Realscreen - Jan/Feb 2019

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JAN/FEB 2019




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JAN/FEB 2019

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Trailblazers: CNN’s

AMY ENTELIS on documentary’s box office boom and cable cachet



©2018 A+E Networks. Claimed marks are the trademarks of A&E Television Networks, LLC protected in the United States and other countries in the world.






Tackling ethics of true crime content; Brent Montgomery Q&A; John Smithson on the doc boom





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Live unscripted programming is back in a big way. But is it here to stay?

The people and companies who forged exciting paths in 2018 for the non-fiction content world, and a look at the trends, triumphs and challenges of the year that was.

THE ARCHIVE ROUNDTABLE Top archive researchers and producers dish on the push for premium content, the doc resurgence, and more.

SPOTLIGHT: FLY ON THE WALL ENTERTAINMENT A look behind the curtain of the Big Brother production house as it celebrates 10 years of building buzz.


On Her Shoulders, the story of Iraqi human rights activist Nadia Murad (pictured), was one of our faves for 2018.

What we loved to watch in 2018.


JAN/FEB 2019



Trailblazers: CNN’s

AMY ENTELIS on documentary’s box office boom and cable cachet

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ON THE COVER CNN talent and content development EVP Amy Entelis is one of the execs powering documentary’s box office and broadcast renaissance. ALSO: Look for your copy of the Realscreen Awards program, inside this issue! 005






GENERATION PORN factual content that captivates...


17/12/2018 18:47

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Jupiter Entertainment

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Left/Right LLC

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Left Bank

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Sale to Sky

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Sale to the Tinopolis Group

ACF acted as Investment Banker to Jupiter Entertainment

ACF acted as Investment Banker to New Pictures

ACF acted as Investment Banker to Left/Right, LLC

ACF acted as Investment Banker to Neal Street Productions

ACF acted as Investment Banker to Left Bank Pictures

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

Paddington and Company

Orion Entertainment

The Garden Productions

High Noon Entertainment

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Sale to ITV plc

Love Productions

Top Gear


Magical Elves

Sale of Intellectual Property Rights to Studiocanal

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Sale to ITV plc

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ACF acted as Investment Banker to Paddington and Company

ACF acted as Investment Banker to Orion Entertainment

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Raw TV

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Sale to Fremantle Media ACF acted as Investment Banker to 495 Productions

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ACF acted as Investment Banker to Raw TV

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ACF acted as Investment Banker to Morgan Creek International

ACF acted as Investment Banker to Half Yard Productions

If you are thinking of selling your company, buying a business, raising finance or renewing your existing deal contact on +1 310 850 5897 to arrange a meeting with our team at Realscreen Summit 2019. For further information please visit us at


January + February 19 Volume 22, Issue 2



ust over seven years ago, Realscreen revamped its look in a rather major way with its May/June 2012 issue, unveiling a bold, new logo and crisp, cool fonts that provided a visual refresh for the content we’ve been delivering to you since 1997. Just two issues prior to that one, we featured Werner Herzog on the cover, and for the new look, Kim Kardashian graced the inaugural cover. As we enter 2019, we felt it was time to go back to the drawing board — not only visually, but with an holistic overhaul of the content within these pages. So it’s bye bye, “Ideas and Execution.” Adios, “Audience and Strategy.” Instead, we’re aiming to make the magazine more of an accurate reflection of the ever-changing industry itself, covering a wider swath of the content production and distribution spheres with more of the comprehensive analysis and behind the scenes coverage you’ve relied upon us for over the past two decades. You’ll still see some of our annual special reports — the ever-popular Global 100 and our MIP Picks among them — but ideally, each issue of Realscreen will be its own animal, if you will, providing a fresh look at the trends and topics impacting your business as they happen, while anticipating the ones that will shape the near future. Each edition will be bookended with regular sections. “First Look” will feature Q&As with and viewpoints from top execs, insights of industry trends, and spotlights of emerging platforms and new buyers, among other timely tidbits. And “The Final Cut” will close out each issue with interviews, ideas, opinions, images, illustrations or whatever else strikes our fancy. Kudos to our art director, Mark Lacoursiere, and Brunico Communications’ creative manager, Andrew Glowala, for their great work in delivering this new vision of Realscreen. Who knows — maybe this time around, we can have Werner and Kim on a cover together at some point. If you’re going to dream, dream big. Cheers, Barry Walsh Editor and content director Realscreen

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 News Editor Daniele Alcinii Senior Staff Writer Frederick Blichert Staff Writer Selina Chignall Contributors Rahoul Ghose, 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

Webmaster Farhan Quadri AUDIENCE SERVICES

Data Integrity and Customer Support Supervisor Christine McNalley CORPORATE

President & CEO Russell Goldstein VP & Editorial Director Mary Maddever VP & Publisher, Kidscreen Jocelyn Christie VP Administration and Finance Linda Lovegrove Senior Director, Events and Creative Services Brenda Wilford Senior Director, IT and eBrunico Eddie Ting All letters sent to realscreen or its editors are assumed intended for publication. Realscreen invites editorial comment, but accepts no responsibility for its loss or destruction, howsoever arising, while in its office or in transit. All material to be returned must be accompanied by a stamped, self-addressed envelope. Nothing may be reproduced in whole or in part without the written permission of the publisher. ISSN number 1480-1434

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elcome to the first issue of Realscreen for 2019 and our brand new design. It’s hard to believe, but the last time the magazine had a design refresh was over six years ago, so it’s high time that we tune up our look and the approach to our content. Much has changed since we published the May/June 2012 issue, with our cover star being unscripted icon and the recipient of the Personality of the Year award at the 2012 Realscreen Awards, Kim Kardashian. Flipping through the nominees list for that year’s awards program, there is not one show that aired on anything other than network or cable television. Fast forward to the 2019 Realscreen Awards nominees featured in the middle of this issue and you will see that amongst the programming from cable and broadcast networks from around the world, there is a healthy sampling of content from Netflix, Facebook Watch, YouTube and Hulu. It’s incredible, to me at least, to see how quickly SVODs, AVODs and digital extensions of cable and broadcast television have become an intrinsic part of the average viewer’s content consumption. Think about it — that was a mere seven years ago. In an effort to reflect the lightspeed changes enveloping your industry, we have chosen to report on those changes in a more fluid and dare we say, organic way. We want our pages to capture the conversations of the moment, and be less restricted by defined sections covering specific subject matter issue by issue. We hope you like what we’ve done, and welcome your feedback. And in the spirit of welcoming the new and fresh, I look forward to welcoming you to New Orleans for the 21st Realscreen Summit at the end of January. ‘Til then, go well. Claire Macdonald VP & publisher Realscreen


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By Selina Chignall

HANDLE WITH CARE While true crime content is all the rage across platforms, it also requires great care from ethical standpoints. Here, network and production execs share tips for taking on true crime.

ID’s Cold Valley aimed to close the files on crimes committed close to four decades ago.




Q&A with Brent Montgomery

NowThis moves into long-form

John Smithson on the feature doc boom



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rom sensational tabloids to long-running investigative broadcast network shows such as CBS’ 48 Hours and NBC’s Dateline, entertainment focused on true crime has always had massive appeal. In recent years the genre has seemingly exploded to new heights in our cultural zeitgeist. NPR’s podcast Serial was downloaded by millions; while Netflix’s Making a Murderer helped popularize the true crime doc form across platforms. But in the midst of the true crime content craze, there has been some concern raised in the consumer media and elsewhere about how such programming can potentially impact investigations and how it should be viewed when considering the lenses of race and gender. From The New York Times to Vulture, true crime content, and the production of it, has landed squarely in the spotlight. Realscreen reached out to industry leaders in the true crime space to learn more about the process they undertake when evaluating projects and how they navigate the sensitive social issues that can arise in producing within this increasingly popular genre. Jupiter Entertainment’s Stephen Land says producing true crime requires those working in that space to show an extra measure of sensitivity towards victims and their families. As founder and CEO of the prodco behind Oxygen’s longrunning true crime show Snapped and Investigation Discovery’s Homicide Hunters, Land says producers need to have and display compassion for those who are reliving traumatic events. “It’s not transactional — it’s emotional, and it takes time,” says Land about the process of gaining trust with those whose lives have been changed by the crimes covered. According to Land, in almost every series Jupiter has produced in the genre, there will be a case that the production team wants to explore only to find out that those closest to it do not want to discuss it.


