Realscreen - Jan/Feb 2018

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First-time filmmaker Jennifer Brea makes waves with Unrest


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First-time filmmaker Jennifer Brea makes waves with Unrest


January + February 18 Volume 21, Issue 2



he beginning of a new year prompts many of us to assess what we are doing with our lives, and how we could do it differently. We concoct resolutions designed to make us better versions of ourselves, and usually, promptly abandon them after the first brush with temptation. For some people, the demon is in the donut shop. For me, it resides in the bins of the vintage record store. Still, taking a little time to reflect on ways we would like to improve is probably not a bad thing. So here’s a little wisdom from this year’s set of brave and innovative Trailblazers (see page 27 for the full story). As we set out into a new year, perhaps a few of these ideas might help us make it one to remember, for all the right reasons. Aim high: A&E enjoyed a year of critical and commercial success thanks to a renewed commitment to what programming president Rob Sharenow calls “brave storytelling” in the non-fiction sphere. In our Q&A, Sharenow also says that he was inspired by the approach of A&E Indie Films, headed by Molly Thompson and behind such acclaimed feature docs as Life, Animated and City of Ghosts. “They’ve kept the bar really high and that’s something I’m looking to translate across all the [A+E] brands,” he says. The lesson: take inspiration from the best work, and apply it to your own. Find the silver lining: Filmmaker Jennifer Brea made the Oscar shortlist with her first documentary, Unrest. It’s simply amazing that the film was made at all, considering that Brea suffers from chronic fatigue syndrome. Turning the camera on herself to depict the struggles of living with myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) was, according to Brea, a gruelling but ultimately rewarding process of discovery. “Without [ME], I don’t think I ever would have discovered that I am a filmmaker,” she says. As Yoda might say (if paraphrasing Zen proverbs), the obstacle is part of the path. Collaboration is key: With A Better Man, first-time filmmaker Attiya Khan provides an unflinching, personal perspective on the issue of domestic abuse by revisiting her past ordeal along with the abuser himself. From finding the right cinematographer who would know how much distance to provide for the subjects, to the right producers who could help her navigate the filmmaking process, building a team that she could trust implicitly was vital. To make your best work, you don’t need to go it alone. Fear is your friend: If you imagine what the pitch for 60 Days In might’ve looked like on paper, you’d probably relegate it to the “never in a million years” pile. But to its credit — and of course, the execs at A&E who greenlit the series — the Lucky 8 team rose to the challenge, and the show is now airing in more than 100 territories. Cofounder Kim Woodard says that when there’s “a good healthy fear” about pulling off a project, “usually that means you’re onto something.” Powerful stories matter: Film financing company Impact Partners has been an ardent supporter of socially conscious feature docs that also generate good box office. Increasingly, it’s apparent that the two things aren’t mutually exclusive, and investors are keen to back doc projects that attack burning issues of the day through great storytelling. “These films help punch through… because they have powerful human drama at the center of them,” says Impact executive director and co-founder Dan Cogan. Perhaps now more than ever, audiences are hungry for some kind of truth. So why not give it to ‘em? With that, here’s to the trails you’ll blaze in 2018. Cheers, Barry Walsh Editor and content director realscreen


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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 VP & Publisher Claire Macdonald Editor and Content Director Barry Walsh Associate Editor Meagan Kashty Senior Writer Daniele Alcinii Staff Writer Selina Chignall Contributing Writers Kelly Boutsalis, Chris Palmer, John Smithson Associate Publisher Carol Leighton Account Manager Kristen Skinner Marketing & Publishing Coordinator Jessica Strachan Creative Manager Andrew Glowala Art Director Mark Lacoursiere Print Production & Distribution Supervisor Andrew Mahony Lead Conference Producer Tiffany Rushton

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few weeks from writing this, a chapter of realscreen’s history will close as we wrap the 20th edition of the Realscreen Summit in Washington, DC. For all those years the “DMV” (a nickname encompassing “District,” “Maryland” and “Virginia”) has been the venue for what’s grown to be the world’s largest and definitive marketplace and conference for the international business of unscripted and non-fiction entertainment. I consider myself privileged to have seen the event evolve over 10 of those 20 years. In that decade, we’ve been bursting at the seams in the lovely Renaissance, threatened by Snowmageddon at the Hilton near Dupont Circle and, for the last three iterations, enjoying the pristine elegance of the Marriott Marquis. Everyone has a story or two and lots of fun memories to share. But most importantly, countless deals have been done and scores of shows and series commissioned. Companies have formed, been bought and sold all on the market floor. Careers have launched, dreams made and lifelong friendships have been forged. But it’s time for a change. As a hardy Canadian, unpredictable DC winter weather doesn’t faze me much. But as we look forward to our move to New Orleans for 2019 and beyond, I’m excited by the color, energy and culture that the city offers. Everyone I’ve spoken with is charged up for the move and looking forward to indulging in some of that famous NOLA hospitality, and, of course, getting business done in an invigorating environment. So it’s with some mixed emotion that we bid adieu. I can’t help wishing that my friend David Lyle would be with us for the move. He, for one, would certainly embrace the joie de vivre that New Orleans has to offer. We’re honored that his daughters Polly and Joanna are making the trip to Washington to accept the Realscreen Legacy Award being presented in his honor on January 29. The inaugural David Lyle Maverick Award will be presented during the Realscreen Awards ceremony in New Orleans in 2019. To those of you joining us in DC in 2018 for our 20th — let’s celebrate and say goodbye in style. ‘Til next time, go well. Claire Macdonald VP & Publisher realscreen


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UPCOMING ADVERTISING & SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES MARCH / APRIL 2018 Editorial features include Realscreen’s Global 100, our MIPTV Picks , and our Changemakers report. Bonus distribution: MIPDOC, MIPTV, Hot Docs Booking deadline: February 26 Digital advertising: Newsletter: 18,000+ subscribers 150,000+ monthly page views Sponsored eblasts For information on any of these opportunities, or if you’re interested in sponsorship or private meeting space at Realscreen West 2018, call realscreen sales at 1 416 408 0863.

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Six months after the launch of Facebook’s Watch platform, realscreen talked to a few content creators about the lessons they’ve learned so far in working with Watch.

Given that Facebook was created as a way to bring people together, it makes sense that creating and nurturing a sense of community should be integral to a series’ success on the platform. Michael Rourke, CEO with Hudsun Media, saw this first-hand in the series Returning the Favor. Fronted by Mike Rowe, host of popular series such as Discovery Channel’s Dirty Jobs and CNN’s Somebody’s Gotta Do It, the series seeks out ordinary Americans who are doing good deeds and looks to reward them for their efforts. After the first few episodes launched, viewers began using the comments section to recommend individuals who they thought should be featured on the series. Now, the people profiled in each episode are based on audience suggestions. Having a good understanding of the existing community for a series was integral to Discovery’s success with Facebook’s Watch as well. Discovery opted to lean on two existing properties when first experimenting with the platform — Outrageous Cakes, based on TLC’s Cake Boss, and Celebrity Animal Encounters from Animal Planet. “Outrageous Cakes has been incredibly successful because there’s an existing community that loves Cake Boss,” explains Fred Graver, SVP of digital content and social with Discovery. The project proved to be a piece of low-hanging fruit for Discovery’s search for a new audience, as the series deals with a topic that everyone can relate to: food. Graver says that the most successful episodes of Cakes haven’t necessarily been the ones in which host Buddy Valastro puts together a seemingly impossible dessert —

they’ve been the ones in which the viewers could make the cakes themselves. “It was a real ‘A-ha’ moment when we saw viewers sharing photos of their own cakes and decorating tips in the comments,” Graver says. “From there, we continued to be active in the community, sharing recipes and additional content in between episodes.”

START STRONG One of the best pieces of advice for those looking to create an engaging Watch series is also one of the most basic: make a strong first impression. “It’s a no brainer that you need to grab an audience right away on Facebook,” says Graver. “Whether it be with an arresting image or an exciting hook, you need to have it happen in the first five-to-ten seconds.” This need for speed is because people click through links much faster than they flip through channels. When researching what works on Facebook, unscripted powerhouse Bunim/Murray Productions found people aren’t necessarily going to have their audio on when they first start watching a video on the platform, so punchy graphics and subtitles can help get viewers


Watch’s ‘Discover’ feature allows Facebook users to find potentially appealing content.

engaged and convince them to click. Julie Pizzi, co-president of entertainment and development at the prodco, agrees with other producers realscreen talked to regarding the benefits of not having to stick to a specific run time on Facebook. “We can let the stories breathe when they need a bit more time and explanation, and we don’t have to use a bunch of filler in an episode if it’s not quite long enough,” she explains.

WHO’S WATCHING AND FOR HOW LONG? Facebook is still experimenting with what works with viewers. But they’ve made some pretty safe bets in the production companies they’ve chosen to work with. Bunim/Murray was tasked with producing one of the first original series to launch. Ball in the Family takes audiences inside the lives of the Ball family, including entrepreneur and basketball coach LaVar Ball, Los Angeles Lakers rookie Lonzo, his brothers, and their mom. Originally airing on Sept. 10, the premiere episode gained more than 26 million views. Pizzi says having access to viewer stats such as those has been one of the best parts of working with Facebook. “What’s been refreshing for us as a company and producers is that the mystery has been completely pulled out of the process,” she says. “The veil has been lifted, so we know who’s responding.” And while the significance of episode views may be difficult to gauge this early on in the process, Ball in the Family has been greenlit for a second season, which likely speaks to its success.




