV CAA

Founder & Director Trilogy Films

Founder & President / Executive Producer SOMETHING SPECIAL Board Member Frapa (Format Recognition and Protection Association)


By Justin Anderson


When discussing the tenacity needed to be a filmmaker, director Mira Nair framed it this way: “The challenge for all of us is to have the heart of a poet and the skin of an elephant.” From framing the shot to finding the funding, obstacles can appear from every corner. But while doc-making may not be a vocation for the faint of heart, it is one that thankfully attracts emerging talents. And these filmmakers, with their unique perspectives, not only uncover important subjects, but also rejuvenate the genre itself. Here, Realscreen profiles four filmmakers we think you’ll be seeing a lot more from. Free Chol Soo Lee is the debut feature doc from Julie Ha and Eugene Li.







REID DAVENPORT Reid Davenport was named to DOC NYC’s “40 Filmmakers Under 40” in 2020 on the strength of such shorts as Ramped Up and A Cerebral Game, which took a decidedly political stance on the topic of disabilities. His first feature documentary, I Didn’t See You There, literally puts audiences in his shoes — and his wheelchair — as he deals with his own frustrations while also exploring the history of human “freak shows” after a circus tent goes up near his home. I Didn’t See You There earned Davenport the directing award in the U.S. Documentary Competition at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival, and also won the Grand Jury Award at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival.

MIDSOMER MURDERS pati’s mexican table

This is your debut feature, but you’ve made shorts that also dealt with how society treats people with disabilities. What did you bring from those projects to I Didn’t See You There? This may sound a little too romantic or too cheesy, but I really brought myself. I think that all these projects were very much adjacent to where I was in my life as a person in general and as a person with a disability. So in my first [short] film, Wheelchair Diaries, which explores accessibility in Europe, I was still awakening to the inaccessibility that plagues society as I was also reacting to the inability to study abroad in college. I did a film about baseball a few years ago [A Cerebral Game] where I explored these kind of examples of adolescent heartbreak that I still hadn’t really let go of, and that kind of allowed me to let go of it. With I Didn’t See You There, I was grappling with being across the country from my family and making it out into the world as a late-twenty/earlythirtysomething [person] and the kind of independence that that takes — how it can be solitary and how disability does or doesn’t affect that solitude.

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Why was this the story you chose to tell for your first feature documentary? It started with the aesthetics of it. I wanted to make a film that I shot from my wheelchair. I want to show how beautiful it is to ride around the city in a wheelchair. And then the circus tents went up across from where we were shooting and I gathered all of these microaggressions, and — oh yeah — P.T. Barnum is from my hometown. I think the idea was totally half-baked throughout production [laughs], I wasn’t really sure where it was going. And for a documentary film, many times the story is found in the edit — this was no different.


How similar did you find the process of making a feature compared to the shorts you’ve made? It was interesting, because I found that the short films that I’ve made, where they are more personal, were very cathartic, and felt good. This was a little different: it had me feeling a degree of vulnerability that I had never felt before. I had also never worked with an editor before, and I never had the fundraising traction that I had with this [film] before. When an artist tells stories from a specific community or perspective, particularly more than once, they can sometimes be typecast, for lack of a better word. Is that a concern that you have? Yes! I went to grad school after my first film… I did one short that wasn’t about disability, and then all the rest were about disability. And it was a real mental dilemma for me until I had a conversation with my professor about it, and she said, “Well, what about Marlon Riggs?” And Marlon Riggs, all of his films were about being African American and gay. And she didn’t know this, but Marlon Riggs was one of my favorite filmmakers, and I didn’t see his films as derivative, I didn’t see him as “typecast,” I saw him as one of the most innovative documentary filmmakers to ever live. So that kind of perspective allowed me to further embrace the topics that I am drawn to.

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Reid Davenport’s I Didn’t See You There earned him a documentary directing award at Sundance in 2022.

When people in underrepresented communities tell their stories it can make some people uncomfortable, or lead to a perception of being confrontational. Is that something you’ve dealt with? Yeah. So there’s people who think I’m a jerk, and maybe I am really a jerk, I don’t know. Maybe it’s because I am confrontational. I don’t like to be confrontational, I don’t like to come across as bitter or a snobby liberal, but if that’s what I have to do in order to point stuff out, then that’s what I’ll do.


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character, we never had a chance to interview him ourselves. And so we had to rely on the archival material we could find, as well as some written memoirs that he left behind and letters.

JULIE HA & EUGENE YI Free Chol Soo Lee tells the story of a young Korean immigrant who was arrested in 1973 and convicted of murder based on flimsy evidence. The story caught the attention of journalist K.W. Lee, who inspired a grassroots pan– Asian American movement to win Chol Soo Lee’s freedom. The film marks the feature debut from filmmakers Julie Ha and Eugene Yi, who both had extensive careers in media and journalism prior to this project and had previously collaborated in print. Free Chol Soo Lee was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, and has since been acquired by Mubi. This feels like a big story for your first full-length documentary. Julie Ha: Yes, it was a very ambitious story to tackle for our first documentary film. I don’t think we had thought about that before jumping in. We literally felt like the story beckoned us. We’ve known about the Chol Soo Lee case for quite a long time through a journalist named K.W. Lee, who’s in the film — he’s a very influential figure in both of our lives. For me personally, I met him when I was 18 years old and he inspired me to 040

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become a journalist. When you learn about a case of a young Korean immigrant man who was wrongfully convicted of murder in the 1970s and a movement of Asian Americans comes and saves him, that type of story really stays with you, and you understand the impact it can have. Eugene Yi: I think first films are often personal films in one way or another… And even though this is sort of a big historical story, I think for both of us it really feels like a personal film as well, just because of our relationships with the people who were involved with the case — some of which were pre-existing, like with K.W., and some of which really developed over the course of time while we were working on it. So it feels like a very personal story for both of us that way.

making devices ultimately, but to see how the people in our story made meaning of what had happened strikes at something so deeply human that we [all experience] as we go through our lives.