“We will tell them why the case merits sharing, but at the end of day if they don’t want to talk about it, we don’t try to twist [their arms],” says Land. Still, having insider access is paramount for true crime storytelling. Kevin Bennett, general manager, Investigation Discovery, says his team feels responsible for taking seriously the stories being told by the people who are sharing them. If they lose the trust of victims, their families and their stories on a shoot it would have serious longterm consequences. “It would shut down our access in the future,” Bennett says. At NBCUniversal’s Oxygen, Rod Aissa, EVP, original programming & development, says when deciding to greenlight a project for the true crime net, access to the actual investigators, the prosecutors and even the defense attorneys (if they can get access to them), as well as family members of the victims, is essential. “We want those things so we’re not just telling a story with experts or generic talking heads, or reporters, unless they were actively involved in the case,” says Aissa. Some of the most captivating crime content of late has involved ongoing, unsolved crimes. Although Jupiter, Oxygen and ID generally work with adjudicated cases, there are times when the content covers open or cold cases. For example, on ID’s Cold Valley and Killer Unknown, Bennett says the team aimed to cooperate with law enforcement to ensure they didn’t reveal information that could interfere with any ongoing investigations. Sometimes, according to Bennett, producing programming about certain stories will help bring in new information as people become willing to step forward and to open up. “Our hand in hand cooperation with law enforcement in those circumstances is essential because if people start to talk to us, we want to make sure that we can funnel the right information to the right authorities,” says Bennett. Producers and networks should also aim to sensitively handle the societal or cultural issues that can add context to the stories. But care needs to be taken to ensure that such

If people start to talk to us, we want to make sure that we funnel the right information to the right authorities.”



context is genuinely applicable, and not included to “spice up” a story. One of Oxygen’s highest-rated shows to date was Academy Awardnominated director Joe Berlinger’s The Unspeakable Crime: The Killing of Jessica Chambers, which examined the murder of 19-year old Chambers and the trial of Quinton Tellis, the African American man accused of the crime. Aissa says that within that series, producers had to tackle the issue of race. Although it wasn’t the driving focus of the narrative, it was certainly part of the discussion that surrounded the attention the case has received, with racial tension arising in the town where the crime took place in its aftermath. “If it’s something someone is just trying to put in to create the narrative then that is something we don’t want to do,” he says. Similarly, race and attitudes towards it played roles within New York-headquartered Lucky 8’s The Disappearance of Phoenix Coldon for Oxygen. Coldon, a young African American woman, went missing in December 2011 in her hometown of East St. Louis. Coldon’s parents and assorted commentators maintain that what appeared to be a relative lack of media coverage of the case could be pinned to what PBS journalist Gwen Ifill termed as “Missing White




Oxygen’s The Disappearance of Phoebe Coldon explored wider issues of race in the context of criminal cases.

We don’t want to lock ourselves into one way of thinking [about a case] because it may unfold in a different way.”

Woman Syndrome” — what is considered to be disproportionate coverage of crime cases involving white, middle-class women. “Race, sexual identity, all these things can be included in a true crime story, but [they] can’t be forced in,” Aissa says. Stories that naturally reflect such context and interweave larger social issues can, and do, connect with audiences. The Unspeakable Crime is Oxygen’s highest-rated weekly premiering series since the July 2017 true crime rebrand among the 18-49 demo, and women in the 18-49 and 25-54 demos. The Disappearance of Phoenix Coldon had 426,000 total viewers in the second and final episode, up 23% from the premiere. Recently, Investigation Discovery teamed up with civil rights advocacy organization The American Southern Poverty Law Centre for Hate in America which explores the organization’s work in fighting hatred and hate crimes across the United States. “Civil rights is a big part of justice in this country and is why we tackled these issues in the past,” says Bennett. Beyond concerns over access and approach, the execs realscreen talked to say that producers embarking on true crime projects should always utilize the key tool for any documentarian: an open mind. When covering crime, it’s a must, for the sake of the victims, the families and others involved, and for justice itself. “We don’t want to lock ourselves into just one way of thinking [about a case] because it may unfold in a different way,” says Aissa.





the early days of 2018, when Brent Montgomery announced his intention to launch a brand new media and marketing venture dubbed Wheelhouse Entertainment, it caused a buzz in the non-scripted world. In only a year, the former CEO of ITV America and founder of Leftfield Entertainment has pulled off a few major moves for the venture. In the fall, Wheelhouse trotted out two major announcements — a partnership with comedian Jimmy Kimmel to establish a creative content hub, Kimmelot, and the arrival of longtime A+E exec Sean Cohan as president. Realscreen reached out to Montgomery to find out if he’s digested the flurry of activity from this past year, and what lies ahead for Wheelhouse in 2019.



You’re coming up on one year since you launched Wheelhouse Entertainment. How has the company evolved from your original vision of what it would be, over the course of this first year? This year has been all about laying the bricks — I feel like a mason — and our ambition has grown tremendously. We are in the process of putting together several partnerships that will help transform us from purely a content company into a full-fledged media business with a sophisticated model unlike anything in the market right now. Of course, it all begins and ends with finding the right people and we are off to a tremendous start.

You recently announced a partnership with Jimmy Kimmel. Does this signal a desire to move into other genres — comedy, scripted — and if so, do you see more partnerships with talent as a way in to those genres? Yes, yes and yes. Jimmy mints us in areas that are complementary. He is a unicorn talent with a Rolodex unlike anything I’ve ever seen and he isn’t afraid to use it across both Wheelhouse and Kimmelot. I thought that, with his schedule, we’d get an hour or two a week from him, and it’s more like 15-20 latenight emails a day. The man doesn’t seem to need sleep.

Do you foresee any challenges as Wheelhouse continues to grow and expand? Of course, but we’ve brought in a great fortune teller in our new Wheelhouse Entertainment president Sean Cohan to steer us around those challenges. Seriously, we think a lot about not spreading ourselves too thin; we’re also focused on partnering with best-in-class people who operate in the lanes we aren’t as adept in.

Any Spoke Studios projects you can shed some light on? I couldn’t be prouder of Joe Weinstock and Will Nothacker, as Spoke is crushing it, having sold about a half-dozen series in less than nine months, which we’ll look forward to our network partners announcing so we can talk about them. Spoke is also partnering a ton with A+ talent — much more, even, than we were able to do previously in more corporate arenas — and Sean Cohan will help Spoke Studios grow like a weed in 2019.

Are there any new areas of content (VR, AR, podcasts) that you are looking to explore via Wheelhouse? Podcasts and experiential are specifically interesting for both Spoke and Kimmelot.

What do you want to achieve in 2019? I want to have clear examples of our business model working and, most of all, find the early partners who we can work with to grow each other’s businesses exponentially in the years to come. Our message is: “Bet on Wheelhouse and we will throw the kitchen in with the sink.” Selina Chignall


NOWTHIS Headquarters: New York, NY

Parent company: Group Nine Media

In its own words: “NowThis creates news content for the social, mobile generation by informing its audience about what’s happening and important in the world right now.”

Social media news giant NowThis has cornered the market on shareable online news content, with short videos custom-made to watch on your timeline, but the New-York based company is increasingly moving towards longer form content, possibly signalling a sea change in the In this new feature, world of web videos. Realscreen shines “What was the benchmark a spotlight on for a smart and well-optimized social video was maybe 60 emerging entrants know us through seconds a year or two ago,” into the unscripted the social video that NowThis CEO Tina Exarhos we’re pumping out and non-fiction tells Realscreen. “That’s moved every single day entertainment space. on every platform,” up to three minutes now, and we’re seeing more and more says Exarhos. “We’re By Frederick Blichert that content that is 15, 20, 25 arguably at the top minutes long is increasing in of our game in that watch time.” shorter form storytelling space, Thus, NowThis has moved towards longer and that’s an obvious area of projects, testing the waters on Facebook, expansion for us, to move into that where it has a huge following of nearly 14.5 longer form space.” million. Its collaboration with Facebook on One such project is New Apocalypse NowThis, which explores the Homeland, from renowned doc various ways the world might end, recently filmmaker Barbara Kopple, which premiered its second season. had its world premiere at DOC The company has also produced a few feature NYC in November. The film is a docs, ranging to upwards of 90 minutes. “People coproduction from NowThis and

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NowThis is moving into the longform doc game, partnering with Barbara Kopple on New Homeland.