With the upcoming America Inside Out, journalist Katie Couric and National Geographic aim to explore the issues impacting America today. But in a polarized cultural climate, is discussion of various perspectives welcome?


the burgeoning digital and over-the-top streaming industry has continued its advance, traditional broadcasters find themselves on notice — remain relevant, or else. For National Geographic, that means employing an ambitious programming philosophy that touts “going deeper, pushing boundaries, going further” as a global destination for premium science, adventure and exploration content. The strategy has featured some bold moves in the science space. The first season of Nat Geo’s acclaimed documentary-scripted hybrid series Mars, about a fictitious crew mission to the red planet in 2033 from Imagine Entertainment and Radical Media, garnered more than 36 million viewers worldwide, delivered ratings three times the channel average, and became the most DVRed series in network history, according to the company. The Fisher Stevens-directed Before the Flood, meanwhile, marked Nat Geo’s mostwatched film on record, reaching 60 million viewers worldwide across platforms. The doc, produced by and featuring Leonardo DiCaprio, focused on climate change and aired commercial-free across digital and streaming platforms around the world in late October 2016 in a conscious bid to get the film in front of a wide audience ahead of the U.S. presidential election.

Journalist Katie Couric (center) tackles issues impacting American life in her upcoming Nat Geo series.

The “premium” approach has also worked for a wider range of subject matter. Katie Couric’s 2017 two-hour documentary Gender Revolution explored the topic of gender through the lenses of science, society and culture, and weaved it all together through personal stories and experiences. The program performed well for Nat Geo, pulling in more than 2 million Americans and 6.8 million viewers globally, the network said. In addition, the full documentary was presented on Facebook, where it racked up 4.4 million total views, according to Nat Geo. Inspired by her own personal journey in developing that project, Couric is returning to the network with a six-part investigative docuseries, slated to premiere in April in 171 countries and in 45 languages. Produced in-house by National Geographic Studios, Katie Couric Media and ABC News’ Lincoln Square Productions, the tentatively titled America Inside Out with Katie Couric will follow the former Today Show host as she journeys across the American landscape to explore some of the most important and controversial issues shaping and defining the nation’s shifting identity. Each hour-long episode will aim to unearth truths about the complexities of religion, race, technology and cultural norms, while highlighting the humanity lurking beneath the surface of the issues.



The debate over memorials honoring contentious historical figures is one topic examined by Couric.

“Katie has the ability to listen to both sides in any conversation to help paint a comprehensive understanding.” “We wanted to look at the topics that brought us right into the middle of the most seismic, epic, defining changes that are going on right now,” Jeanmarie Condon, senior executive producer of content at Lincoln Square Productions and showrunner for America Inside Out, tells realscreen. “These are issues that ultimately touch all of us in some way, and the idea was [to have] Katie go right into the center of what’s happening, walk those fault lines and meet the people who are most intimately caught up in those changes.” As such, America Inside Out — which had been in production from the tail end of July until the middle of December — seeks out the voices on either side of the “fault lines” framing polarizing issues in the U.S. The series tackles the tender aspects of race relations in America, exploring the controversy surrounding commemorative statues and memorials (“Re-Righting History”), anger within some white working-class communities (“White Working-Class Revolt”); and the stories of young, female Muslim entrepreneurs in Brooklyn (“Undercover Muslim”). Other hot-button topics the series will examine include the dynamic between genders and gender bias (“The F-Word”); the ways in which


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technology is upending our lives (“Tech Revolution”); and the heated discussion surrounding political correctness (“PC Nation”). From the network perspective, by breaking down each topic and exploring all sides of the debates, the docuseries attempts to capture what it’s like to be living in the moments history is being made. “As a critically acclaimed journalist, Katie has the ability to listen to both sides in any conversation, any big topic and discussion, to really help paint a broad and comprehensive understanding of some of the most complicated topics that we face today as a culture,” says Tim Pastore, president of original programming and production at

National Geographic Channel. The series, for instance, brought the production crew to Couric’s hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia in August 2017, where she spent 72 hours with counter-protesters leading up to the white nationalist “Unite the Right” rally and the violence that ensued. On the afternoon of Aug. 12, a man linked to white-supremacist groups rammed his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing 32-yearold paralegal Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others. Though Couric interviews white nationalist and alt-right activist Jason Kessler, a main organizer of the “Unite the Right” rally, in the series’ debut episode, “Re-Righting History”, Condon asserts that the series does not provide a platform

Couric and team were on the ground as the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville unfolded.

for the racism and bigotry espoused by white supremacists, Klansmen, neo-Nazis and neo-Confederates that attended the rally. “That’s not why we were there,” the showrunner stresses. “We’re not doing the story of the alt-right at all. What we’re doing is the story of the really profound and emotional conversation that’s going on around how we retell the story of race in America.” To illustrate the complexity within the issue, the team sought out rational voices on both sides of the argument regarding the removal of Confederate statues from public lands — a motion that was ignited by the racially motivated mass shooting at Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, perpetrated a year earlier by white

supremacist Dylann Roof. Featured in the episode are Charlottesville mayor Michael Signer, who voted against the removal measure; Frank Earnest, a “heritage defense coordinator” for the Virginia division of the Sons of the Confederate Veterans, who disavowed the “Unite the Right” rally as he felt the marchers had co-opted the symbol of General Robert E. Lee to advance a nationalist agenda; and 16-year-old Charlottesville High School student Zyahna Bryant, who began a petition more than a year ago to take down Charlottesville’s statue of Lee. “We talk to black historians who believe the statue should stay up. We’ve spoken with white Southerners who believe [the Confederate monuments] should come down,”

Condon adds. “It’s very complicated, and one of the things we try to show in each episode is how complex these stories really are because we live in a world that is very reductive. “When Katie goes out to meet people, she has boundless curiosity and this openness to understanding what other people are experiencing.” While one of the most challenging aspects of production involved finding individuals willing to speak with Couric about some of the most painful, polarizing and personal issues of our day, Pastore says the payoff of piecing together viewpoints feeding the current cultural zeitgeist has been worth it. “We have a history built on exploration. We didn’t talk about places around the world or some far-off distant land, we sent people to the front lines,” says Pastore when asked about how America Inside Out will fare with American audiences during a particularly contentious time in history. “This is one of those series where Katie, in terms of her exploration of humanity, is bringing back the truth of what is happening out in the world, and that’s what our audience looks to National Geographic for.” •






The past year has proven to be a rollercoaster ride in many ways, and the non-fiction/unscripted content industry has certainly experienced its share of peaks and valleys over the last 12 months. With Trailblazers, realscreen salutes those behind some of the high points. Here are several individuals and companies that — through innovative and brave approaches to their work — have been behind some of the more inspiring projects to emerge in 2017.


a veteran executive at A+E Networks, Rob Sharenow has never been shy when it comes to offering his take on the status of the non-fiction content industry. But a quote taken from a session at the 2014 Realscreen Summit still pops up in panel discussions at assorted events — his assertion that, at the time, unscripted and non-fiction television was undergoing a “creative crisis.” In 2017, one of the nets under his watch, A&E, had a banner year courtesy of such critically acclaimed, award winning and well-rated programming as Bunim/Murray’s Born This Way, Big Fish’s Live PD, IPC’s Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath, and the continued success of Lucky 8’s 60 Days in. But Sharenow still sees plenty of room for improvement for the industry at large. “There’s still a glut of garbage that is clogging the system,” he says from his New York office. “People have to sift through a massive amount of content to find the gold, which is why I look at our brands as needing to carefully curate our choices. People need to rely on us, as the gatekeepers of these brands, to be consistent.” Upped to president of programming across the A+E portfolio this past July, Sharenow is justifiably proud of the aforementioned shows and the impact they’ve had on “ushering in a new era” for A&E — an era that is squarely focused on non-fiction and unscripted content, with the net announcing a pulling away from scripted in April. The move has paid off, as have investments in feature docs through A&E Indie Films, headed up by Molly Thompson and under the A+E Studios umbrella. Serving as EP on several of the division’s

real experience as filmmaking can get. Also, successful theatrical docs — including Roger being part of the cultural conversation — A&E Ross Williams’ Life, Animated and Matthew is at its best when it speaks to culture Heineman’s City of Ghosts to name in a way that other brands don’t. a couple — Sharenow gushes: The shows can become “They’ve kept the bar really touchstones through which high and that’s something big subjects are tackled I’m looking to translate and discussed. across all the brands.” What do you see in The year ahead should the immediate future see interesting moves for History, with Eli from History into Lehrer on board as more documentary EVP, and for Lifetime? storytelling, and With History, we have a aggressive moves into category killer brand in the emotionally charged name of the network. I think formats for Lifetime, such as you’ll see us own a moment the upcoming U.S. version or a subject matter in a of This Time, Next Year. And, ROBERT SHARENOW for the published novelist PRESIDENT OF PROGRAMMING very definitive way, both domestically and globally. who just so happens to A+E NETWORKS One of my pet peeves is run programming for A+E, when someone else does big history — PBS, for perhaps another book… or two. example, just had success with Ken Burns and “I’m constantly working on stuff and I’m Lynn Novick’s The Vietnam War. We need to own working on two things simultaneously,” he says. that, and be the brand that people think of when “One thing is for my publisher, and the other is a they think of historical documentary. novel I’ve been working on for 15 years. My wife There’s a really exciting opportunity for Lifetime. calls it my ‘white whale.’” I still think of it as a relative newcomer in the nonfiction field, but it has done an extraordinary job in A&E has had a great year, in large part due establishing franchises with shows such as Dance to a refocusing on high-end unscripted Moms, Bring It, The Rap Game, Little Women and and non-fiction fare. What tone is the net obviously Project Runway. My goal for that brand looking for in content now? is to really go after reality and non-fiction formats A&E definitely embraces what we call “brave that speak directly to women. storytelling” — being able to approach a subject Barry Walsh in a way that hasn’t really been done before. We also talk a lot here about the “front row experience” and putting people as close to the