JH: It is big. And the weight of the responsibility and telling such an important story, I think, was part of our nightmares for many years What were your goals for the [laughs]. But at the same project in terms of telling Chol time, we also knew it was an Soo Lee’s story? incredible honor and privilege EY: I think that Chol Soo to be able to explore this Lee’s story represents — and story and share it. I think one I think we don’t get as much big thing was we knew for of an opportunity as Asian a long time that we wanted Americans to see — this sort of to center the film on Chol complex story that doesn’t have Soo Lee’s voice, and making an easy takeaway, and [we sure he had agency and was have] to try and make meaning able to tell his own story, but of it. Stories are meaningobviously, as a deceased main

The film really shows how much Chol Soo Lee grappled with this sense of responsibility to the Asian American community. Was that feeling of responsibility something you could connect with making the film? JH: Yes, definitely. And then Eugene, one of the activists actually said that to us, right? After the film was finished and she saw it, she actually said that… It [had been] more than six years that we’vd been working on this, and we absolutely could feel that. And that’s just a fraction — a tiny, tiny fraction — of what Chol Soo Lee experienced, we can’t even compare. The weight of telling the story of Chol Soo Lee “was part of our nightmares for many years,” says filmmaker Julie Ha.

What kind of unforeseen challenges did you face making the film? EY: We really couldn’t keep filming after [the start of the pandemic], and we had planned on filming more interviews, we were planning on filming even some stylized recreations for certain plot points, but all that stopped… It forced us to really dive deeper into the archival and embrace that as the identity of the film, grammatically, formally. So as we were cutting we just kept paring away material that was not archival, that was the footage that we had shot, and we just found that the archival gained so much more power because of that.

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In a project like this you’re telling the story of these characters, but you’re also spotlighting underground ballroom culture. How have you sought to balance these two elements? I think the biggest challenge is being able to convey to people quickly what ballroom is about, because it’s really quite complex. And a lot of people have watched Pose and quite a lot of people have watched Legendary and Paris Is Burning, but not everyone has. And I think that is the first barrier to get across: there’s a lot of insider terms, and it’s quite complex. Beyond that, their stories as people, really, they tell themselves. They have so many amazing things happening in their lives, it just becomes more of a choice of what to focus on so that the story is understandable and flows.


In your film you’re following people who are taking inspiration from a group of pioneers, in terms of gender and sexual expression, from the ballroom subculture of the 1970s and ‘80s. What’s it been like documenting people that often don’t feel like they fit in, who were being inspired by this other group that also didn’t fit in, but who took control of their narrative? I still haven’t found the words. I’m shaken, I’m touched in an amazing way. There was a moment in my recent shoot last month, I was in Malaysia with Teddy [one of the subjects]… we were watching Kiki [a documentary by director Sara Jordenö], and when we stopped, when we finished watching, Teddy was almost in tears and said, “My story is real. Other people have my experiences, I’m not alone.” And [it was] the first time that they were feeling something like this, it was just so incredible to witness that, to be there for that.

Artist, choreographer, journalist and filmmaker Sze-wei Chan is in the process of finishing their first feature documentary, Tens Across the Borders, which is being executive produced by Derren Lawford, founder and CEO of Dare Pictures. The film follows three trailblazers in the underground ballroom scenes in Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines, and touches on issues of self-acceptance and found families as the subjects connect with the source of the ballroom scene, the LGBTQ underground of 1970s and ‘80s New York City. Why was Tens Across the Borders the story that you chose to tell with your first feature documentary? It was something I kind of stumbled into. I didn’t realize it was going to be a big deal when I started it. I’ve been making many dance shorts, it was a thing I was already doing, and when my friend’s son approached me and started telling me about all of the people he was meeting and what was happening [in the underground ballroom scene] I got really excited. And I just said, “We have to do this, we have to cover it.” And then when I realized how many countries were involved, I said, “Well, it’s feature-length.” I didn’t really think too much about it, until I had to start raising money — then I was like, “This is a bigger project than I thought it would be” [laughs]. 042

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Tens Across the Borders looks at various underground ballroom scenes.

Where do you hope your film will fit into this sort of continuum of work? I think something that I’m really trying to achieve is to give a portrait of ballroom communities but also of life in Southeast Asia, of very specific individuals and real communities. There are other projects going on around folks in ballroom in different parts of the world, which say, “Let’s go here and look at what’s happening in ballroom in this country.” But I think it’s one thing to do it from an outsider’s perspective… to be like, “I’m coming from New York, I’m coming from the source of ballroom and I’m going to see what you do in your country.” And of course there’s a lot of exoticization happening both ways. But for somebody in this region to be telling stories from this part of the world... our culture is colorful, not because we want it to be beautiful for other people, but because this is how we love it. And that’s where I want this to sit.