Kopple’s Cabin Creek Films. Some of these projects are produced in-house, with NowThis’ existing production resources, though the company is also seeking partnerships. “We have an amazing team, internally, and there are a couple of projects that we’re producing solely inhouse here,” says Exarhos. “And then there are other cases where there are amazing producing partners and really wonderful filmmakers who we’re partnering with, because they know that this is a platform that allows for great social amplification for the 019 films that they’re making.”



By John Smithson


here is something in the air, and what I’d hoped would happen looks increasingly likely. A big, healthy market is emerging with brilliant creative talent, great stories, lots of distribution options, real finance choices and audiences who seem to have a voracious appetite for skilfully crafted films, on the big screen as well as via streaming. This is always the time when I start thinking about the state of the theatrical documentary market. The catalyst is the buzz from the annual documentary awards cycle of the Academy through to the BAFTAs. Plus there’s the exciting new crop of docs that have made it through fearsome competition to get into Sundance. One hundred and sixty-six docs have been submitted to the Academy, and every one of them is the product of a journey of creative passion and relentless hard work. So it’s tough that the list is brutally culled to 15, then five, then down to one. When I’ve written about feature docs in the past, I’ve always heralded a brave and exciting new world for creatives drawn to this genre, but this hasn’t quite happened to this point. To be sure there have been, in pure box office terms, major break-out docs, although many have been starry, music-based features or lurid, highly political docs. But now I think it’s real. The trends of the past year only reinforce this. Who would have thought that stories about an iconic Supreme Court judge, a beloved kids TV host and three identical triplets would do significantly well at the box office and be hot tips for the awards. According to Box Office Mojo, RBG, Won’t You Be My Neighbor and Three Identical Strangers have all made it into the list of the top 30 all-time best performing feature docs. All three are stories that could have existed perfectly well as TV docs, so how encouraging it is that they’ve broken into the theatrical orbit. Their success is bound to encourage financiers to take the plunge on a new wave of docs, which do more than follow the formulaic rules.


Once there were fears that SVOD would damage the theatrical market — that seekers of quality docs would spurn the cinema and binge at home. I feel the opposite has occurred and the advent of SVOD has reenergized things. Yes, the streamers are creatively enabling and provide the finance and platform to deliver a substantial slate of quality work. But significantly, they have encouraged other players to grab a slice of the action. CNN, for example, was behind two of the three films I mentioned. In cable and in new SVOD ventures there is a real desire to invest in the right projects. The resurgence of feature docs has had another significant impact. Their creative DNA is spilling into longer form content. Storytelling, the big screen feel, and sheer craft has distinguished some of the most talked-about series of recent times. If you think about the creative excellence of OJ.: Made in America or Wild Wild Country, they are both feature docs on steroids. The feature doc influence is even percolating into mainstream TV. Savvy producers are

Who would have thought that stories about an iconic Supreme Court judge, a beloved kids TV host and three identical triplets would do significantly well at the box office?” realizing that telling your story with a theatrical sensibility gives a prestige and classiness that sits comfortably with the binge-viewing crowd. In our turbulent, non-scripted world this triumph of the theatrical doc is a rare good news story. Indeed, such is my confidence in the resilience of this genre, that I intend to spend much more of my time focusing on this exciting opportunity. John Smithson is creative director of Arrow Pictures, a new feature and high-end factual label created out of Arrow, the leading indie which he co-founded in 2011.

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By Daniele Alcinii

LIVE AND KICKING? Fabien Cousteau, grandson of the legendary Jacques Cousteau, was part of Discovery’s live event, Into the Blue Hole.

With Live PD opening the floodgates, networks and production companies are once again embracing live episodic television and specials as a way to resuscitate the idea of “appointment television.” But how much is too much, and is live in danger of being “done to death”?





ive content is certainly not a fresh concept for the television industry, but it’s a notion that’s breathed new life into in the unscripted space in recent years. As it was in the early days of television, it’s partly thanks to technology. Advancements in 4G cell phone broadcasting technologies help facilitate the production of such live hits as Live PD for A&E. Since its launch in October 2016, the ride-along policing series from Big Fish Entertainment has served as the leading unscripted justice series on television. In August 2018, the series averaged more than two million total viewers in primetime on Friday and Saturday nights. As a result of its summer triumphs, the A+E Networks flagship channel re-upped the franchise for 150 new episodes, adding up to 450 hours of content. To date, Live PD has been commissioned for 293 episodes. The rapid ascendancy of Live PD has provided the New York-based Big Fish with some important intel: viewer engagement is key for the live genre, and the live “hook” is no guarantee that such engagement will come right away. Thus, Big Fish, which was in June acquired by MGM, has transformed that experience and knowledge into the development of additional programming for the live environment. “I think the big thing to know when you’re doing a live show is that it takes time to incubate and every series has a different length of time [needed] to incubate to be successful,” says Big Fish’s chief creative officer Lucilla D’Agostino. “We have various live series that we’re pitching and we have live series that we are about to go into production on,” she continues. “We’re attempting to do live in every genre where we feel like it truly makes sense.” In November, the production company paired with licensed physician and psychiatry resident Dr. Jessica Clemons on a live therapy special titled In Session with Dr. Jess. The VH1 hour-long event looked to address the stigma surrounding mental illness through an in-depth exploration with influential radio host Charlamagne Tha God and to embolden others to reveal their stories and personal struggles. “By inviting viewers to engage with [Clemons] directly on social and share their own experiences, the live format becomes essential to maintain the authenticity of the dialogue,” D’Agostino says. Some experiments in live tentpole programming have paid dividends for other networks that have taken the plunge. In August, National Geographic


launched the event special Yellowstone Live, which utilized cuttingedge, cell-phone bundling technology to highlight the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem in real time. The live stunt attracted 13 million total viewers across Nat Geo and Nat Geo Wild over its four-night, multi-platform run. A+E’s Lifetime, meanwhile, is also moving into the space. Gena McCarthy, EVP and head of unscripted at Lifetime and FYI, spent considerable time attempting to reinvent the wedding genre, what with relationship formats serving as the best performing content across the brand — led by series such as Married At First Sight and Seven Year Switch.

Live PD was proof positive that if you have the right idea on the right brand it could cut through and deliver brilliant real-time numbers.” “Live is appealing because we all live in this world in which real-time McCarthy viewing habits are changing more and more — even the most successful franchises have shifted to L+3 or L+7,” she explains. “Live PD was proof positive that if you have the right idea on the right brand it could cut through the competition and deliver these brilliant realtime numbers to keep people coming back week after week.” For a series to break out in primetime and superserve the Lifetime audience, McCarthy says, it has to feel like a fresh reinvention and have a “very muscular” conceit — the program, in other words, has to elevate or reinvent the subject matter for viewers. Enter My Great Big Live Wedding. Produced by Los Angelesbased Thinkfactory Media, the eight-part live event series will feature eight deserving couples from different American cities as they work together with wedding and event planner David Tutera to plan out the wedding of their dreams. Slated to premiere Feb. 5, the Lifetime series is designed to play as an Extreme Makeover: Home Edition in the wedding space for the “most-deserving couples in America” with “amazing, emotionally dramatic stories” to tell. “I know the [relationship] genre works because I’ve done about a dozen successful shows in it, but I haven’t seen it done this way,” says McCarthy. “The live element hopefully gives it a real-time, event-

A world of unscripted, in one place.



driven, essential viewing element that it wouldn’t have without it.” The Lifetime exec, however, says her team wants to ensure that any live content created at the network can be repeatable. “My Great Big Live Wedding is a very simple, clean format that we’ve developed and created that I think can be very repeatable for us and work past the live broadcast.” While the A+E Networks subsidiary currently receives approximately two or three ideas a month for live concepts through its development pipeline, McCarthy and her executive team are attempting to be “very strategic and deliberate” in the ones they pursue. Thinkfactory CEO Adam Reed, meanwhile, often challenges his development team to explain why a series has been pitched as a live concept. If they can’t offer a specific answer, that series does not get produced as a live program. “We’re very cautious and careful about what we take to market,” Reed says. “Live for the sake Reed of live is never going to work, but live that adds stakes to an already tremendous amount of them — that will work.” In the last rush of live content a few years back, Discovery We never lead had scored with specials such as with ‘live.’ We lead Skywire Live with Nik Wallenda, which aired live in 2013 across with the concept more than 200 countries of the show and worldwide. The project was a the execution, ratings smash domestically, generating Discovery’s highestand what is best ever rating for a live broadcast. to deliver to an But the company had quietly moved away from the live stunt audience.” space in the years since. Nearly six years removed from Skywire Live, Discovery has once again stepped up to the plate in an attempt to take a big swing into the genre with Lucky 8’s policing docuseries Border Live and the event special Discovery Live: Into The Blue Hole from INE, Impossible Works and Discovery Studios. Both programs premiered in December. Hosted by award-winning news journalist Bill Weir, the sixpart multi-platform Border Live saw crews embed themselves in the field with officers and special agents at key sites along the U.S.-Mexico border, while the two-hour, one-off Into the Blue Hole dove into the mysterious depths of an ancient sinkhole off the coast of Belize.