“From the earliest days, I wanted to do something to change the world,” says Brea, here with husband Omar.

here’s a scene early on in Jennifer Brea’s Unrest that shows the first-time director attempting to pull herself up a flight of stairs, unable to muster the strength to crawl, let alone stand. Her husband, who is filming Brea’s ordeal, asks if he can help. Brea vehemently refuses. It’s one of the instances in the doc when Brea turns the camera on herself to showcase the struggles of JENNIFER BREA the millions suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome. FILMMAKER “Part of the problem is you can only perceive what “UNREST” you can see and directly experience — at the doctor’s office, at one particular moment, I may look fine, but they aren’t seeing me when I’m at home,” she says. “I realized that even though people had written books and articles about this condition, it had to be visual and experiential in order to convey something authentic about my experience.” The feature-length doc, which began as Brea’s personal diary, has gained momentum throughout the past year, garnering international praise for its refusal to shy away from the intimate and painful moments of those affected by myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME). When the doc first premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2017, programmer Caroline Libresco introduced it as “a film in which picking up the camera is an act of power.” It went on to win the Special Jury Prize for Documentary Editing there, along with picking up awards at Sheffield Doc/Fest, the RiverRun International Film Festival, the Indie Street Film Festival and the Cinema Eye Honors Awards. Most recently, it made the shortlist for the 2018 Academy Awards Documentary Features category. “What happened to me is not isolated and it’s not rare — it’s part of the story of millions of people who have been marginalized for decades.” You’ve said that making this doc ignited a love of filmmaking for you — how are you hoping to pursue this passion in the future? Getting sick like this has been the most challenging and horrible experience of my life, but at the same time, without it I don’t think I ever would have discovered that I am a filmmaker. It was in losing everything and losing the ability to read and write that I was forced to find this other mode of expression, so I’m quite grateful for that. I do want to keep making more films, and I’m interested in both fiction and non-fiction. There’s something really eye opening about


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falling down this rabbit hole — it makes you wonder what are the other stories out there that no one knows about and are not being told. Intimate and humanist storytelling is one of the greatest tools we have to shift people’s opinions and perspectives. Tell us about the “virtual screenings” you used for the film, and why they were important to you. I’m really passionate about exhibition. Although films are available in so many ways, films like Unrest are most powerful when viewed with others and become a place for people to connect. That isn’t an experience you can necessarily have while watching a film on your laptop at home. I really wanted to create an opportunity for people who were homebound with MES or other disabilities to have social and theatrical experiences, even if they couldn’t get to a theater. We also used video conferencing to do post-screening Q&As and discussions. That was profound, because for many viewers, they were able to see and interact with other patients for the very first time. What does it mean to you for Unrest to be shortlisted for the Academy Awards? We are the only self-distributed film on the list and it’s definitely been a thrill. Everything has been improbable from the beginning. I remember telling my husband, Omar, that I wanted to make a film, even though I’d never done one before. From the earliest days, I wanted to do something to change the world, but I never thought about getting this far. It was about telling a story and doing everything we could to get people to listen. So, it’s just been remarkable that it’s resonating with people, and I feel really proud. There’s so much further to go when it comes to people with disabilities telling their own stories. It’s not something people are thinking of. Being part of this community, you realize there are probably a whole lot of stories we’re not hearing about because of this question of who gets to be a storyteller. There’s a lot of work to be done about how to make filmmaking more accessible, but I hope the shortlist success will help incorporate disability into the other conversations about diversity. Meagan Kashty



oming to terms with the trauma of past violence and finding closure is a daunting task for any individual. Now, imagine filming every moment of that journey, then broadcasting those intimate moments for the world to see. In A Better Man, Attiya Khan, a survivor of domestic abuse, confronts her past by inviting her abuser, ATTIYA KHAN Steve, to discuss the violence that occurred 20 FILMMAKER years prior. Khan and her ex talk openly about their “A BETTER MAN” relationship, revisiting their old apartment, school and hang-out spots. Through A Better Man, which bowed at the Toronto Hot Docs Film Festival in April 2017, Khan hopes to advance the movement to end violence against women through a deeper focus on helping abusive men to change. Having worked as a counselor and advocate for women, Khan believes in the need to focus on the source of the problem to end violence against women. To help viewers unpack the doc, Khan and her team created a free kit specifically designed for men to encourage discussion on the film and its themes. Khan is also working to get the film into schools. Educational materials developed by Khan’s team along with the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) will be piloted in several high schools in the Canadian province, with a view of bringing the doc to more high schools in future years. “I think it resonated with [the OSSTF] that Steve and I were in high school when the violence took place, and they thought the film could be a powerful learning tool if accompanied by the right supports and other teaching material,” says Khan. “I was so excited about this partnership since I have always wanted to use my story as a way to help high school students.”

“I realize now that it takes a lot of people to make a film. I could not and did not create this on my own.”

How conscious were you of having a production team that has such strong female representation? It was important to me to have women working on A Better Man. Before making the film, I worked at the YWCA Toronto which provides resources and advocacy by women for women. Before that I worked in a shelter for women and children who experienced domestic violence. I was used to only seeing women in my professional work. Having a strong, female-led team was also important to my producer, Christine Kleckner, who talked about the lack of women in film in our first meeting. We spoke about both the


January / February ‘18

A Better Man brings filmmaker Attiya Khan (inset, right) together with the man who abused her in a past relationship.

importance of having women on our team and the importance of collaboration. Something that has bothered me, especially now that the film is released, is how so many people who help create a film don’t often get recognized, like sound recordists, editors and production managers. I realize now that it takes a lot of people to make a film. But the truth is, I could not and did not create this film on my own. As a first-time filmmaker, I’m amazed at how little attention gets directed towards, for example, producers. Christine Kleckner worked every day on this film for three years. She can talk about the making of it in a way that I can’t and her perspective is equally important to mine. Having a woman cinematographer was important to me. I wanted to feel as comfortable as possible on camera and for me this meant having a woman behind the camera. I’ve always noticed where shots linger, especially on women. I wanted to make sure that the person behind the camera would respect me, respect my body. Iris Ng not only made me feel respected but she was able to provide a sense of distance in my conversations with Steve. I believe we were able to talk so intimately because of how Iris set up the shots and maneuvered around us. Having finished the film and revisited it multiple times through screenings, are you hoping to close the chapter on this time in your life? I do get a sense of closure with Steve in the film. It has been way more challenging than I thought now that it has been released. I have been traveling with the film non-stop since its release at Hot Docs in April. I have not yet been able to step away from it. I’m looking forward to slowing things down soon so I can benefit from the closure and healing that occurred during the making of the film. MK





ew York-headquartered Lucky 8 TV has been on something of a roll since its acclaimed docuseries 60 Days In broke ground in March 2016. The social experiment series, which follows individuals as they volunteer to go undercover as inmates in various U.S. jailhouses, had given the prodco its biggest series in the three years since being founded by Kim Woodard, Greg Henry, George Kralovansky and Isaac Holub. Now airing in more than 100 territories, A&E rewarded Lucky 8 with a multi-season order last January, taking it to four in total. LUCKY 8 TV Well-versed in the complexities of America’s GREG HENRY AND prison system, Lucky 8 shifted its focus to life KIM WOODARD, outside of prison’s walls when it launched CO-FOUNDERS Released on OWN in September. The docuseries follows six formerly incarcerated individuals as they learn how to reintegrate into society after spending years behind bars. “It was interesting to us in the production of this to discover that 65% of African-American women have a family member behind bars, and that 10,000 people are released from prison every week — that’s just staggering,” Woodard tells realscreen. “Being able to show what’s at stake for the families and friends who’ve been left behind as this person has been in jail, and what they do when they receive this person back, there’s incredible drama there,” she adds. Released has fared well so far with OWN’s audience, ranking as Saturday night’s No. 2 original cable series for African-American women during its debut season. 2017 also proved to be the year that saw Lucky 8 diversify its programming portfolio. The company branched out to develop a range of content, from crime to cooking formats, for 10 separate networks; inked development deals with Jason Bolicki’s Exit Four and Natalka Znak’s Znak&Co; and produced Jonathan Miller’s feature-length documentary Standing Up, which had its world premiere at the 2017 DOC NYC festival in November. When taking on unfamiliar terrain, how are you deciding what to accept and what to turn down? Kim Woodard: We tend to take on projects that scare us — the projects that you might want to say no to but you can’t