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Channing Dungey

Whoopi Goldberg

Alex Kurtzman

Amy Poehler

Chairman, Warner Bros. Television Group

Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony Winner

Producer, Filmmaker, Screenwriter, Director

Actress, Producer, Director, Writer

Maury Povich Talk Show Host, Broadcast Journalist, Newspaper Owner, President–MoPo Productions

Jeff Sagansky Eagle Equity Partner

William Shatner Actor, Director, Producer, Writer, Recording Artist, and Horseman


ealscreen’s DIALOG (diversity, inclusion, accountability, learning, opportunity and growth) program is designed to align mid-level executives who are BIPOC or identify as d/Deaf, disabled or neurodivergent with senior-level mentors who will work with the mentees to guide them to access opportunities and advance their careers. For two years running, 10 executives who applied through the Realscreen DIALOG submission portal have been selected by an advisory board to participate in the mentorship program. Each participant is matched as closely as possible with one of 10 senior-level unscripted or non-fiction content executives who have volunteered their time to the program. Benefits of the program include individualized pairings with mentors expertly positioned to provide actionable feedback on plans and objectives, mentorship as a cohort via three virtual educational workshops facilitated by Realscreen, and complimentary access to all Realscreen events, including networking opportunities (virtual or live) for one year (a minimum of two events: Realscreen Summit 2022 and Realscreen Summit 2023). Here is a look at the mentees selected for the program’s first two cohorts, with biographies provided by the participants.


CREATINGDIALOG DEZI CATARINO is an Emmy-winning filmmaker & creative executive with over 16 years of experience delivering cuttingedge documentary content. Working as a director/producer his aesthetic has shaped the distinct style of content for Netflix, Hulu, Showtime, Spike TV, NFL Network, Spotify and Tidal. At the present time he serves as senior director of content creation at Universal Music Enterprises where his focus is on the development and production of visual content that generates new revenue streams and increases global awareness of UMG artists’ catalogs.

JANAY COPLON is currently the manager of innovation at EDV ( Ellen Digital Ventures), spearheading projects at the intersection of tech and entertainment, including digital, longform, NFTs, documentaries and more. Previous roles include senior producer for the Emmy-winning talk show, The Real, as well as co-executive producer of MGM’s Going to Bed with Garcelle podcast. Janay has had the pleasure of working with companies such as Netflix, Google, Vice, VH1, ABC, and Peloton among others. She is also the co-owner of June Entertainment, a boutique production company that champions emerging artists and creatives.

BRANDY CRAWFORD-URIU is a director of development and programming at the History Channel and is responsible for developing new talent, series, and specials at the network. After a previous sevenyear stint at History on the programming and development team she left to spread her wings in development on the production-company side, selling projects to a multitude of networks and streaming platforms including HGTV, Facebook Watch, BET, TLC and HBO Max. With a skillset now reflective of her experience as an executive with production companies and networks, Brandy is excited to be back at History, working to produce award-winning factual content.

SHANTIQUE DUNKLEY is a seasoned casting and development producer who has a passion and a known track record for telling authentic stories in the world of unscripted. As a casting producer, Shantique has cast dynamic personalities and celebrity talent on series including Love and Hip Hop, Black Ink Crew, Martha Stewart Knows Best, Amazon Prime’s Regular Heroes and many more. Shantique takes pride in mentoring and has fostered relationships with TV’s next generation of youth who are looking to break into the entertainment industry. She currently works at Paramount and is a trusted member of the team as a senior manager of strategic development.


DELORES EDWARDS is a multiple Emmy Award–winning and –nominated producer, writer, and media executive. She is the executive producer and showrunner of Basic Black, PBS’ longest-running news and public affairs program produced by and for communities of color at WGBH in Boston. Under Delores’ leadership, the Basic Black team received the prestigious Boston/New England’s National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Governors’ Award, their highest honor. She previously served as the executive producer and showrunner for Open Studio at WGBH. Delores has also produced content for national programs and networks, including CBS This Morning, Good Morning America, ABC News & News Specials, VH1, BET, and OWN. Her documentary and independent work includes Harlem’s Handmaids, selected for the Reel Sisters NY film festival, and Bathroom, a short screenplay that was a finalist in both the 2019 Wide Screen Film Festival and for the New England Film Star Award.

As senior production manager, branded entertainment, NETTIE FERRARA is responsible for overseeing branded content across HGTV. Nettie started her career in ad sales, then creative, and finally crossed over to production and project management, where she applies her passion for organization and production leadership. Nettie has worked on various projects that have garnered multiple Gold Promax awards. She also won a Daytime Emmy Award for her contribution to the preschool show The Backyardigans when she worked at Nickelodeon.

NICOLE GARCIA is a Texas native/now L.A. transplant, a selfproclaimed pizza aficionado (but also loves a good street taco), and a nerd for all things post-production. She’s worn many hats in post, ranging from assistant editor to post coordinator to her present position as post supervisor at Evolution Media. Efficient workflows and problem-solving are her jam, and collaborating with her post team is where she truly shines. Nicole believes leading from the front benefits all and she aims to build a creative space that’s both safe and fun, even under stressful deadlines. She’s been fortunate to have worked under many women in post-production and has taken on the role of mentor to the women who have followed her, especially women of color. She continues to work to diversify post teams and provide BIPOC access to the tech side of the industry through organizations such as Film2Future.

ALFRED GOMEZ is a Central Texas–based creative developer and producer spearheading a robust original content slate at Blind Nil, an emerging production company housed under Magnolia founded by Chip and Joanna Gaines. In his current role as director of programming and development at Blind Nil, he established and oversees an expansive slate spanning across lifestyle, food, and home and design, as well as branded content and commercial projects. As an integral member of the launch of the production company itself, Alfred has developed and produced a number of series and specials for the highly anticipated premiere of Discovery’s Magnolia Network, with titles including Fixer Upper: Welcome Home, Magnolia Table with Joanna Gaines, First Time Fixer, Art in Bloom with Helen Dealtry and many more.