“The beauty of linear television is having moments that everybody is watching at the same time, talking about at the same time — you can be a part of a national conversation,” says Nancy Daniels, chief brand officer for Discovery & factual. “Just look at what live sports and live events do. “We’re definitely open to that space and see huge opportunity.” Despite the onslaught of live proposals sitting on the desks of network executives at the moment — “I don’t know if I can quantify a number for you, but we’re getting a lot of live pitches,” says Daniels — industry veterans say producers and development execs should proceed with cautious enthusiasm. “We never lead with ‘live’ — we lead with the concept of the show and the execution of that show, and what is best to deliver an audience,” Thinkfactory’s Reed notes. As with all programming, there are no guarantees when it comes to the success of a live project. While Border Live’s premiere numbers were close to those of Live PD’s debut in October of 2016, ultimately, Discovery opted to cancel the series three episodes into its planned six-episode run, with its third ep pulling in only 430,000 viewers. And for its successes in the real-time space, the team at Big Fish knows that a hopeful big swing can still result in a sobering miss. In July 2017, the prodco attempted to liven up the relationship space by offering a flyon-the-wall view of dating in Lifetime’s Date Night Live. The series provided a voyeuristic look into at least nine dates per episode across various American cities. However, the series didn’t return for a second season, with available data showing that Date Night Live generated a rating of 0.05 in the 18-49 demo and an average of approximately 200,000 viewers. “With Date Night Live, it was raw, it was unformed and in the future when we look at this space, those are the two things that we’re going to take into account,” D’Agostino says. “The live dating space isn’t dead,” she adds. “We are very much still convinced that it can be successful and we are currently even attempting to crack that.”

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AMY ENTELIS EVP, talent and content development

CNN Worldwide



hen Amy Entelis joined CNN in 2012, she was on a mission to transform CNN from a solely news-based cable net to a prime destination for long-form premium storytelling. “I think we have achieved that,” Entelis, executive vice president for talent and content development for CNN Worldwide, tells realscreen, at the close of a year that suggests she’s right. Entelis was responsible for launching four content brands for the network’s global platform, including the nonfiction focused CNN Original Series and HLN Original Series; and the documentary platforms, CNN Films and CNN Films Presents. Since joining CNN six years ago after 30 years with ABC News, Entelis and her team have developed more than 35 non-fiction series. The most successful of those, the Zero Point Zero-produced Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, aired its 12th and final season in 2018. Bourdain tragically took his life in the midst of shooting the new season, and several episodes aired posthumously. Meanwhile, CNN Films has acquired, co-produced, or commissioned more than 40 feature and short films, including three of the year’s buzziest docs: RBG, directed by Betsy West and Julie Cohen; Three Identical Strangers, directed by Tim Wardle; and Love, Gilda by Lisa D’Apolito.

The variety and quality of storytelling Entelis has overseen through her tenure has drawn in a new and younger audience for CNN. “We did it very purposely because we wanted new voices, we wanted new points of view, and we felt that the documentary community was rich in those kinds of people that could provide that kind of programming,” she says. What are the criteria you’re looking for when investing in a film? It starts with a topic and theme. We rely heavily on CNN to support CNN Films and Original Series, so we do companion programming. It has to fit the zeitgeist of the network. Beyond that, it has to have a defined narrative. Films do well on CNN that are character-based, and that are illustrating larger themes and issues that we talk about on CNN. In 2019 CNN is producing a biographical documentary on Anthony Bourdain. What can you tell me about the project and of Bourdain’s importance to the network? On the Original Series side, it’s impossible to overstate how impactful Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown has been for CNN. It set a path for other people who wanted to work with CNN and do original series. His loss to us, and his family and his team, is really immeasurable. In terms of the documentary, we want to honor Tony. I think we want to explore more deeply how he did what he did, why he did what he did, how his craft developed, how his view of the world developed, and somehow capture that in a documentary film. What does the success of RBG, Three Identical Strangers and Love, Gilda mean for CNN? We are immensely proud of those projects and to be identified with those filmmakers... We feel like CNN is in a groove where we have been able to define what we are about, what stories we care about and what we are seeing — at least theatrically and through performances on CNN — is that audiences agree with us. I think we hit our mark. Selina Chignall

What companies are attractive for acquisition? AS: In non-scripted, you’re looking for track record, what shows they’re currently producing, and you’re assessing the potential longevity of those shows. But you’re also fundamentally looking at the people that are running it, and in some respects you’re “buying” those people as much as the shows and the infrastructure. Core bought IPC and that was an important piece of their portfolio that was previously missing, but they’re also looking at Eli and myself to be corporate stewards for them. So similarly, we’re looking at reliable, honorable people that do quality work and that we believe have as much of a future for putting hits on the air as they have a robust present. We’re also looking at future trends in the business, and premium content has been a really exciting disruptor. I think traditional non-scripted companies still have a bright future, but I think we’ll also be looking for people that can execute and produce premium content, to serve that market. On the scripted side, IPC has a few projects a particular strategy AARON and regarding setting those up, SAIDMAN and I think we’ll be looking President to increase the scripted Industrial Media capabilities of Industrial as a whole. That might be in the form of a start-up, or an acquisition, but it’s a real part of our strategy. What trends are you paying the most attention to for the year ahead? EH: I’ve never seen the marketplace evolve as rapidly as it is doing today. It used to be a big deal when a new cable network emerged, or one would go away. This is the most robust marketplace we’ve ever seen, but it’s also the most rapidly evolving. There are signs that there’s more of a move towards traditional, larger scale offerings — there’s a lot of emphasis on developing in the live space. Premium, though, doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. It takes a lot of effort and hard work, and partnership between the production staff and the network to do great work, but it can come in at a typical price point. AS: One thing with premium that we’re seeing and will continue to see is a real emphasis on filmmaking and I think directors who weren’t always as significant in unscripted are becoming very important in the premium space. So how you’re going to approach the production is as important as what the idea is or what the ‘sell’ is. Barry Walsh



t’s one thing to bring your production company under the fold of a larger company. It’s another thing to be picked to lead that larger company. That’s precisely what happened to Intellectual Property Corporation (IPC) co-founders Eli Holzman and Aaron Saidman this summer, when Core Media Group extended the offer to the team to not only acquire IPC, but also to position Holzman and Saidman to lead a revamped version of the superindie under the new banner of Industrial Media, as CEO and president, respectively. The move is intended to bring Industrial Media, home to the Idol and So You Think You Can Dance? franchises via 19 Entertainment as well as other prodcos such as Sharp Entertainment and ELI B-17 Entertainment, HOLZMAN back into growth CEO mode. It follows a challenging couple of Industrial Media years for the former Core Media Group, in which the company — owned by shareholders Crestview Partners, Tennenbaum Capital Partners and agency UTA — filed for bankruptcy and restructured with the help of current shareholders after transferring its assets from previous owner Apollo Management. It had been without a CEO since the exit of Peter Hurwitz in the fall of 2017. Enter Holzman and Saidman, who were busy blazing trails with IPC, which they cofounded in 2016. In the span of two years they’ve garnered critical and commercial success with the Emmy-winning Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath for A&E and Active Shooter for Showtime, among other projects. Now, in addition to rolling out new series for linear and non-linear outlets (upcoming series include more projects for A&E and a project with Vice helmer Adam McKay for Amazon), the team will be utilizing its entrepreneurial knowhow to expand Industrial Media, with an eye towards acquisitions, start-ups and, according to Saidman, “anything that can increase the capacity of the company as a whole.”