Lucky 8 gets rare insight into the prison system via 60 Days In (top) and Undercover High School (bottom), both for A&E.

because there’s something about them that needs to be told. If there isn’t fear there in the creation of it, it’s less likely to break through in a crowded marketplace. But when there is a good healthy fear, usually you’re onto something. Was that the case with Undercover High for A&E? KW: Absolutely. There were so many questions of how could we pull it off … thinking from the very beginning of sitting in an auditorium full of parents, students and community members, showing them what their kids’ participation yielded. That’s a huge responsibility to take on. Our first responsibility, beyond being great storytellers and creating something entertaining, is making sure there’s a real benefit to it. Greg Henry: It was really taking a very unorthodox approach to seeing what it is to be a teenager today, because [for] the folks that we put in, when they went to high school just eight to 10 years ago, the world was a completely different place, and it really bore out as we went through it. In Released, why did you feel that it was important to provide a voice to the people who were being freed? GH: In the past when we’ve done programming that’s in jails or prisons, the tension of being incarcerated is just so great, and for the viewer, when somebody then went home it became sort of a let-down — the pressure cooker was done. Because we’ve seen so many people get out, we knew what the drama was. But it wasn’t really until we were asked by OWN and by Ms. Winfrey herself to take a look into this world that [we] could really fully realize it. You premiered Standing Up at DOC NYC in 2017. How do you see Lucky 8 Films expanding in the future? GH: Lucky 8 Films’ growth is going to be driven by the types of films that we really believe in because, in many ways, the financing is an afterthought. It’s really about if we think a feature doc is going to be the best form of that story. Daniele Alcinii




istorically, documentaries have been perceived to be of great societal importance, though the rising tide of the “golden age of documentary” has not quite been capable of lifting all boats to commercial success. Thus, it’s often difficult for filmmakers to dig up enough financing for their projects. Enter Impact Partners. In the 11 years since its IMPACT PARTNERS launch, the investment firm, led by co-founders DAN COGAN, EXECUTIVE Dan Cogan and Geralyn Dreyfous, has altered DIRECTOR & CO-FOUNDER the documentary landscape through dedicated support offered to storytellers addressing pressing social issues while propelling the art of cinema forward. Through Impact’s model, filmmakers and investors work in tandem to “achieve mutually beneficial goals of telling powerful stories” while “raising awareness about critical issues facing our world today,” according to the company. Led by executive director Cogan, the New Yorkbased film fund provides backing to projects in various stages of production and post-production, financing 10 to 12 films per year with an average of US$30,000 to $700,000 per film. Beyond investment, the firm becomes advisors to individual filmmakers and advocates for the films, providing creative mentorship and avenues to new technologies, non-profits and external networks. In the process, the doc financier has created a robust marketplace for standout storytellers to obtain funding in order to further ignite social change through impressive outreach and engagement campaigns. Perennially a supporter of front-running documentaries, the company has had a hand in 2018 Academy Award shortlisted documentaries including Jennifer Brea’s Sundance-awarded, autobiographical Unrest and Bryan Fogel’s athletics doping investigation Icarus. The company has also played a part in Myles Kane and Josh Impact Partners Koury’s Voyeur, featuring Gay Talese; Dan Sickles and supported Hope Antonio Santini’s acclaimed vérité love story Dina; Hope Litoff’s 32 Pills: Litoff’s personal essay 32 Pills: My Sister’s Suicide; and My Sister’s Suicide Shaul Schwarz and Christina Clusiau’s Trophy, which (top) and Dina from Dan Sickles takes an in-depth look at big-game hunting, breeding and Antonio and wildlife conservation. Santini. Projects on tap for Impact Partners include Morgan Neville’s forthcoming Fred Rogers profile Won’t You Be My Neighbor? and an untitled documentary set to expose systemic abuse and harassment in the entertainment industry from Oscar-nominated and Emmy-winning directors Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering.


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How do you find a balance between the vision and the integrity of the filmmakers and the bottom line for the investors? We see seven to eight hundred projects a year and we get involved in only about 10 to 12 of them. That tension between doing something that stands alone as a great piece of cinema and also doing something that makes sense from a commercial perspective is a balancing act that we try to find in each of those films. Budget isn’t particularly important. We’ve done films as inexpensively as US$200,000 and as expensively as $2 million. The issue is: does the budget make sense given the place that film can have in the market? Why have docs become such an important form of media now? The last 15 years have seen both the rise of documentary film and the decline of traditional newspaper reporting. I don’t there’s an accident there. Whether it’s Laura Poitras doing the Edward Snowden story in [Citizenfour] or Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering exposing sexual assaults in both the military in Invisible War or colleges around the country in The Hunting Ground — 15 years ago you would have expected those to be in-depth investigative pieces in major newspapers, and now they’re documentary films. I think there’s a reason for that. Newspapers have contracted what they’re able to do and documentary filmmakers are able to tell stories that reach a massive audience and then expose them to the human, emotional and dramatic situations that these stories find themselves in. These films help punch through in a culture that has much too much information because they have powerful human drama at the center of them, as well as being deeply reported, thoughtful investigative pieces. What do you see as the prime challenges facing the doc industry in the year ahead? As the marketplace has matured in the last few years we’ve seen prices for documentary content go up. What you’re going to see is more financiers entering the space thinking that it’s profitable and you’re going to see more filmmakers with budgets that are huge and unsustainable. I do worry that investors and filmmakers will start putting too much money and too big budgets into a space and that many of them will get burned and that will, in the long run, lead to less money coming into the space. DA


Game-changing business deals, a movement of reckoning that reverberated around the world, and a 91-year-old emerging as the top TV star of the day… all part and parcel of the year that was.

SEXUAL HARASSMENT STORIES TAKE CENTER STAGE The entertainment industry was shaken this past year by allegations of sexual misconduct by its titans of power and influence. In October 2017, New York Times reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey penned an exposé detailing Hollywood heavyweight Harvey Weinstein’s alleged sexual assault and harassment of multiple women which stretched back decades. The New Yorker followed suit with equally shocking pieces from Ronan Farrow. The harrowing and disturbing allegations of sexual depravity concerning Weinstein from actresses such as Rose McGowan and Ashley Judd, as well as many other women in the industry, created a ripple effect — not only in the entertainment world but wider society. On social media, the Twitter hashtag #MeToo, created in 2007 by Tarana Burke and resuscitated by actress Alyssa Milano, erupted into a space through which women worldwide shared their stories of misogynistic abuse. Swirls of allegations mounted against other big names such as actor and producer Kevin Spacey and director/writer James Toback. Elsewhere, Amazon Studios head Roy Price stepped down from his post following allegations he sexually harassed Isa Dick Hackett, a producer on Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle.


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Closer to the documentary world, Morgan Spurlock (pictured) penned a lengthy Twitter post revealing incidences of his own sexual misconduct, detailing an experience in college in which a woman accused him of rape following an encounter, and a sexual harassment claim against him from a former employee, which he settled. The day after posting the admission, he stepped down from the prodco he co-founded, Warrior Poets, and saw his name removed from projects for TNT and Showtime. YouTube Red, having acquired Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken during the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival, announced it would no longer distribute the film. While the path towards a more fair and equal industry remains to be forged, for many, 2017 will be remembered as the year that men who abused their power — and people — finally felt the ground beneath them start to give. Selina Chignall, BW

TENTPOLE TV TRIUMPHS Big-budget television took up more screen time in 2017. While scripted series such as HBO’s Game of Thrones, Hulu’s Handmaid’s Tale and Netflix’s The Crown were heralded as top-flight fare, non-fiction is stepping up its game. Non-fiction series are generally known to be advantageous for two main reasons: they’re affordable and are relatively quick to put together. But in an effort to get ahead of the competition, some producers and networks are trying a different strategy — bigger, better and fewer. Contrary to their scripted counterparts, factual producers are being more conservative when it comes to output, relying instead on tentpolefriendly genres. Think of it as going all in, but on a very calculated risk. The BBC’s Planet Earth II proved to be one such venture. Its predecessor served as the corporation’s most ambitious and technologically advanced blue-chip program, as well as the first-ever doc series to be produced in HD. The series, which aired in 2006, cost £8 million in total. In short, a decade on from the original, the bar was set high for Planet Earth II. It did not disappoint. Shot in 40 different countries over 2,089 shooting days, and once again presented by Sir David Attenborough, close to 10 million people tuned into the first episode shown on BBC1. It scooped up

Emmys and BAFTAs. While the series is shorter than its original iteration — six episodes as opposed to 11 — the name of the game in this case is quality over quantity. Other big series from the BBC have emerged from the highquality nature programming sphere, including the Game of Thrones-inspired wildlife series Dynasty and another major sequel series, Blue Planet II (pictured). National Geographic continued along the “premium factual” strategy put forward by CEO Courteney Monroe. Ron Howard and Brian Grazer’s factual docudrama hybrid Mars, the Morgan Freeman-hosted The Story of God and Emmy-winning scripted series Genius have proven to be incredibly successful for the network. On the way for March is the ambitious doc series One Strange Rock — a production partnership between factual heavy-hitters Nutopia and Darren Aronofsky’s Protozoa Pictures. The 10-episode series, which will be narrated by A-list actor Will Smith, journeys across the globe and into outer space. MK