MAY / JUNE ‘22

With a background in marketing and advertising, CARMEN FORSBERG moved to Vancouver from her native Peru. She’s worked closely with Dolby Canada in the development of HDR software, created and implemented a state-of-theart CGI/VFX post-secondary institute in Lima, Peru, led documentary crews high in the Andes mountains, and currently helms Silverlight Entertainment’s EPK division and international client projects.


As director of content, BGM/Sphere Media, ANDREA GRIFFITH is responsible for development and execution of Sphere Media’s premium/specialist factual, lifestyle and kids slate for the global marketplace. Her progressive leadership style and fierce commitment to story have earned her a unique place in the unscripted space as a manager who can create and executive produce in multiple genres. Currently, Andrea is the EP overseeing 30 episodes of the new, original scripted animation series, Riley Rocket for TVOkids, TFO and SRC . She is also exec producer on two additional premium factual paranormal series. Andrea also works closely with the development team — generating ideas, developing IP and securing talent for an international audience. Prior to joining Sphere Media, Andrea was a production executive at Corus Entertainment for 10 years, where she oversaw the development and production of top-rated original series such as Scott’s Vacation House Rules, Backyard Builds, and Big Food Bucket List for HGTV Canada, Food Network Canada, and Slice.

VALERIE IDEHEN is a seasoned television producer, multi-cam director, development executive, and content creator who has delivered shows for a wide array of networks and platforms, including Lifetime, VH1, WEtv, E!, TLC, Oxygen, SoulPancake, YouTube and So Yummy. She currently serves as director of unscripted development for Propagate Content. She received her start in the business as a department assistant.

VICTORIA HOLDEN is an award-winning producer/director with 20 years’ experience in the broadcast industry at the BBC and ITV. She began working as a journalist, developing a love of current affairs and storytelling. Her passion for filmmaking led her to becoming a producer/ director. Victoria has made a wide variety of factual content and documentaries on a wide range of topics and across the globe. Victoria recently set up her own disability-led Indie to tell diverse, untold stories.

LINA JACKSON was accepted into the prestigious Producing MFA program at AFI and hasn’t looked back. Accepting a position in television syndication at Paramount Pictures working for the president of television, she discovered her love of development and moved over to Wilshire Court Productions to develop MOWs. She then returned to Viacom, taking a position at CBS Paramount Network TV working alongside the EVP of comedy and drama development. She moved over to FremantleMedia North America, working in scripted development and dipping her toe in the unscripted and digital world. She was then snapped up by Viacom to work in non-scripted celebrity development at VH1 and the publicity department at MTV. Lina then moved over to OWN, where she worked in digital, but transitioned back into unscripted development at TBS/TNT. Wanting to hone her production skills further, she took a position working with the EVP of current series and production at Critical Content. Lina has been freelance producing television shows for all the major networks and streamers for the past three years.

Born in France and with roots in Madagascar, CHRYSTELLE MAECHLER is a TV director, producer and screenwriter with experience in various formats and in creating content in French as well as in English. Now based in Toronto, her documentary work has led her to explore a wide range of issues for networks such as Bell Media, Radio-Canada, TV5 UNIS and TFO. She created, wrote and directed three documentary series that were greenlit by Bell Fibe TV1 and are currently touring film festivals around the globe.



SHANE REDSAR is an experienced leader in media with extensive knowledge in social media, production, development, programming and strategy. He has honed his skills from live television shows such as NBC’s The Voice to blockbuster feature films such as Paramount’s Transformers: The Last Knight. Shane has inspired and led his teams to produce chart-topping digital content for shows such as American Idol and Love Island. Currently, Shane is a VP of alternative development and strategy at NEO Studios.


LENA NOZIZWE has been a storyteller since the age of 17, when Seventeen magazine published her story about getting her legs banned in Malawi. Her through-line in her storytelling is that, yes, people are different, and creating stories about those differences makes for entertaining, compelling and sometimes even funny content. Lena’s stories have been featured in a number of outlets, including AJ+, DW, Latino USA, Link TV, CBS, and Fox.

TAYE SHUAYB is a producer and production executive who has an eye for developing great stories and the know-how to get them packaged and delivered. His experience spans narrative, unscripted, and branded content. As executive producer and VP, production at ATTN: he oversees production services from concept to completion for television, streaming, and branded programming. Born and raised on Chicago’s South Side, Taye believes that stories told in culturally relevant ways connect people from all walks of life. He’s especially passionate about developing content that authentically speaks to cultural experiences and elevates underrepresented voices. Some of Taye’s credits include a diverse mix of scripted and unscripted series, docuseries, and broadcast specials such as Girls Room, written by Lena Waithe; Undeniable: The Truth to Remember, hosted by Julianna Margulies for CBS, and a special Black excellence episode for the Hulu series Your Attention Please with Craig Robinson.

AMANDA UPSON left traditional legal practice to produce movies, transitioning from labor and employment law at a large firm to independent producer. Her first film, Magnum Opus, a spy thriller with timely themes, secured wide distribution in 2018. She produced A Long March, a character-driven social justice documentary. She also produced Renegades: Kitty O’Neil (w/t), is attached as series producer for an upcoming digital series, and serves as consulting producer for PBS’ ‘American Masters’ projects. Amanda focuses on advocacy of the underrepresented in front of and behind the camera via producing and consulting, as well as opening up a pipeline for the same. She was named one of Forbes‘ 40 to Watch Over 40, and she is admitted to the bar of the U.S. Supreme Court. Amanda is interim director of FWD-Doc (Filmmakers with Disabilities), and was selected for RespectAbility’s Entertainment Professionals Lab, Summer 2021.