In an industry that seems to be changing on a daily basis, it’s hard to keep track of those changes, and the creative and strategic minds behind them. But we managed to catch up with several such individuals and companies here. Through their work, these trailblazers have either anticipated change and harnessed it for their benefit, or have served as key instigators of those moves. As a new year begins with more evolution and innovation doubtlessly on tap, Realscreen salutes those who propelled 2018 to fascinating heights.


Let’s talk about the acquisition of Electus, as that was a fairly major move. HO: We thought it was an opportune acquisition for us for three obvious reasons and one larger, more holistic one: it’s got a great physical production platform with shows like Running Wild with Bear Grylls, Chopped, Adam Ruins Everything… it felt like there was a diverse portfolio that fit well with our creative sensibilities. It also has a robust international distribution platform, with 4,000 hours, deals, relationships and talent from countries from around the world. On the third note, they have positions in some of the best talent companies in North America [Electus purchased a majority interest in talent management firm Artists First in 2017; Propagate now owns that interest]. We look at talent as a great starting point for premium IP. So those three



ounded in 2015 and led by co-CEOs and former colleagues at Reveille, Ben Silverman and Howard T. Owens, Los Angeles-based Propagate Content has made the pursuit of new opportunities an integral part of its mission from the get-go. While the world waits to see what tech giant Apple has in store for its content slate going forward, Propagate got in the door early with its Planet of the Apps series, which featured Gwyneth Paltrow and Jessica Alba as judges, among others. And while prodcos are chasing podcasts and their creators for IP, once again Propagate has “been there and done that,” via Lore for Amazon Prime. That forward thinking attracted Greg Lipstone, another previous colleague of Owens and Silverman and a founding partner at ICM Partners who most recently served as CEO of All3Media America, to the company. In September, he came on board as president. Approximately a month later, Propagate announced the acquisition of Electus, the global producer/ distributor originally launched by Silverman with backing from IAC. “I think the process was three to four weeks, which is practically unheard of, and that’s a testament to how great a fit it was,” says Lipstone of the deal. Kicking off the past year with boutique merchant banking firm The Raine Group joining A+E Networks as a primary investor in the company, Propagate also penned development deals with European mediaco Antenna Group and Brazil’s Formata Produções — further moves into an international content strategy that has been part of the company’s key players’ DNA through their careers. “We were thinking internationally when people weren’t really thinking that way,” says Lipstone. “Our philosophy is still very much the same.”

dynamic capabilities were incredibly additive to our portfolio. Finally, across the board, none of that would have worked if we didn’t think there was a strong cultural fit between our companies. They’re all people that we’re excited to work with. Bringing Greg on board also fortifies the top line at the company. Tell us about how that came to PROPAGATE be. CONTENT HO: We could think of no more suitable partner for us — he’s someone who understands Ben Silverman (l) international content, multi-platform distribution, Chairman and co-CEO and the business of IP. Ben and I had worked with Greg many years ago at William Morris, and had Howard T. Owens (r) a profound relationship throughout our careers working together as business partners of shows like Founder and co-CEO The Office and The Biggest Loser… Also, there’s our Greg Lipstone (inset) friendship, and ability to speak the same language, and the most important thing — trust. We don’t President need to be with each other at every meeting, or we can be on different coasts, and we can trust that we’re all working hard in lockstep on our mission. GL: My goal was to get into business with entrepreneurs, and people who are incredible creators with great relationships and a view not just on America but on the global marketplace. Frankly, there is nobody else who has built businesses over the years like Ben and Howard have, so as I spent my summer talking to the guys, it became more and more evident that it was a match for me and what I wanted to do. BW 033


on-fiction storytelling is nothing new at Ron Howard and Brian Grazer’s Imagine Entertainment. In 2005, Grazer produced Inside Deep Throat, and in 2013, Howard directed Jay-Z: Made in America. The New York-based prodco has worked on various other documentaries and non-fiction series through the years, with subject matter ranging from The Beatles (Eight Days a Week) to science and exploration (Nat Geo’s Breakthrough). But in 2018, the company committed to a designated documentary division with outgoing RadicalMedia executive and frequent collaborator Justin Wilkes at the helm. Soon after, HBO executive and Emmy- and Peabody-winning producer Sara Bernstein signed on as executive vice president of documentaries. Imagine Documentaries is currently in production on its first feature-length documentary film and docuseries, with more announcements to come in 2019. Concurrently, Imagine launched Imagine Impact, a trailblazing content accelerator and talent incubator that uses strategies from Silicon Valley and the world of tech start-ups to foster new talent on the scripted side, offering an eight-week creative boot camp and mentorship for new creative voices. “The goal for us is to find original, talented, diverse voices from all over the world, who want to tell universal stories,” says Tyler Mitchell, who heads up Imagine Impact. “We want to democratize access to Hollywood, which is traditionally a closed system. We basically came up with ways that we could leverage technology in the talent discovery process, and then partner with worldclass mentors.” In short, Imagine Impact seeks to inject new life into the industry and increase the talent pool to create better content from more diverse voices. “If they succeed, then everybody does, because better material means better shows for the audience, and better projects for networks,” says Mitchell. “We’re really just trying to create a win-win for everybody.” While Imagine Impact doesn’t yet include documentaries, Wilkes and Mitchell maintain that non-fiction will be part of the next phase of expanding Impact to cover more genres and formats. That might mean creating a separate accelerator for doc projects specifically in the near future. Realscreen spoke with Wilkes about Imagine’s focus on the documentary space and what the company has in store going forward.




IMAGINE ENTERTAINMENT Justin Wilkes (l) Head of Imgaine Documentaries

Tyler Mitchell (r) Head of Imagine Impact

Why develop a designated doc stream at Imagine? Over the past 30-plus years of Imagine’s existence, there’s always been this draw to real stories. And if you think back to some of the best films that Ron and Brian have been a part of, whether it’s Apollo 13 or A Beautiful Mind, and even television programs like Friday Night Lights, so much of their work was based on real people. We’ve been positioning ourselves, essentially, as a studio, and having the ability to get involved in different aspects of the business that we had before.

What kinds of stories does Imagine Documentaries want to tell? The filter for us is: are these stories aspirational? Can these stories be told in the most premium way possible, and can we do what Imagine has always done, which is tell these remarkable stories that are commercial and seek to inspire a larger audience? We want to be very filmmaker friendly and filmmaker focused. It’s been really fun getting to sit with people who we’ve known for years and ask them, what are the stories you want to tell? What are the stories that you haven’t been able to tell? What are things that are of interest to you right now? How can we get involved? How can we help to incubate this project?

The way you describe it sounds very grassroots. Has there been much dialog with Imagine Impact? Huge fan of it. We’ve been already talking about how we can extend that into our world a bit. It not only gives a mechanism for undiscovered talent to get in front of buyers and help to nurture their projects, but it also gives an opportunity for reputable talent to come in with a project and get seen in a different kind of a way. It truly is an incubator for ideas and for projects, and so to be able to take that same model and apply it to the non-fiction world in the coming year is definitely something we’re talking about and we’re interested in. Frederick Blichert

It’s been really fun getting to sit with people who we’ve known for years and ask them, what are the stories you want to tell? What are the stories you haven’t been able to tell? How can we get involved?”



FA I R M O N T M I R A M A R H O T E L , S A N TA M O N I C A , C A


Jayson Dinsmore

President, Alternative Programming & Development Fremantle

Head of Unscripted Facebook Watch

EVP, Development & Original Programming WE tv

Lauren Gellert

David George

Allison Grodner

Eli Lehrer

Audrey Morrissey

Tim Mutimer

Founder & Executive Producer Fly on the Wall Entertainment

Allison Page

President, HGTV Discovery, Inc.

Toby Faulkner

EVP/GM History

Babette Perry

Head of Broadcast & Alternative TV Innovative Artists

Executive Producer Live Animals

Ben Samek

President & Chief Operating Officer Endemol Shine North America

CEO ITV America

CEO Banijay Rights

Mona Scott-Young CEO Monami Entertainment


W TCB MEDIA RIGHTS Paul Heaney CEO and founder

hen Paul Heaney launched Londonheadquartered TCB Media Rights in 2012 after leaving his post as president at UK distributor Cineflix Rights, he saw an opportunity to develop a new type of distribution model. The focus of his venture would involve fostering broader relationships with both broadcasters and producers, a shift from the traditional approach of the distribution world, and more in line with new model sales agencies such as UKbased Drive. This past year, TCB went further afield and took a bold stride into the commissioning space, with former BBC Worldwide commissioning editor Hannah Demidowicz joining TCB in that role. In just six years, the company has seen tremendous growth, which presumably made it an attractive acquisition target for Toronto-headquartered Kew Media Group, which purchased TCB for approximately US$7.4 million in October. Over the past 12 months, TCB Media has launched nearly 80 projects, of which 25 were fully or heavily funded by the distributor.