Entertainment has evolved. Red Arrow Studios is the new name for Red Arrow Entertainment Group. We are one of the world’s leading creators and distributors of entertainment content, bringing together Red Arrow’s 20 production companies with multi-platform digital network Studio71, and film and TV distributors Red Arrow Studios International and Gravitas Ventures. Learn more at 10FOLD · 44 BLUE PRODUCTIONS · 7STORIES · BAND OF OUTSIDERS · COVE PICTURES CPL PRODUCTIONS · DORSEY PICTURES · ENDOR PRODUCTIONS · FABRIK ENTERTAINMENT GRAVITAS VENTURES · HALF YARD PRODUCTIONS · JULY AUGUST PRODUCTIONS KARGA SEVEN PICTURES · KINETIC CONTENT · LEFT/RIGHT · MAD RABBIT · NERD RED ARROW STUDIOS INTERNATIONAL · REDSEVEN ENTERTAINMENT · RIPPLE ENTERTAINMENT · SNOWMAN PRODUCTIONS · STUDIO71

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MORE MERGER MANIA Discovery and Scripps discussed a potential merger twice before in recent years, most recently in 2014, but 2017 saw the deal take shape. Discovery was not the only cable giant vying for Scripps, as Viacom had reportedly offered the Knoxville-based company an all-cash bid before pulling out. Scripps’ lifestyle-centric roster includes HGTV, Food Network, DIY Network, Cooking Channel, Travel Channel and Great American Country. Those networks should complement Discovery’s portfolio, which includes its flagship Discovery Channel as well as TLC, Animal Planet, Investigation Discovery, OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network, Science Channel, Destination America, Velocity and American Heroes Channel. With the merger expecting to close in the early months of 2018 through a US$14.6 billion cash and stock transaction, the combined company will produce approximately 8,000 hours of original programming annually, be home to about 300,000 hours of library content and will generate a combined seven billion short-form video streams monthly.

“Our focus is, what do we look like three to five years from now, and as people are consuming more content on more devices, what do we have to nourish those audiences so that we can be a long-term, sustainable, high growth, global IP company?,” said Discovery Communications president and CEO David Zaslav (pictured) during a keynote at MIPCOM.

At that point, Zaslav had touted that postmerger, Discovery Communications would be the biggest global IP company in the world, next to Disney. But the Mouse’s move to acquire assets from Twenty-First Century Fox, made in mid-December, might tip the scales further in its favor. The US$52.4 billion dollar deal will see Disney take Twentieth Century Fox Film and Television studios, along with cable and international TV businesses, including the networks FX, Star India and National Geographic, and Fox’s stake in both Hulu and European media behemoth Sky. Before the merger, Twenty-First Century Fox will separate the Fox Broadcasting network and stations, Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, FS1, FS2 and Big Ten Network into a newly listed company. It’s all subject to U.S. government regulatory approval, but in 2017, the groundwork was definitively laid for a significant redrawing of the television landscape. SC, BW

SVOD SHAKE-UPS Amazon made it clear in 2016 that the ecommerce-backed global SVOD was serious about its ventures into the non-scripted space. At the tail end of 2016, the Jeff Bezos-led company rolled out its Prime Video streaming service to more than 200 countries and territories worldwide in an attempt to compete with SVOD giant Netflix (available in 190-plus countries). That push was anchored by its acclaimed automotive travel series The Grand Tour (pictured), Amazon’s most expensive series to date, reportedly worth US$250 million over three seasons. The debut episode of the series — starring former Top Gear hosts Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May — broke its previous streaming records with viewership “in the millions,” the company said at the time. However, 2017 hasn’t been as rosy. In October, Amazon’s entertainment division found itself embroiled in internal strife and sexual harassment allegations. Amazon was hardest hit by the removal of Studios head Roy Price from the unit he helped launch in late 2010 after he allegedly


January / February ‘18

made unwanted sexual remarks to Isa Hackett Dick, executive producer of Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle, at an industry conference in 2015. The executive shakeup at the Santa Monicaheadquartered studio continued days later with the ousting of unscripted chief Conrad Riggs, who oversaw The Grand Tour, Eat the World with Emeril Lagasse and American Playboy: The Hugh Hefner Story. Riggs’ removal from Amazon’s top executive ranks came after few unscripted series managed to establish themselves as successes on the service. Filling the alternative topper vacancy was Heather Schuster, who joined Amazon two months earlier as senior creative director. The restructuring also

saw former head of unscripted development Tracey Lentz elevated to head of creative, unscripted. Netflix, meanwhile, continued in its accelerated growth, adding 5.3 million streaming subscribers globally throughout its third quarter. The Los Gatos, California-based streamer will continue to rely on the strength of original programming in 2018, with plans to spend an estimated US$8 billion on content. Meanwhile, big studios and networks have begun reclaiming their old properties from Netflix’s library — opting to instead push them on their own platforms. Apple, for its part, has ramped up its content efforts after announcing it would pour US$1 billion on the acquisition and development of original television content over the next year. The iPhone maker is said to be positioning itself to acquire and produce up to 10 high-caliber series that will live on its streaming-music service, Apple Music, or a new video-focused service. To that end, Apple fortified its content creation efforts with the addition of former Channel 4 executive Jay Hunt, who joined the tech giant’s international creative development team. DA

HOW WAS IT FOR YOU? The beginning of a new year is a time for reflection about the 12 months prior… the good, the bad, and all points between. Here are some of your thoughts on 2017.


My favorite factual program/series/ feature documentary of 2017 was: Jane. I never thought they’d make a program about: Bitcoin. The program/series/doc people will be talking about in five years is: Live PD. In 18 months, no one will be talking about: “Live” Nielsen ratings. The most positive development in the non-fiction content industry this past year was: Pact US merging with the NPA to form NPACT. The most troubling development in the non-fiction content industry this past year was: Relentless, mindless budget cutting. The idea I wish I thought of was: The Trading Spaces reboot. The idea I’m happiest to have had this year was: Letting everyone else have the good ideas. If 2017 taught me one thing it was: This president will say just about anything. The buzzword I don’t want to hear in 2018 is: “Pivot.” My New Year’s resolution for 2018 is: Make Non-fiction Production Great Again! (Wait, it already is).


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My favorite factual program/ series/feature documentary of 2017 was: The latest season of Chef’s Table or Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond on Netflix. I never thought they’d make a program about: Sending people undercover to prison for 60 days, or finding people that would want to go in the first place. The program/series/doc people will be talking about in five years is: I can’t say my own, Keeping Up with the Kardashians. The best factual content I’ve seen online this year was: Vice’s Charlottesville: Race and Terror. The most positive development in the nonfiction content industry this past year was: Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, Apple and other digital players buying more non-fiction programming than ever.

The most troubling development in the nonfiction content industry this past year was: The decline of cable ratings and development cycles getting longer and longer. The idea I wish I thought of: Shark Tank. I watch it every week with my daughter. The idea I’m happiest to have had this year was: Pushing deeper into the live space. If 2017 taught me one thing it was: Patience pays off. The buzzword I don’t want to hear in 2018 is: “Breakthrough.” My New Year’s resolution for 2018 is: To continue to have patience.


My favorite factual program/series/ feature documentary of 2017 was: Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath.

The most troubling development in the nonfiction content industry this past year was: The length of time it takes to get series to air.

I never thought they’d make a program about: I’m never surprised about what comes next in the world of reality!

The idea I wish I thought of was: Live PD.

The program/series/doc people will be talking about in five years is: The Defiant Ones. In 18 months, no one will be talking about: Harvey Weinstein. The best factual content I’ve seen online in 2017: Ball In the Family. The most positive development in the nonfiction content industry this past year was: The willingness to agree from all parties. It’s not been easy but we are all in it to win it!

The idea I’m happiest to have had this year was: Deported. If 2017 taught me one thing it was: Anyone can be the President of the United States. The buzzword I don’t want to hear in 2018 is: “Toothy.” My New Year’s resolution for 2018 is: Be the Woman!



The program/series/doc people will be talking about in five years is: Wormwood — the Errol Morris drama-doc with movie stars in the drama. In 18 months, no one will be talking about: Comic book movies (wishful thinking).


My favorite factual program/series/ feature documentary of 2017 was: Feature doc: Get Me Roger Stone (Netflix); series: The Vietnam War (PBS). I never thought they’d make a program about: When there’s a network for everything and a platform for everyone, it’s tough to be surprised. 042

The best factual content I’ve seen/heard online this year was: Do podcasts count? If so: The Watch, The Gist, The Adam Buxton Podcast, and of course Unscripted and Unprepared with Jimmy Fox. The most positive development in the non-fiction content industry this past year was: People speaking up about sexual harassment. The most troubling development in the nonfiction content industry this past year was: Ever-decreasing budgets.

Netflix’s Last Chance U was a favorite for some of you in ‘17.

The idea I wish I thought of was: Last Chance U. The perfect blend of moving observational documentary and beautifully shot sports sequences. The idea I’m happiest to have had this year was: It hasn’t been announced yet. If 2017 taught me one thing it was: Factual can be every bit as popular as scripted TV. The buzzword I don’t want to hear in 2018 is: “Disruptive.” My New Year’s resolution for 2018 is: To make a blockbuster unscripted series.





My favorite factual program/ series/feature documentary of 2017 was: Last Chance U. I never thought they’d make a program about: A true crime mockumentary about penis graffiti (American Vandal)… but I’m glad they did!