NATASHA SEMONE VASSELL is a notable member of the Canadian Media Producers Association (CMPA), Writers Guild of Canada (WGC), Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television & Radio Artists (ACTRA), Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television (ACCT) and Women in Film and Television (WIFT) in Toronto, Canada. She also sits on the diversity committee for ACTRA Toronto’s local office.

KIPLING WILSON is a development executive with more than 10 years of unscripted television experience. Before his career in the entertainment industry, Kipling worked as a news producer on the East Coast. While covering local events, he became skilled at crafting impactful stories that increased viewership and ratings. When the rush from breaking news faded, Kipling sought a new challenge. Eager to learn the business side of reality TV, he joined the Alternative & Factual Programming department at APA Talent Agency in Beverly Hills. A few years later, Kipling helped develop unscripted series at 3 Ball Entertainment and Entertainment One. In 2017 he opened Kipling Films, an unscripted production company. Kipling is currently shopping shows under his banner. He is also developing content for other production companies, and he is open to new opportunities. 049


CONTACT: Joel Pinto 416.408.0863 •

Off the Fence Herengracht 105, 1015 BE Amsterdam Netherlands Tel: +31205200222 Contact:

Military Masterminds History – 4 x 60’ Behind every military conflict is a mastermind, whose brilliance on the battlefield leaves an impressive legacy. From the frontlines of WW2 to the guerrilla movements of revolutions; from Churchill to Castro. Evil or genius, these men were undeniably skilful in their ability to strategise. We learn about these men and the events that led to victory. How they used technology, intelligence, and logistics to organize armies. With archival footage, graphics, historians, and military experts, we relive the most technically gripping battles from history and investigate the masterminds behind them. A CIC Production for Off the Fence Studios Wild Hope Nature & Wildlife – 8 x 30’ ‘Wild Hope’ is a series of cinematic, short films profiling real people at work restoring and protecting our planet. Each episode aims to inspire audiences with the story of intrepid changemakers taking action to solve fundamental threats in our environment. Set in some of the world’s most beautiful and epic locations, our 8 short films show how small actions can lead to large-scale solutions. Through bold interventions, unexpected alliances, and innovative science, these agents of change are making a positive impact. It’s not the point of view we usually get when talking about Earth’s problems today, but it’s one that can help change the world. A production of HHMI Tangled Bank Studios and Part2 Pictures in co-production with Wild Elements. Butterflies: Superheroes of Nature Nature & Wildlife – 3 x 60’ or 1 x 90’ With names like blue morpho, red admiral, death’s head hawkmoth, small emperor moth, and comma, butterflies make up nature’s own team of superheroes. Some can beat their wings over distances of more than 10 000 kilometres. Others can take on the appearance of an owl to scare off enemies. These cunning, shape shifting avengers of nature are also blessed with incredible beauty. This series, filmed using techniques specially adapted to this fleeting and elusive species, takes us on a stunning journey of discovery to explore their unknown superpowers. You will never look at butterflies the same way again! A Pernel Media Production


1353427378 – Cumbre Vieja volcano eruption, Spain, 2021

With over 477 million video, still and audio assets — and a new production team to help make sense of it all — Getty Images is ready to help filmmakers turn their creative visions into reality. By Brendan Christie

Stories from the source Getty Images is one of those companies that have transcended the industry. You don’t even have to be a filmmaker or a creative to know the name. But the “Images” moniker no longer really tells the whole story. Getty Images does so much more. In fact, in the last few decades it has grown to be one of the largest and most comprehensive sources for film and video covering creative, editorial and archival content. Getty Images was founded 27 years ago by Mark Getty and Jonathan Klein. Since then, the collection has grown to include over 477 million assets, encompassing just about every topic and era you can imagine. New content is being added daily, with approximately 8 to 10 million new assets added each quarter. On the moving-images front alone, Getty Images’ online video collection now contains more than 19 million clips and is growing rapidly. To help that growth along, Getty Images employs over 100 staff photographers and videographers, and works with more than 450,000 contributors. In fact, the company pioneered the content partner model, and now serves as distributor for 300-plus outlets — think Sony Pictures Entertainment, Universal Studios, NBC News Archives, Paramount Pictures, ITN and BBC Motion Gallery. Or, consider media names such as Bloomberg, Sky News and AFP. The Getty Images editorial teams aim to be the leading source for content from live events, adding footage and images from more than 160,000 news, sports and entertainment events every year. S50

“We’re constantly evolving and growing in terms of what we have,” observes Lee Shoulders, Director of Content Partnerships. “So, although somebody may think that they know what we have, that could change at any time as we bring on new content.” Sometimes, she notes, that’s the everyday — maybe it’s something like street scenes from London in the 1960s that have never been seen before, or a new and better transfer of existing materials. It might be footage that was specifically created for stock use by one of Getty Images’ creative partners, or material originally crafted for a different purpose which the owners hadn’t considered monetizing before. Regardless of where the material comes from, Shoulders says Getty Images’ doors are wide open and the team is eager to work with footage-holders. It’s about finding the most creative and interesting stories, she explains, no matter the origin. “Sometimes, footage owners are sitting on content and haven’t even considered that there’s another life beyond what it was meant for originally,” she says. “We can help bring new life to that content — we can help our users or customers re-contextualize it. We can help it get out there into the world.” A recent example underlines her point. Getty Images has been representing material on behalf of the Harold Anderson family for decades. Based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Anderson captured everyday life in the Greenwood district, otherwise known as Black Wall Street. Filmed between 1948 and 1952, Anderson’s

footage stands as a rare time capsule and the only known footage to exist of Greenwood’s vibrant rebirth following the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921. “We had that content for about 20 years, and the original film is at the Smithsonian,” says Shoulders. “But, in the past year, we received a call from the family. They had found some more film in the back of their closet. So we did a film transfer because it was on 16-millimetre film. And, because we’re in touch with the family, we were able to do a write-up of the backstory. “You would think people would be checking their basements and attics all the time, but surprisingly, things are still sitting there waiting to be discovered.”