How did you set out to make TCB Media different from other distributors when you set up shop in 2012? I felt I should create a business that was as fast moving as unscripted is — it demands to be fast moving as producers need responses quickly — I wanted it to be dynamic. I know it’s cliche. I felt that whatever had gone before with distribution, why not do it a different way.


Banijay Rights presents The best in Factual…







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Do you see distributors moving more explicitly into commissioning becoming a norm? Yes, we are all ambitious. The list of responsibilities needed to guide the program to full execution means you need to bring someone in, another pair of eyes, who will oversee the project. If more shows are being made where there isn’t a commissioning broadcaster this is going to happen all the time.


Why did you decide to move in to commissioning? I felt if we didn’t do this we wouldn’t get the pipeline of content that we wanted. I thought we’re not doing justice to the money we are putting in; we’re not doing justice to the producers we are working with, many of whom are putting their trust in you not to just make the show happen, but also to deliver some profit afterwards from backend revenue. I felt the only way to do this was to bring in someone who would oversee the content and offer a skillful qualified eye that the producers and broadcasters involved would respect.

How do you balance the company’s expanding roles — being a commissioner and executive producer while maintaining your traditional role as a distributor? I don’t want to commission every project — we have to keep this in check or it will suck up too many resources. We need a healthy balance in favor of standard pre-sales, advance or minimum guarantee models, along with the commissioning model. SC

The list of responsibilities needed to guide the program to full execution means you need another pair of eyes who will oversee the project. If more shows are being made where there isn’t a commissioning broadcaster, this is going to happen all the time.”



The more that things change, the more they stay the same. While disruption seems to be the order of the day in the entertainment industry, many of the disruptors of the last year recall past gamechanging events. M&A activity moved further into the broadcasting domain, redrawing the buyers’ landscape, and some of the biggest hits of the last 12 months were revamps of successes from seasons gone by. Here are some of the trends from 2018 worth noting. 040




2018 didn’t invent the TV reboot, but the year saw a phenomenal number of series making a comeback. And it wasn’t just the Roseannes and Murphy Browns of yesterday making their way to the skeds. Non-fiction titles of days gone by got in on the nostalgia boom in a serious way too. Some of the reboot slate of 2018 (whether premieres or announcements) consisted of more recently departed titles such as American Idol, which went off the air on Fox in 2016, came back to ABC and is set to return in March of 2019. Then there was the personal boundary-pushing Fear Factor, already rebooted once from 2011 to 2012 and currently set for a second season at MTV, with musician and actor Ludacris serving as host. Other reboots had to reach further into the past, with varying degrees of success. In February, Netflix brought back Bravo’s Queer Eye after 11 years off the air, then again for a second season in June. A new “Fab Five” were enlisted to make over various “heroes” in need, and the series racked up considerable acclaim and a few Emmys in the process. Meanwhile, MTV’s upcoming reboot of The Hills turned some heads by doubling down on its premise of bringing teen drama The O.C. into the real world by casting O.C. alum Mischa Barton in this year’s The Hills: New Beginnings. The list of non-fiction reboots is truly impressive, with revived series that were launched or announced over the course of 2018 including Battle of the Network Stars, Bridezillas, The Real World, Temptation Island, While You Were Out, Trading Spaces, Mysteries and Scandals, Bug Juice, Eco-Challenge, Jersey Shore, Deal or No Deal, Supermarket Sweep, Wife Swap, The Joker’s Wild and more. Frederick Blichert

The box office success of documentaries this past year has illustrated that docs aren’t just for bingewatching couch potatoes anymore. Over the course of the spring and summer months, Betsy West and Julie Cohen’s biopic of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, RBG; Academy Award-winning director Morgan Neville’s Fred Rogers-focused film, Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (pictured), and Tim Wardle’s feature Three Identical Strangers, about three identical triplets who reunite years after being separated at birth, brought in millions of dollars at the box office. The success of docs at the cinema continued into the crisp fall months. Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi’s multi-award winning feature Free Solo, which follows Alex Honnold as he completes the first free solo climb of El Capitan’s 3,000-foot vertical rock face at Yosemite National Park, garnered US$8,935,533 at the box office as of Nov. 18, according to movie tracker, Box Office Mojo. Amy Entelis, EVP of talent and content development for CNN Worldwide and one of our 2018 Trailblazers, attributes the boom to a hunger for in-depth storytelling. “I think documentaries are filling that void,” Entelis says. CNN Films was a producer on both RBG and Three Identical Strangers. Consumer media trends also point to a potential extension of the “summer of docs” into this year and beyond. The rise of SVODs provides more opportunities for buyers and sellers of doc fare, and expands the opportunities audiences have to view the content. Cable appears keen to catch up. Selina Chignall

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INDUSTRY INEQUALITIES EXAMINED After a series of stunning revelations of abuse at the highest levels of Hollywood broke through in 2017, this past year saw a series of highprofile steps to not only staunch ongoing issues, but to make moves towards systemic changes. Perhaps 2018’s most high-profile story involving alleged sexual harassment and misconduct in the upper echelons of entertainment was the exit of Les Moonves from CBS. The former network chairman and CEO was the focal point of two explosive New Yorker pieces from Ronan Farrow, in which several women went on the record to accuse Moonves of various instances of misconduct, including a situation that resulted in a criminal investigation earlier this year. By December, the CBS board of directors, after conducting its investigation, concluded that there were grounds to terminate Moonves for cause, and therefore would not offer Moonves a severance payout worth US$120 million. In 2018, the spotlight intensified on executive structures in the television and film industries. In the UK, public broadcasters and production companies were put under the microscope regarding gender pay equity and hiring practices. The BBC commissioned a series of reports on various inclusion measures in the hopes of reflecting and representing the diversity of the UK. The initiative included reports on employees from various groups: people with disabilities, women, members of LGBTQ communities, people from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds and people from lower socio-economic backgrounds. Meanwhile, fellow pubcaster Channel 4 increased the numbers of women employed in senior positions, working towards a 50/50 target set for 2023 by C4 chief executive Alex Mahon. The company also saw a reduction in the gender pay gap from 28.6% on March 31, 2017, to 22.7% on the same date in 2018. Film fests have also stepped up their commitment to inclusivity. The Toronto International Film Festival and the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam, among others, signed up for the Cannes Film Festival-spearheaded 50/50 by 2020 pledge. The goal of the initiative is to promote gender equity and inclusion by agreeing to measures on accountability and transparency. The year saw a slew of docs grappling with the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements (such as This Changes Everything, which featured actresses Meryl Streep and Taraji P. Henson, pictured), and the question of workplace equality — a trend that is set to continue in 2019, with several projects pursuing those themes slated to make their festival circuit debuts at Sundance. FB (with files from Barry Walsh) 042