The best factual content I’ve seen online this year was: The Day I Met El Chapo. The most troubling development in the nonfiction content industry this past year was: The scale of bullying and sexual harassment claims within the industry. The idea I wish I thought of: Last Chance U.

The program/series/doc people will be talking about in five years is: Hospital.

The idea I’m happiest to have had this year was: Can’t say, unless you sign an NDA!

In 18 months, no one will be talking about: “Jeopardy” and “Journey.”

If 2017 taught me one thing it was: Follow the story and the money at the same time.

The best factual content I’ve seen online this year was: Jamal Edward’s documentary on mental health. The most positive development in the nonfiction content industry this past year was: Apple, Facebook and YouTube Red’s entry into the fray.


January / February ‘18

The buzzword I don’t want to hear in 2018 is: “Authenticity”, although I said the same thing last year so maybe it’s here to stay… My New Year’s resolution for 2018 is: To predict commissioner departures and hires before they happen!

The most positive development in the non-fiction content industry this past year was: Trump. The most troubling development in the non-fiction content industry this past year was: Trump. The idea I wish I thought of was: Unboxing. The idea I’m happiest to have had this year was: Someone else’s idea which I sold into 24 episodes. If 2017 taught me one thing it was: No one watches linear TV anymore. The buzzword I don’t want to hear in 2018 is: It’s a phrase, actually: someone will buy this show. My New Year’s resolution for 2018 is: To sell a show at Realscreen in 2019.


My favorite factual program/series/ feature documentary of 2017 was: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. I never thought they’d make a program about: Dentists who kill. The program/series/doc people will be talking about in five years is: Game of Thrones.


In 18 months, no one will be talking about: LaVar Ball and his Big Baller Brand. The best factual content I’ve seen online this year was: Mike Rowe’s Returning the Favor.

The most troubling development in the non-fiction content industry this past year was: The $25,000 presentation tape. The idea I’m happiest to have had this year was: Transition of Power. If 2017 taught me one thing it was: Don’t put people who you pay by the hour on hold. The buzzword I don’t want to hear in 2018 is: “Edgy.” My New Year’s resolution for 2018 is: Open the door for karma.

The most positive development in the non-fiction content industry this past year was: The news is relevant again.

My favourite factual program/series/ feature documentary of 2017 was: Chris Packham: Asperger’s and Me. I never thought there would be a program about: A model railway crossing Britain! In 18 months, no one will talk about: Overnights. The best factual content I’ve seen online this year was: I love BBC3’s What Not to Say To … (everyone should watch the Irish one!). The most positive development in the non-fiction content industry this past year was: The increased investment in non-scripted by the SVODs.

The most troubling development in the non-fiction content industry this past year was: The creeping influence of politicians on our broadcasters. The idea I wish I thought of was: This Time Next Year — so blindingly simple. The idea I’m happiest to have had this year was: To ask Andrew Marr to document his stroke recovery with us. If 2017 taught me one thing it was: To never overestimate the voting public!


The buzzword I don’t want to hear in 2018 is: “Noisy.” My New Year’s resolution for 2018 is: To have more fun! •



Home video and FBI archive material shot around the Mount Carmel compound framed much of Waco: Madman or Messiah.


elief is a powerful part of the human experience. But when opposing belief systems clash, it can lead to a complete breakdown of mutual understanding. Different beliefs represent different viewpoints. Dimitri Doganis, the founder of UK-based Raw TV, tells realscreen that prior to working on A&E’s docuseries Waco: Madman or Messiah, he had never been a part of a project in which participants’ beliefs were so wildly divergent regarding how an event actually unravelled. “This is a story where two sides are living in almost different universes, although they are describing the same event,” he says. “That is fascinating and also the challenge of the series. The success for the filmmakers is [when] you understand both.” The two-parter, premiering in late January, tells the story of the events

before, during and after the 51-day standoff between Branch Davidians, led by their charismatic figurehead David Koresh, and federal agents. The tensions came to a devastating conclusion on April 19, 1993 when the religious sect’s compound near Waco, Texas was destroyed in a fire killing nearly 80 people. Doganis The Branch Davidians originated in 1955. A power struggle in the mid-1980s saw Koresh — born Vernon Howell — become head of the movement, after which he started to take several wives, many reportedly underage. Believing that the group was stockpiling illegal weapons, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) obtained a search and arrest warrant for the compound. On February 28, 1993, ATF agents raided the complex. Shots were fired, and by the end of the two-


When it came to shedding new light on the Waco siege for its two-part A&E documentary, Raw TV turned to FBI archives and home video from those within the compound to paint as complete a picture as possible of an event that still divides opinion, 25 years later.




“When you hear, from the people who experienced it, what life was like before, during and after the siege, you understand people better.” 050

Kathryn Schroeder, one of David Koresh’s wives.

Frontain Bryant

hour battle, four federal agents were killed, more than a dozen injured, and six Davidians died. Koresh refused to surrender, sparking the seven-week standoff. Even after a quarter of a century, the events surrounding what happened remain contentious between the Branch Davidians and law enforcement officials. “This is an unbelievable story that unfolds like a movie — it’s a tragedy, but it has a lot of emotional beats and twists and turns even if you know the end,” A&E’s Elaine Frontain Bryant, executive vice president and head of

programming, says. While the siege gripped the nation and was extensively covered in the media, Raw decided to look at what unfolded in Waco all those years ago through the POV of the Branch Davidians, the local authorities and the FBI who were there on the ground at Mount Carmel. “I think this production was unusual in the way it started with archival material and built the story out of that archive material,” says Doganis of the approach employed by the prodco and director Christopher Spencer.

Jim McGee, a member of the FBI hostage rescue team.


FBI archives revealed the existence of 247 tapes of conversations with Branch Davidian leader David Koresh (pictured, with microphone) that provided valuable insight.

That material includes footage and audio from the FBI and home videos that were shot in and around Mount Carmel by the Branch Davidians. Doganis points to the FBI archives as a treasure trove with some extremely critical content: 247 tapes of conversations with Koresh conducted during the 51-day standoff. “Those tapes were scattered to the four winds, but on the FBI website, all the material of the transcripts was there,” he marvels. “I wasn’t sure if anyone read through all of it before.” Although the team could not access all 247 tapes, they were the starting point for the project’s research team as they began work in earnest this past March. Although some had gone missing, the hunt for the tapes led the team to

different police departments, researchers and academics that had the content. Doganis says the tapes go beyond the standoff, and provide invaluable insight to Koresh — revealing details of his childhood, how he came to lead the group at Mount Carmel and his religious beliefs. As a British native, Doganis says he found the openness of the U.S. police forces, regarding access to the material, striking. Spencer, meanwhile, cites establishing the trust of the Branch Davidians who appear on screen as the most challenging aspect of production.

“It’s been principally about establishing and nurturing that relationship with them,” he says. It was vital for the prodco to assure the former members, some now living in the UK and Australia, that the project was a serious endeavor and that their stories would not be sensationalized. “When you hear, from the people who experienced it, what life was like there before, during and after the siege, I think you understand people better,” says A&E’s Frontain Bryant.



Lost and found “Y

ou’re not in Alabama — this is New York!” With those words, Johnson Hinton and two passersby, all three members of the Nation of Islam (NOI), attempted to deter two New York City police officers from clubbing an African-American man on a warm, late April night in 1957. Officers then focused their efforts on the three men, beating Hinton so severely on the head that he would suffer brain contusions and subdural hemorrhaging. All four men were arrested and taken to the 28th Precinct stationhouse. Charismatic Alerted by a witness, Malcolm activist Malcolm X is the subject X, chief minister at the NOI’s of the latest West Harlem temple, descended installment of upon the jailhouse with a small ‘The Lost Tapes.’ group demanding Hinton receive adequate medical attention. After being taken to the hospital, Hinton was then once again detained by police. BY DANIELE ALCINII By evening, a crowd well into the thousands had surrounded the station as Malcolm X reportedly attempted to pay Hinton’s bail. Unable to do so and with the situation at an impasse, the preacher signaled for the masses assembled to disperse in an orderly fashion. They obliged. It would be the first time the American public would become aware of the charismatic Muslim minister and controversial human rights activist, but it wouldn’t be the last. Malcolm X, born Malcolm Little and later adopting “X” to signify his lost tribal name, serves as the subject of the latest installment of Smithsonian Channel’s ‘The Lost Tapes’ franchise. The Lost Tapes: Malcolm X, set to debut during Black History Month on February 26, recounts the activist’s story without taped narration, talking

1895 Films’ ‘The Lost Tapes’ franchise is one of Smithsonian Channel’s strongest performers. In building their profiles of some of history’s more captivating characters, the producers leave no stone unturned, and no clip unseen.