In fact, there’s so much new and existing material being created and uncovered that Getty Images launched a North American Production team this past year to help filmmakers navigate the archive’s offering and fully flesh out their creative ideas. “We’ve seen an escalation in terms of volume — increases in the sheer numbers of projects,” says Lyndon Umali, Director of the North American Production team. He surmises that a lot of it has to do with the rise of streamers and the massive volume of content required to feed those digital platforms. Then there was the impact of the pandemic, shutting down film shoots for more than a year. Regardless of the cause, Getty Images wanted to be in a place to help with the need.


“The uptick really pointed to the need for us to organize ourselves in a way where we could best meet the demands and service all these productions,” he says. “We just want to provide the best possible working relationship and experience with Getty Images for this community of filmmakers and creators.” The new division brings together Getty Images’ most seasoned experts in the licensing, creative research and product space. Between them, Getty Images aims to set itself up to be more of a creative partner instead of a supplier. Umali underlines that the main focus for the teams starts and ends with the story — they focus their efforts on ensuring that the narratives of any given project are told accurately and thoroughly, and the team’s approach starts from a place of creativity and accessibility. “It really becomes more like a working partnership with our team,” he says of the offering, “like we’re an extension of the production, functioning to deliver on the content needs of the show. “We have product specialists and a research team gathering material based on cues from the production,” he adds. “You might have specific needs for a particular sequence or it could be more expansive research on an overall project — like a documentary series on a particular subject within a time frame. Our team becomes an extension, working on behalf of those cues and requests coming from the team.” And sometimes, he notes, it’s the unexpected threads that yield the best results — a client comes in looking for specific footage or to fill a certain need, but the research uncovers something related but unexpected in a complementary collection. That’s the kind of thing that can happen when researchers are vested in a production and not just filling requests. “We’re always most impactful when we’re able to have more high-level discussions around specific projects or full production slates at the outset, rather than it being an afterthought in terms of, ‘This is a gap we’re trying to fill in post,’” he notes. Therefore, his advice for filmmakers who are considering working with the archive is to start conversations as early as possible. You just never know what creative gems lurk within Getty Images’ more than 477 million assets — but now there’s a dedicated team in place who can help. “We’re trying to tell stories with our content,” sums up Shoulders. “We want to let people know what we have.”

1175706913 – Fire in peatland, Indonesia

932169076 – Iguana amongst greenery, Gulf Coast

1167529983 – Icebergs, Ilulissat, Greenland

102687752 – Mountainscape, Argentina

1326392446 – Aerial view, San Gabriel River, Azusa, California

450032212 – American Flamingoes

mr_00029981 – Firefight, South Vietnam, 1967

1289865418 – Black Lives Matter march, Vancouver, WA, 2020

1353428802 – Lava flows, La Palma, Spain

1351421809 – Oil fields, Kern County, California



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By Barry Walsh

With more buyers in the mix than ever before, conventional wisdom says there’s more opportunity for all suppliers in the content creation chain. Here, we explore the current trends impacting one crucially important link in that chain — production music — through the perspectives of three music house executives.

Another trend we are seeing, which may also be due to the influence and impact of streaming, is the rise of both the limited series (two to three episodes) and reduced episode counts for a typical season (six eps, tops). Does that have a creative or business impact on what you do? It doesn’t seem to have a huge impact on us. The overall amount of programming, and therefore music usage, has not gone down. There are simply more unique programs with shorter individual runs. However, the most lucrative music placements have always been long-standing theme songs. They are reliable, predictable, and extremely cost-effective. So if we are making more unique tracks rather than repeating a single asset, in theory, our spends go up a bit.

The influx of buyers has led to a demand for more content, naturally. Has it been an increasingly busy time for the company? Are there any significant differences in dealing with the streaming side of the industry than the linear side? Are they mainly differences from a business angle, or are there significant differences in the creative process too? We certainly have seen an uptick in requests, and those are increasingly coming from streaming providers. From a business standpoint, the biggest difference is now where the syncs are coming from. From a creative standpoint, it’s business as usual. Our goal is to provide the best music for the request as possible.



With the advent of major global streaming services, some have said there has been an increased demand across mediums for more “premium”sounding music, both from an original scoring and library perspective. Have you noticed this, and to what do you attribute it? Yes! I definitely agree that the onset of more global content brought on by streaming services is driving a premium music trend across programming. Streaming services have fought to gain legitimacy in their original content, and in doing so they’ve put an emphasis on high-level music quality. The rest of the cable and broadcast networks have in turn been pushing to do the same. Television has long been pushing towards rivaling the quality of large-scale cinema, and streaming services such as Apple TV+, HBO Max, and Amazon are further compounding that trend.