With the FAANGs sinking their teeth ever deeper into the content ecosphere — taking nearly two-thirds of all new TV and video revenue in 2018 — the finalization of Discovery’s merger with Scripps Networks Interactive was just one of the major waves of change crashing over the industry. Coming in at US$14.6 billion in cash and stock transactions, the Discovery/Scripps deal was eventually completed on March 6, and grew Discovery’s channel portfolio to 16 (up from 10 networks). The combined company now produces approximately 8,000 hours of original programming annually. Consolidation efforts amplified

in the months that followed, with shareholders for 21st Century Fox and The Walt Disney Company (led by chairman and CEO Bob Iger, pictured) approving their estimated $71.3 billion merger in July. In the merger, set to close in the first half of 2019, the Mouse House will acquire Fox’s television and movie studio; a stable of cable television channels, including National Geographic; television operations in India; Fox’s stakes in streaming service Hulu and British satcaster Sky; as well as a 50% stake in Endemol Shine Group. 21st Century Fox, acting on behalf of Disney, shortly thereafter sold off its 39% stake in Sky to Comcast in a deal

worth $15 billion (£11.6 billion). That news came shortly after Comcast triumphed in a oneday auction to acquire the entire issued and to be issued share capital of Sky with a winning bid of US$40 billion (£30.6 billion, at £17.28 per Sky share), beating out rival suitor Fox, who valued the British broadcaster at $32 billion (£15.67 per share). “This is a great day for Comcast. Sky is a wonderful company with a great platform, tremendous brand, and accomplished management team,” said Comcast chairman and CEO Brian L. Roberts at the time. “This acquisition will allow us to quickly, efficiently and meaningfully increase our customer base and expand internationally.” On the prodco front, word broke in June that Endemol Shine Group, equally coowned by Fox and Apollo Global Management, had hired Deutsche Bank and Liontree to seek a sale that valued the Netherlandsbased superindie between $2.5 billion and $4 billion, including debt. Rumors swirled in the months that followed, with several major players reportedly throwing their hats into the ring to snap up the MasterChef and The Island producer, including entertainment talent agency Endeavor and Paris-based production and distribution conglomerate Banijay Group, run by former Endemol executive Marco Bassetti. But one by one the hats were pulled back out of the ring, possibly due to the hefty price tag. In November, the move to sell had been suspended by Endemol Shine’s co-owners despite advanced discussions. With the sale halted, Disney will take over Fox’s 50% stake in the global producer-distributor when its deal to purchase various Fox entertainment assets closes. Daniele Alcinii

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How Was It For You?

As 2018 drew to a close, realscreen once again offered industry professionals from around the globe the chance to sound off about the year that was by taking part in our annual year-end reader’s survey. To summarize: you liked Live PD and Won’t You Be My Neighbor, scratched your head over Dr. Pimple Popper, and you continue to flinch when you hear the word “authentic.” Read on for the rest.

DAN CESAREO Founder and president

Big Fish Entertainment My favorite factual program/series (or feature documentary) of 2018 was: This year it was a tie between two polar opposites. Nailed It! made me laugh. And Flint Town was depressing, but amazing. I never thought they’d make a program about: People tattooing vulgar things on each other... wait, we make that show (How Far is Tattoo Far?). The program/series/doc people will be talking about in five years is: It’ll be less about one particular program, and more the entire genre of live unscripted content. The most positive development in the nonfiction/unscripted content industry this past year was: The non-linear programming arms race. The most troubling development in the nonfiction/unscripted content industry this past year was: The acceleration of cord cutting. The idea I’m happiest to have had this year was: Joining MGM. If 2018 taught me one thing it was: Take risks. The buzzword I don’t want to hear in 2019 is: The phrase “our version of…” I’d rather be original. My New Year’s resolution for 2019 is: Be present in the moment.

DAVE HAMILTON EVP, development

Cineflix Productions My favorite factual program/series (or feature documentary) of 2018 was: The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling. Alternately hilarious, frustrating, and heartbreaking. I never thought they’d make a program about: One of the more inspiring things about our industry is the ability of our storytellers to tell stories that seem impossible to crack. I never thought there would be a live show about crowdsourcing medical ailments (M.D. Live), but I’m excited to see how TNT and Lionsgate figure it out! The program/series/doc people will be talking about in five years is: Minding the Gap. With the explosion of video camera usage over the past decade, program creators and filmmakers will continue to be presented with opportunities to mine years worth of existing footage to create new projects.

In 18 months, no one will be talking about: Production clocks. Well, perhaps a tad longer than 18 months, but content is going to continue to migrate toward a running length that suits story more than it does existing, rigid program slots. The best factual content I’ve seen online this year was: Wild Wild Country. The most positive development in the nonfiction/unscripted content industry this past year was: The diversification of digital buyers. With the addition of AT&T, Disney, Warner, and Quibi to the existing FAANGs, the landscape for digital sales is hopefully trending toward what we saw in the heyday of linear sales. The most troubling development in the non-fiction/unscripted content industry this past year was: Some networks’ over-reliance on reboots. The idea I wish I thought of was: Border Live. The idea I’m happiest to have had this year was: You’ll have to wait for the announcement! If 2018 taught me one thing it was: Long, multi-step development deals and committee-led, risk-averse decision processes don’t lead to higher ratings, and in fact, keep fresh ideas stalled off-screen. The buzzword I don’t want to hear in 2019 is: “Sticky.” My New Year’s resolution for 2019 is: Great ideas are worth fighting for. 043



Back Roads Entertainment

My favorite factual program/series (or feature documentary) of 2018 was: The Kavanaugh hearings. I never thought they’d make a program about: There are too many to mention here — you know that if a dollar can be made off of even an audience of one, a producer will attempt to make it. The program/series/doc people will be talking about in five years is: Won’t You Be My Neighbor? In 18 months, no one will be talking about: Second screen experiences. The focus of our attention now is one screen and most of the time it’s mobile. The best factual content I’ve seen online this year was: Evil Genius.




The most positive development in the non-fiction/unscripted content industry this past year was: A report on CNBC saying the money spent on content will double in the next five years. The most troubling development in the non-fiction/unscripted content industry this past year was: The same report on CNBC saying the money will likely go to big media companies. So… the content pie will double but they’re likely not cutting more slices. If 2018 taught me one thing it was: We keep getting reminded that even though distribution changes, audience habits largely don’t. They/we still want premium, long-form content experiences. As Michael Wolff wrote, “television is the new television.” The buzzword I don’t want to hear in 2019 is: Disruptive.

BETH BURKE Owner/executive producer

BSTV Entertainment

My favorite factual program/series (or feature documentary) of 2018 was: Dancing Queen on Netflix. No tea, no shade. I never thought they’d make a program about: Arts & crafts. Making It was a delight. When the ousted maker would come out in the end scene with Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman, that was genius. The program/series/doc people will be talking about in five years is: Nailed It! Nicole & Jacques — BFFs. In 18 months, no one will be talking about: Reboots. The best factual content I’ve seen online this year was: RBG. She needs to live forever. The most positive development in the nonfiction/unscripted content industry this past year was: Women speaking up.

The most troubling development in the nonfiction/unscripted content industry this past year was: The length of time it takes to get something on the air. The idea I wish I thought of was: The Fixer Upper Network The idea I’m happiest to have had this year was: My business partner Blake Swerdloff-Helms and I produced content for a non-profit supporting LGBTQ teens called Live Out Loud. It’s so important now, more than ever, to use our voice in media to support those who need one. If 2018 taught me one thing it was: You gotta step away from the Twitter from time to time The buzzword I don’t want to hear in 2019 is: Organic and/or authentic. My New Year’s resolution for 2019 is: More water, less tequila.

It’s getting harder to break through the content clutter. There were a lot of great premieres this past year that just didn’t catch on.” I never thought they’d make a program about: Popping pimples! The most positive development in the non-fiction/unscripted content industry this past year was: Actually, a move toward positivity itself. Shows from Queer Eye to America’s Got Talent prove that America wants something, and someone, to root for. The most troubling development in the non-fiction/unscripted content industry this past year was: It’s getting harder to break through the content clutter. There were a lot of great premieres this past year that just didn’t catch on. The idea I wish I thought of was: Live PD. It’s the perfect nexus of an elevated tried and true format with an ambitious, new TV construct never before attempted.

The idea I’m happiest to have had this year was: Before the 90 Days. Okay, I had the idea last year, but I’m happy about it this year as well. As an extension of Sharp’s 90 Day Fiancé franchise, Before the 90 Days follows couples’ journeys before they have ever met in person which opens up the show to incredibly fresh types of storytelling, including the specter of a love interest not actually being who they say they are. If 2018 taught me one thing it was: Viewers want authenticity over contrivance. The buzzword I don’t want to hear in 2019 is: Live… for the sake of being live. Yes, I wish I thought of Live PD, but I think “Knitting Live” is where we should draw the line. It has to make sense and be strategic. My New Year’s resolution for 2019 is: Introducing the world to the next big thing (and yes, we have it!).

MATT SHARP CEO and founder

Sharp Entertainment




44 Blue Productions


My favorite factual program/ series (or feature documentary) of 2018 was: Won’t You Be My Neighbor? I never thought they’d make a program about: Dr. Pimple Popper. The program/series/doc people will be talking about in five years is: Live PD. In 18 months, no one will be talking about: Snapchat face filters. The best factual content I’ve seen online this year was: Wendover Productions content on YouTube — minimum two hour rabbit hole.