January / February ‘18

heads or recreation. Instead, the project relies solely on the strength of Malcolm’s voice, home videos, localized media broadcasts from the time, and audio tapes from illustrative radio newscasts. “There’s such an authenticity to the real material,” Tom Jennings, founder of 1895 Films and executive producer on ‘The Lost Tapes,’ tells realscreen. “These archive-driven shows, if they’re done well, put you there in a way that even the best experts, authors, academics and witnesses can’t. “They force the viewer to be part of the story.” “The best of these films, in some ways, are history pieces but speak to a contemporary world today and resonate with the events that we’re experiencing right now,” adds David Royle, Smithsonian Channel’s EVP of programming and production, and an EP on ‘The Lost Tapes’, along with the channel’s John Cavanagh and Charles Poe. Previous installments of ‘The Lost Tapes’ have covered the 1945 attacks on Pearl Harbor; the 1992 LA Riots; the murderous rampage of infamous serial killer David ‘Son of Sam’ Berkowitz; and the kidnapping of Patty Hearst by the domestic terrorist group the Symbionese Liberation Army, which ended in her arrest in September 1975. Forthcoming episodes of the franchise will touch upon the Vietnam War, NASA’s space program, natural disasters, significant political events and further notorious murderers. In determining which subjects to tackle, Smithsonian and 1895 alike aim to cover a wide range of important events in American history that resonate in the modern day, and that have a bounty of previously unseen or disregarded materials. “Tom looks for the footage that people have overlooked or have just not looked at carefully enough; the film that never made it into the news programs or documentaries but actually has a poignancy or added meaning with the

“Archive-driven shows, if done well, put you there in a way that the best experts, authors or witnesses can’t.”


1895 Films eschews highlight reels in favor of raw, original tapes for its archive-oriented content.

experience of time,” explains Royle. By obtaining the raw, original tapes and avoiding polished “highlight reels” typically supplied to producers and researchers, Jennings and his 1895 team have managed to offer new perspectives on subjects such as Malcolm X and Patty Hearst. Searching for suitable footage typically begins by scouring the major archive houses such as Getty Images and the National Archive before moving onto local television and radio stations, as well as major news networks. From there, researchers track down experts and authors to mine them for deeper information with a series of offcamera interviews. “For us to create these motion pictures from archive material, we need everything,” Jennings, a Peabody Award-winning filmmaker, stresses. “We want the stuff that people would think, ‘Why would you want to have that material?’” With Malcolm X, Jennings’ Los Angelesbased production studio took the process even further. Through word of mouth, the studio was put in touch with Gene Simpson, a former freelance radio reporter in New York who happened to be in the Audubon Ballroom on Feb. 21, 1965. That afternoon would prove to be pivotal as Malcolm X was assassinated by three members of the NOI — striking him with 15 shots at close range — as he prepared to address the Organization of Afro-American Unity. Splitting from the NOI and its leader, Elijah Muhammad, in February 1964, Malcolm X experienced a spiritual rebirth while on pilgrimage to Mecca. Increasingly disillusioned with the organization, he

publicly renounced some of its teachings while embracing Sunni Islam until his death in 1965. Though now living in Hawaii, Simpson had managed to preserve boxes of reelto-reel audio tapes from that fateful day, wrapped in plastic and aluminium foil, in a humid storage locker on the island of Maui. That Simpson held freelance status proved critical in allowing 1895 to move with ease in the licensing process, due to his wholly owned archive. “The chain of ownership of these images through the years gets muddy after a while and we need to make sure that we’re buttoned up and everything’s spoken for within the context of the show,” says Jennings. “Every image, every sound has a piece of paper attached to it that allows us to show it in the way that we want to. “It’s really [about] making sure that the person who’s licensing us the material is actually the owner of that material.” The importance of discovering Simpson’s

audio tapes is indicative of the vital role radio broadcasts play as a narrative tool within the entire ‘Lost Tapes’ series. Since the films utilize zero written narration or interviews, Jennings and his team begin the editing process with audio as the spine of the story — from television broadcasts, radio programs or police dispatch tapes. “We don’t lay anything down unless we have some kind of audio,” Jennings says. “Radio is something that a lot of researchers I’ve worked with in the past seem to forget about. Audio is king for us because the audio is, in a sense, our narration.” 1895 Films’ time consuming efforts seem to be paying dividends for the Smithsonian Networks-owned channel. Though Royle was initially concerned that archive-based programming could “feel old fashioned” and “particularly boring” to younger viewers, each ‘Lost Tapes’ installment that has aired in 2017 has performed well for the channel, with some skewing slightly younger (LA Riots) and slightly more female (Son of Sam) than Smithsonian’s channel average, according to the network. “Our impression is that ‘The Lost Tapes’ appeals to a broader range of people than you get with some of the more classic recreation documentaries,” Royle says. “This rawness, this edginess that you get … appeals to the younger viewer as well.” •



The Four’s twist has the finalists revealed in the first episode.

“There are lots of older formats that are still out there and we need to be breaking new hits across the board.”


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“People like to watch other people achieving things, and watching other people transform,” he explains. “It’s about people living their dreams… there’s an escapism to that.” Wade says series that deal with singing, dancing and cooking tend to fare well with viewers because “pretty much everyone in the world” has tried their luck in those areas. “There’s an immediate appeal because viewers are automatic judges — they’ve already tried what they’re watching.” Fox’s Jeff Apploff-produced music series Beat Shazam aired earlier this year, but one of Wade’s biggest orders since joining the Fox team is the shiny floor music competition series The Four: Battle for Stardom — a series meant to fill the programming space left by American Idol. Created by Armoza Formats, the format works backwards from typical competition shows. Four finalists, chosen from their auditions, defend their spots each week as they’re challenged by new singers determined to replace them. “It’s a huge swing and we know that the market is crowded, but I think the entire unscripted world would do very well if this show is successful,” says David George, ITV America president and an

executive producer with the series. “If you look across the TV landscape, there are lots of older formats that are still out there, and we need to be breaking new hits across the board.” Mike Cosentino, Bell Media’s president of content and programming, is also on the hunt for series that can expand the media co’s programming beyond Canadian borders. While the Toronto-based company has long found success adapting global hits — including Amazing Race Canada, MasterChef Canada and Canadian Idol — for its broadcast net, CTV, Cosentino says the next part of the strategy is a move towards creating them. Seeing music entertainment formats as a thriving genre internationally, Bell coordinated with American record executive Scott Borchetta’s Big Machine Label Group along with Californiabased Eureka, in partnership with Toronto’s Insight Productions, to develop The Launch. The format pairs unsigned Canadian musicians and artists with industry heavyweights with the goal of creating an original song, and potential hit, over the course of two days. One of the central differentiators for the series compared to other music formats, says




Bell Media’s The Launch features mentors Busbee, Shania Twain and Scott Borchetta.

Cosentino, is that The Launch is designed to be responsive. When each episode concludes, the original song will be available on digital streaming services iHeartRadio and Spotify. “We really think that’s the game-changing ingredient for the series,” he enthuses. Another key component when cutting through the clutter to create a successful musical series? Time. To compete against other programs, shortrun series such as The Launch are an important part of Bell Media’s mid-season programming strategy for its CTV Network. A seven-episode launch in January will air before the Olympics and The Voice’s spring cycle, which means Bell will be able to make sure The Launch is a promotional and strategic priority for CTV. In order for new unscripted music series to

connect, commissioners are searching for concepts that play to modern tastes. “Music competition series need to be consistently updated because they’re so in line with pop culture and what people are up to,” says George, noting Fox’s The Four will cater to hip-hop tastes, to stay in touch with what U.S. audiences are listening to. Aside from The Four, ITV America will be adapting the 6 x 60-minute series Change Your Tune for U.S. audiences. ITVS GE’s primary singing show and Twofour’s latest format sees five bad singers try to improve in front of a studio audience. Fremantle Media’s The Recording Studio is another series that’s taking an alternative route to the genre. The Boundless-produced format was recently piloted by BBC1 and sold to Danish

broadcaster DR1. It follows ordinary people who have been given the opportunity to record a song in a professional studio. As with any format, the challenge for the development team is finding that “secret sauce” that will give the show an edge. But the advantage in working with a tried and true genre is knowing that if you stumble upon that tweak in the recipe, audiences might be more inclined to give it a taste. “When it comes to music shows, you might think the reaction from the audience would be, ‘Don’t do more music series because nothing out there will hold a candle to The Voice or American Idol — everything will be compared to them,’” says Pilgrim’s Silveira. “I think the opposite is true.” •




KICK-OFF RATE SAVE $400 EXPIRES FEB 23 2017 ATTENDEES INCLUDED: A+E | ABC Studios / ABC Entertainment | Al Jazeera America | All3Media | Arcadia Content Armistice Films | Banger Films | Banijay Rights | BBCWW | Bell Media | Beyond Distribution | Blue Ant | Breakthrough Entertainment | Bunim-Murray | CBC | Cineflix | CMJ Productions | CNN Corus | Discovery Channel / Communications / Networks | Electus | Endemol Shine | eOne Frantic Films | go90 | Great Pacific Media | Insight Productions | KBS Korean Broadcasting System Kew Media | Knowledge Network | Lifetime | National Geographic | NBC Universal | Netflix | OWN Quebecor | Red Arrow | Rogers | Sony Pictures Television | VICE | Warner Bros Int’l Television