With the advent of the global streaming company and content being “glocalized” for different territories, are you seeing an increased call for localized versions of scores, themes or other musical content? There is definitely a trend towards regionally authentic music for many reasons, which is also supported by an increase in global content. SARAHAUMENT On the flip side, general creative Director of Creative Services music trends are becoming more Jingle Punks globalized as well. Metaphorically New York speaking, the fabric is more diverse than ever but the larger design reflects a globalized trend. I’ve found that we are creating more synergy across sub-publishers and leaning on them as a resource for both distribution and localized content thanks to a more globalized world. What non-fiction/unscripted genres seem to be hot right now, in terms of the demand for your content? What libraries are heating up for you currently? Love and relationships are hot topics for many of our clients right now in this space. Competition, home renovation, and classic documentary series are certainly still abundant, but we have found that dating and self-improvement shows have been excited about featuring vocal music in a way that is much more prevalent now than in previous unscripted content. This uptick in requests for vocal songs that sound like they could be on a major-label record also speaks to your first question. Any other trends worth noting? Maybe it’s wishful thinking, but I feel like vintage music is becoming a sought-after sound these days. With the modern premium sound of Top 40 radio hits starting to saturate the market, vintage music speaks to a more “curated” and unique approach. I wouldn’t be surprised if obscure mixing/mastering styles of the last century sneak more and more into critically acclaimed scores and soundtracks over the coming years.



With the advent of major global streaming services, some have said there has been an increased demand across mediums for more “premium”sounding music, both from an original scoring and library perspective. Have you JONATHANPARKS noticed this? Executive Producer/Founder For us, it’s been a great Alibi Music thing — the streamers and the Los Angeles premium pay networks are looking for very high-quality and very interesting sound design and music, and now everyone is following their lead and trying to up their game. So on our end we’re seeing a lot of people coming to us, different vendors, looking for more “premium” sounds. Those could be newer streaming networks or the premier cable providers we’ve been working with. Then there’s the rise of both the limited series and reduced episode counts for a typical season. Does that have a creative or business impact on what you do? For us, honestly, it just means there’s more content being created. We work on shows that are six and done, and then we’ll move on to work on other shows. There’s so much of a demand for content that it’s amazing that anyone can keep up with it, really. With the advent of the global streaming company and content being “glocalized” for different territories, are you seeing an increased call for localized versions of scores, themes or other musical content? We’ve been pretty good at producing content with the local flavors from around the world, but we definitely want to do more of that as well as more adapting of the current music we have, whether it’s translating lyrics into other languages or adding instrumentation for different markets. Music for other territories is still quite modern [like] what we’re used to hearing in the States, but it does have instrumentation that makes it distinctive for that local territory. Are there any growth markets that you expect to see more demand from in this area? Definitely with India we’re seeing lots of interest from local networks, as well as from network groups and streamers doing business with other territories. With this increase in demand for “premium”-style music, does that impact the budget for production music in any way? One thing that I don’t think will ever change is that music seems to be the last thing people think of when they’re writing a budget, yet it’s one of the most important things when you look at what’s being created. If that ever changes in my lifetime, I’ll be shocked. [Laughs.] 054

MAY / JUNE ‘22

With the advent of major global Are there any significant streaming services, some have differences in dealing with the said there has been an increased streaming side of the industry demand across mediums for compared to linear? Are they more “premium”-sounding music, mainly differences from a business both from an original scoring and angle, or are there significant library perspective. differences in the creative process? In our experience, every platform A big difference we see with and network strives for, and expects streaming platforms compared to to have, a premium cable and broadcast sound. However, is in the backend fees. some invest more in Royalties generated music than others. from a streamed Budget and episode tend to be schedule allow for a fraction of the creating bespoke royalties generated music, recording from a broadcast live musicians episode. So typically, and producing upfront fees will be songs with lyrics, different depending which will definitely on the platform. LEEVANACORE have an impact on Composer/Producer; VP, a score feeling more With the advent of Creative Services “premium.” As new the global streaming Vanacore Music platforms enter the companies, are you Valencia, CA marketplace there seeing an increased seems to be a focus call for “localized” on creating content that stands versions of scores, themes or other out. In those cases, we have seen a musical content? willingness to put more resources into We have not necessarily seen a developing the sound of their show. ubiquitous trend for creating localized scores. Depending on the genre How about the rise of both the and nature of the show, music can limited series and reduced episode potentially be one of those things that counts for a typical season? Does translates well cross-culturally. that have a creative or business impact on what you do? What non-fiction/unscripted We definitely have seen an increase genres seem to be hot right now, in the number of series with a in terms of the demand for your simultaneous decrease in the number content? What libraries are of episodes per series. This seems to heating up for you currently? also result in an increase in diversity One area trending right now is in the kinds of series that are being using commercially released songs created. That makes it very important from artists. This has become an for us to be able to provide a catalog important part of our business, and of diverse music as well. This is an works very well to elevate many of area where we feel we have an our projects. advantage, because we are a music production company. We have a Any other trends worth noting? diverse range of composers creating A refreshing trend we’re seeing now custom music based on our projects’ is that several shows and projects are needs. When you combine that with working with us to create new music a full-range library, then it puts a in order to achieve a cohesive sound. company like ours in a great position They are wanting to lean more into because we are able to respond to custom music, and then use our any scenario that comes up. library more to supplement.





SUmMer 2022 Come See What The Fuss Is About





ince the 2006 release of the world’s most famous PowerPoint presentation, An Inconvenient Truth, an industry has grown up to fund, distribute and magnify the impact of documentaries that are unashamedly campaigning for causes. The subjects range from social justice and racial and gender equity to the environment, animal welfare, education, law reform and beyond. Campaigning films have attracted support from celebrities, tycoons, ex-presidents, philanthropists, increasingly important organizations like GoodPitch (which has raised more than $33 million in documentary funding), Doc Society, and the Sundance Institute and national initiatives such as Documentary Australia in my home country. Collectively, these funders have channelled hundreds of millions of dollars towards docs. Surely this is a good thing? Not so fast. First up, cards on the table. I have produced several high-profile impact films, partly funded by philanthropy. They would likely never have been made without this support. None of these funders attempted to have editorial

There is no shortage of worthy causes to explore and investigate via documentaries, and with more outlets flocking to the genre, there are more opportunities for “impact” films to make their mark. But when it comes to financing such films, or the campaigns around them, via wealthy benefactors, what are the potential red flags to watch for? Doc-maker Simon Nasht weighs in.

influence, but with the scale of the “impact industry” these days it is fair to predict that it’s only a matter of time before the check writers express more than just a benevolent interest. Given that most documentaries are produced by small businesses, producers may feel unable to push back when a billionaire calls with a few “suggestions.” That would be a mistake, as our power should not be underestimated. The rich are coming to us for a reason. Cardboard-box billionaire (and Trump supporter) Anthony Pratt credited An Inconvenient Truth with transforming his U.S. business, as customers’ increased demand for recycled packaging made his Visy Industries untold millions in profits. Documentaries create a halo effect that advertising can never replicate. Little wonder, then, that documentaries have attracted funding from billionaires such as the late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allan, PayPal pioneer Peter Thiel, eBay alumni-turned-Participant

Media founder Jeffrey Skoll, and many others from the “1%.” These days, more films are made by billionaires than about them. Alarm bells for me were raised recently when Australia’s richest man, Andrew Forrest, announced he was launching a $10 million film fund as part of his wider philanthropic foundation. His business model is by way of investment, not grants, raising difficult questions of control and transparency. “Awareness changes the world,” said the mining billionaire in an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald announcing the launch of Minderoo Pictures. But as the song says, money makes it go round. One wonders if his awareness might stretch to films examining the impact of the mining industry on Indigenous peoples or the damage it causes to fragile environments? No matter how wellmeaning such funding approaches may be, a philanthropic model that 057



seeks to profit from a documentary simply muddies the waters. For many reasons, it’s a bad idea. The Victim ID team of Task Force Argos, Australian Centre to Counter I don’t have the luxury of being a purist, as every film Child Exploitation, as seen in remains a struggle to finance and distribute and the The Children in the Pictures. money needs to come from somewhere. But there needs to be clear rules of engagement with benefactors. Recently I coproduced (with Tony Wright) and co-directed (with Akhim Dev) a hard-hitting project, The Children in the Pictures, dealing with online child sexual abuse. Our film reveals the vast extent of the organized criminal networks operating on the dark web, some with millions of members. Their sole goal is to exploit children and to exchange videos of this unimaginable torture and pain. It’s a technology crime. As such, it’s not a subject likely to attract the support of a tech billionaire or the businesses they control, where abuse material is sometimes being stored and shared. The film was financed with a mixture ...Every film remains a struggle of broadcast pre-sales, podcast or responsibility for what it says. Initially, rights, and Australia’s generous public Westpac wanted no recognition, even in to finance and distribute and film support system. But getting the film’s credits. We convinced its team the money needs to come from the message out and building the that we had a duty to inform audiences somewhere. But there needs to partnerships to influence policy makers where our funding came from. The contract be clear rules of engagement and educate parents and the media deals with these issues, but it’s largely a was always going to be a challenge. matter of mutual trust built on clear and with benefactors.” We were well into production of the early communications about each side’s film when a scandal broke involving expectations. Australia’s oldest bank, Westpac. The bank had selfIt will take years for the bank to rebuild its reputation (though its reported that its international payments platform had share price quickly recovered), and it could certainly be argued that been used by some individuals to pay for live streaming our film is being used for at least part of that process. Still, as I view it, of child abuse in the Philippines. The resulting fallout cost my concern as a campaigning filmmaker is helping to prevent a child Westpac both its chairman and CEO and resulted in a being raped, not shaming an already chastened organization. This is $1.4 billion fine, the largest penalty in Australian history. It not a tobacco company or a fossil-fuel business that’s currying favor was the greatest crisis Westpac had faced in its 200 years. while maintaining business as usual. For me, the ethical question is: To its credit, rather than seeking to minimize the what I can achieve with their money? consequences the bank dedicated itself to making child So far, more than 400,000 Australians have seen the film, and protection a corporate priority and playing a role in we have organized more than 150 screenings for law enforcement, eradicating this ghastly crime. It created an internal team to NGOs, survivor organizations, and parents and educators around find ways to make as much impact as quickly as possible. the world, despite the disruptions of the pandemic. With long-term When we approached Westpac, they were still in shock funding in place, we are now launching our international release but willing to listen. We came armed with evidence that with UN and Congressional screenings, as well as partnerships a documentary is a powerful tool for a campaign that with major NGOs and law enforcement agencies. Each of these can shift the dial on important issues like this, and argued partnerships will have its own set of rules, too. that one of the biggest problems was a lack of public Westpac’s grant has allowed us to hugely magnify the impact of understanding about the scale and extent of these crimes. the film. So my advice is, yes, consider taking the money if you can Westpac agreed, and to sustain our campaign, it made find it. But be very certain the benefactor understands they have no Australia’s largest-ever impact grant, a seven-figure editorial role or control over how audiences get to see the film. commitment over three years. The trust we have earned as documentarians has been hard-won, The bank was as concerned as us that any contribution to and we will be courted by the rich and powerful because of it. This is our project might be seen as a cynical attempt to whitenot the moment to surrender our independence. wash its reputation. Therefore, from the start we mutually agreed the grant would not be spent on the production of Simon Nasht is a veteran documentary filmmaker, and has the film, only its release and supporting our impact team. founded production companies in the UK, U.S. and Australia. He Westpac has no commercial interest in the film, no has produced, directed, written or executive produced more than 50 influence on where it will be seen and, equally, no input films and series over the past 30 years.

MAY / JUNE ‘22


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