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he demand for true crime is palpable – audiences across platforms are eating up gruesome tales of affairs gone wrong, people falsely (and correctly) accused of murder, and all the other hallmarks of the extremely hot genre. In 2017, Investigation Discovery execs can rattle off impressive facts and figures about being the most popular network in America for unscripted true stories, among women 25-54, in total day; number one for length of tune for the P25-54 demo; and a Peabody award for Deborah S. Esquenazi’s doc Southwest of Salem: The Story of the San Antonio Four. But the cable net had very humble beginnings 10 years ago. ID’s story begins with a network rebrand in January 2008 from Discovery Times, a joint venture with The New York Times. The Times pulled out of the partnership in 2006. Kevin Bennett and Jane Latman, currently the general manager and EVP of development and research, respectively, have both worked at the network since its inception. Bennett, then the head of programming, tells realscreen that while the team was weighing possibilities for its rebrand, two things coincided to make ID happen: Court TV transitioned to TruTV, and Discovery Channel moved away from the crime genre for strategic reasons, leaving an opening for a new home for true crime programming. ID inherited some of Discovery’s crime shows, such as repeats of New Detectives, FBI Files, and Deadly Women, the latter of which is

still being produced by Beyond Productions for ID. Its 11th season just aired in Q4 2017. “I say all the time that it’s a show that predates the network,” says Bennett. “I was the one aggressively pursuing those shows and while we were still named the Discovery Times Network, the ratings started to take off for us,” he adds. “That made it really easy for me and a handful of folks who were here at the time to relaunch as a crime network called Investigation Discovery.” Bennett recalls that it was a small team working across all disciplines, screening acquisitions and looking through rough cuts. While programming in that era ran the gamut from such series as The Interrogation Room (not to be confused with the new series of the same name airing on Discovery) to The Real NCIS and Undercover, Bennett says it wasn’t until ID got into what he calls the “second wave of shows,” such as long-running series I Almost Got Away with It and Disappeared, that the focus of the programming solidified. “We really built the channel show by show, hour by hour,” says Latman. “What has led to our incredible success is that we listened to the audience. From day one, we paid close attention to what they’re responding to, what they’re not responding to, and [we] pivot towards what they want to see. “There’s a scientific approach and good oldfashioned gut.” For the second wave of shows, Bennett says the team learned that mystery-oriented

Jupiter Entertainment’s Homicide Hunter: Lt. Joe Kenda is one of ID’s top series.

While true crime’s status as the genre du jour is evident across streaming sites such as Netflix, and podcasts such as Serial and S Town, one cable network in particular is reaping the benefits — and has been for a decade. Realscreen takes a close look at Investigation Discovery’s first decade.



storytelling worked. “If we started out with a story that we knew had an ending, we could tell it in a way to present it as a mystery,” he explains. “We had twists and turns, and red herrings. [With] all the programs in the early days, that was the hallmark of what we did.” Another turning point for the burgeoning network was the arrival of Henry Schleiff in 2009. Schleiff, the group president of ID, American Heroes Channel, and Destination America, came to the network with a confidence in ID that bolstered the team around him. “I don’t think we had time to catch our breath, to understand what we were doing and see what the potential was, until Henry came in,” says Bennett. “[Then] we got our legs under us a bit. We certainly had a lot of success in those early days, but there wasn’t a driving strategy. “He’s just been such a guiding force for us,” Bennett adds. “We had the building blocks there but it was really Henry’s vision that helped make it a top 10 network.” Latman recalls when Schleiff joined the network, ID was ranked in the 40s, and he predicted that it would become a top 20 network. “We all looked at each other and said, ‘Is that possible?’ And he made it happen.” From the time that Schleiff joined the network in 2009 to today, ID has gone from 54 million homes to more than 86 million. “Eight or nine years ago, I walked into [president and CEO of Discovery Communications] David Zaslav’s office and I said, ‘You have this small struggling network called Investigation Discovery and I think it could have a much brighter future,’” says Schleiff. “With the people here, and his support, I think I said to him that I could make this a top 10 [network].” “[True crime] wasn’t being fully pursued day-in and day-out, 24/7 by any other network. We collectively had the recognition that this could be something that we own, and we did and we have,” he says. What Schleiff dubs the “perfect storm” of corporate support, executive talent, and the

Beyond Productions’ Deadly Women just finished its 11th season, and originally aired on Discovery Channel.

“True crime wasn’t being fully pursued by any other network. We had the recognition that this could be something we own.”


January / February ‘18


intent to own the true crime genre, has led to milestones such as a meeting in September 2015 that Bennett describes as “drilled into my brain.” “Ryan Alloway [manager of research, ID] came to my office door all out of breath saying that we were number one for day delivery for women,” he recalls. “It was totally out of the blue, and it got us some respect, and helped our ad sales team make inroads on deals. It was a landmark moment.” Another recent highlight for the network was the ratings win for Casey Anthony: An American Murder Mystery in April 2017. The first episode was ranked number one on all television, beating out CBS and NBC during its timeslot. It was a record-breaking series for ID that delivered more than 4 million total viewers. “For someone like me, who was here before this was a network, it was unbelievable to see that happen in nine years,” says Bennett. Jupiter Entertainment was one of the producers on the Casey Anthony series, with Weinstein



Television and American Media, and is also the prodco behind the long-running ID series Homicide Hunter: Lt Joe Kenda. Jupiter’s CEO and executive producer Stephen Land says its long relationship with ID hasn’t changed over the years. “Despite incredible success, they still operate in much the same fashion; their team, frankly, has not grown as dramatically as we’ve seen in some other instances at other networks.” Production partners realscreen spoke with applaud the core ID executives who have dedicated eight to 10 years honing their true crime development and acquisition skills. “It’s incredible when I stop to think about it — we have the same executives currently on three of our shows that we’ve had from the very beginning. We’re all getting grey hairs together,” says Valerie Haselton, co-president of Sirens Media. The Silver Spring-based prodco has produced hundreds of hours of true crime for ID — series


On the Case with Paula Zahn from Weinberger Media and Scott Sternberg Productions is in its eighth season on ID.

including The Nightmare Next Door, Evil Stepmothers and Who the [Bleep] Did I Marry? — dating back to the early days of the network. “We were back in the ‘Wild West’ days when ID just needed tons of content. Jane would call me up and give me a 40-hour order and if she did that today I would drop to my knees and sob for joy,” Haselton says. The popularity spike for true crime across other platforms doesn’t ruffle any feathers at ID, despite the fact that they could be considered competitors. Schleiff says that Netflix, HBO and others who have found success in the true crime genre are creating more of an appetite for the content. “There is only one restaurant open all night long, every day of the year, and that is ID,” he maintains. “The predictability of saying, ‘I know when I go to ID at any time, I will find a story just like the one I enjoyed and watched somewhere else,’ is almost the ultimate marketing tool for [us.]” For producer partners who have grown along with the network, the proliferation of true crime content has been a boon for business, but perhaps has also strengthened their relationships with ID. “We certainly pitch more


January / February ‘18

“We really built the channel show by show, hour by hour. What has led to our success is that we listened to the audience. From day one.” people crime now — we need to keep the lights on — but we have such a soft spot for ID [as] they’ve been with us for all this time, and frankly their execs know exactly what they want,” says Haselton. “They’re empowered by their upper management to make decisions so you’re not caught in a vacuum of indecision.” Arrow Media’s creative director Tom Brisley has been working with ID since 2012, with its first project for the net being See No Evil (a coproduction with Toronto-based Saloon Media). He remembers his early experiences working with Winona Meringolo, VP of development, and Latman, as refreshing. “They know what they want, they know their audience and it was very straightforward business,” he recalls. “I don’t want to sound too gushing but from the editorial, commissioning, business affairs, and

production side, it went really well, and that’s not something you can say happens often.” Brisley says a memorable moment happened in the shaping of the six-part series American Monsters, which debuted in the summer of 2016. The show used home footage of its featured killers in their day-to-day lives, including wedding clips and more, giving a different window into the criminal mind. “When the first home movie footage came in, we played it and realized that if you don’t have any narration on it, and you play it long, it really draws you in as a viewer,” recalls Brisley. “We sent the first rough cut and we thought we’d played it long. ID came back and said, ‘Play it longer,’ and wow, they were absolutely right. We’re now delivering season two.” Land says if you counted the number of small prodcos that have worked with ID in the past 10 years, it would be staggering. Red Marble Media is one of those small indies, whose first series as a company was delivered for ID. “They met with Stephen [Dost, Red Marble’s VP of development] and I, thought we had great ideas, and a resume, but as a young company we’d never done a series before,” says Red Marble’s president and executive producer Kevin Fitzpatrick. ID took a risk on the fledgling prodco and once it delivered the show My Dirty Little Secret, the network kept buying more. “The relationship with ID is the most important relationship we’ve had for the growth of the company,” Fitzpatrick says. “This was a network that was willing to take us on our merit, and not on the size of our company, and consequently we’ve been able to grow from that.” On the flip side, the network has also attracted veteran filmmakers such as Werner Herzog, Barbara Kopple, Joe Berlinger, and talent such as Paula Zahn. Latman says that acclaimed filmmakers come to ID because the network lets them make the films they want to make. “We want to work with them to hear their voice, not to tell them what ours is,” she says. “One of the reasons they come to us is the platform — we reach so many people as the number one cable network for women, so they know they’re going to reach a lot of eyeballs.” The final word, concerning the biggest challenge for the network, belongs to Schleiff. “Believe it or not, it’s that it is ‘only 10 years old,’” he says. “We’re relatively young in the world of cable networks. There’s still a huge portion of the audience that doesn’t know that ID exists … For the next 10 years, that’s something we’re going to continue to do better and brighter than before.” •