The most positive development in the non-fiction/unscripted content industry this past year was: More buyers, creative new deals. The most troubling development in the non-fiction/unscripted content industry this past year was: Cable viewers — where’d you go? The idea I wish I thought of was: How to have AI fill out this survey. The idea I’m happiest to have had this year was: Starting “Bagel Monday” and “Wine Friday” traditions at 44 Blue. If 2018 taught me one thing it was: Watch more ESPN, less cable news. The buzzword I don’t want to hear in 2019 is: “The show needs to look ‘premium.’” My New Year’s resolution for 2019 is: Learn to play New Orleans blues on the piano like Dr. John.

ADAM JACOBS Executive producer

Woodcut Media

My favorite factual program/series (or feature documentary) of 2018 was: Basquiat: Rage to Riches — BBC2’s fantastic feature doc on the legendary New York artist. Expertly directed and featuring Basquiat’s sisters talking about him on screen for the very first time, this was essential viewing for anyone remotely interested in the downtown New York scene of the late ’70s and ’80s. I never thought they’d make a program about: Working from home… which sounds quite dull until you put The Sex Business in front of it and voila, you have one of the most talked about shows of the year. Bravo to Channel 5 for tackling something taboo but in such unflinching detail. The program/series/doc people will be talking about in five years is: Dynasties — BBC. Just when you thought natural history couldn’t get any more epic, the BBC go and do it all over again with a survival of the fittest struggle that raised the bar once more. The best factual content I’ve seen online this year was: Wild Wild Country — Netflix. Extraordinary documentary series about the Bhagwan Rajneesh that more than justified its six episode run-time. Gripping and eye-opening in every sense. The most positive development in the non-fiction/ unscripted content industry this past year was: The number of opportunities to produce content

without restrictions on length of program, number of episodes or indeed, subject matter — anything goes and we’ll find a home for it somewhere! The most troubling development in the non-fiction/unscripted content industry this past year was: The scarily supreme superiority of the feature doc and the high-bar set by Netflix in the documentary series space — Evil Genius, The Staircase, Wild Wild Country, the list goes on… The idea I wish I thought of was: The Art of Drumming — Sky Arts. Even if you aren’t a drummer or thought you had any interest in drumming, this show changed your mind very quickly. The buzzword I don’t want to hear in 2019 is: Authentic — the best non-scripted ideas shouldn’t need to have this in the pitch. My New Year’s resolution for 2019 is: To strive and create something unique, resonant and memorable that will be on this list for someone else next year, hopefully for the right reasons!




“IN DEMAND” FOR 2018 Using its own global metric standard, the “demand expression,” Parrot Analytics ( has compiled data for total audience demand expressed for unscripted and factual content across platforms, within various markets, for 2018. Audience demand reflects the desire, engagement and viewership, weighted by importance — a stream/download, for example, counts as a higher expression of demand than a ‘like’ or a comment. (Demand is tracked by Parrot in the form of downloads, streaming, interaction with promos/trailers, reviews, blog sites, social media posts and likes, etc. Networks and platforms listed are original commissioning outlets, and demand is also measured for non-current programming.)



































30 FOR 30/ESPN















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After a hot summer for archive-driven feature documentaries, and archival non-ďŹ ction projects ďŹ nding audiences via an increasing number of outlets, producers and visual researchers are enjoying the upswing.

By Barry Walsh

TA K I N G S T O C K :




We brought some of the best in the business together to talk about how the doc and premium content boom is impacting their work, how long it can last, what archive-friendly subject matter is hot for buyers, and how we are all becoming unwitting archivists.





(The following has been edited for length and clarity)

Realscreen: The doc renaissance is on, “premium” content is hot and more networks seem to be commissioning archivebased content. Is this the boom time, or is that a simplification?


Jessica Berman-Bogdan President/CEO, Global ImageWorks

Tom Jennings Executive producer and founder, 1895 Films

Elizabeth Klinck Producer, visual researcher

Nina Krstic Director/producer, visual researcher

NK: It’s definitely the heyday of documentaries and it’s been an amazing ride. There are so many amazing projects coming out and there are so many things being developed, but very quickly. My fear is that some of the quality will drop off and it’s a bubble that could burst. That’s my pessimistic view but my optimistic view is that I’m so lucky to be working in this age where there is more work than I can handle. JBB: I think people are getting really tired of “reality” television and that whole wave and the natural result, along with the political situation, is that people have a thirst for the real stuff. History, looking at our world and its people — there’s a renewed interest that is being fed into by the search for content from the SVODs and others. Everybody is busy — I don’t know if the bubble is going to burst. EK: I do feel it’s a demographic thing as well and that there’s a big, and growing, younger audience for archive. I’ve been doing this for many years, and there are cycles in which people say, ‘Oh, we don’t want talking heads or black and white archive, we want CGI and recreations.’ So it’s exciting to see archive back in favor again. TJ: I’d call it more of a renaissance. Several years ago, I was at a conference where panelists were discussing history programming. A major producer said, “The one thing you need to know right now is that archive is dead.” Being a fan of archive material I asked, “Is it the fault of the archival images that networks don’t find them interesting? Or is it the fault of producers for not finding more exciting ways to use archive. After all, there’s probably 100 million hours out there.” The panelists looked at each other and finally one said, “That’s a very good question”, but no one had an answer. Now, many networks are looking for that “smoking gun” archive that will shed light on well-known stories. They want producers to come to them with really great, never broadcast images. To paraphrase Mark Twain, reports that archive was dead were greatly exaggerated. NK: There’s also a thirst for long-form storytelling which is playing off the post-Internet age. For a while we were telling stories through 140 characters. So there’s a thirst to dive deep into a subject.



RS: With some of these genres that use a lot of archive, how are they evolving? With history, for example, are we moving more towards ‘modern’ history that only goes back 20-30 years? JBB: I think that because there’s a younger demo watching these [docs], perhaps they’re trying to have those audiences get people interested in things they have knowledge about, rather than something archaic.

EK: I hear from people in their 50s and 60s that their kids are turning them on to documentaries, and it used to be the other way around. That’s strictly due to the Netflixes and Amazons of the world. And social media plays a huge role in getting people aware about programming, and not just the high profile stuff, but the content with a niche following or a group of activists really interested in it. That, to me, is very exciting, to see how that is working out for projects on the lower budget level.

NK: I agree that it’s a lot about demographics. Documentaries [in the U.S.] used to be primarily funded by PBS nationally and local affiliates and those demographics are not the same as who’s watching docs now. Maybe it’s just my luck that I keep working on docs that cover stories from 20 years ago, and that’s an era that I definitely remember from my childhood and growing up with these stories, but someone who is 20 right now might have heard of the story but knows nothing about it. O.J. Simpson is still in modern pop culture, but people who weren’t adults in the ‘90s don’t know a lot about it.

I hear from people in their 50s and 60s that their kids are turning them on to documentaries, and it used to be the other way around. That’s strictly due to the Netflixes and Amazons of the world.”

RS: Now that there are more buyers thanks to the advent of SVOD, what range of projects is out there? What kinds of projects are you seeing a real uptick of demand for? JBB: Music, for sure. And issue-oriented content — environmental, climate change. Also, more of the independent, citizen journalists, and self-funded filmmakers going towards an issue because they’re passionate about it. EK: In Europe, especially, there are a lot of quite personal, POV stories being told, and for a long time that was a very niche market. Because of more delivery systems, there are more ways to hear those stories. TJ: The smoking gun is the big thing with networks today, whether it’s a history story, science or crime. The biggest obstacle we face is often networks will want archival images connected to iconic stories. I was once told by a network that if we are going to pitch a shipwreck story it had better be about the Titanic. I get why networks want stories that can immediately connect with an audience, but there are literally thousands of amazing stories that can be told with archive that are extremely well documented and photographed and would make for edge-of-your-seat drama.



RS: In terms of your specific businesses, with the ubiquity of video sharing platforms, does it make it easier to find the hidden gem clips, or does the process have an added degree of difficulty now? It seems like everything is out there now… JBB: No it’s not…. (laughs) EK: Perhaps more material is readily available than 30 years ago when you’d go to an archive, get your 3x5 index cards and look at a Steenbeck all day. It’s easier now to screen material and you can certainly use the YouTube links to find comparable material. But you still have to clear the stuff — that’s what takes the time. TJ: What I tell my staff when they find something terrific is that’s a great place to start. What’s on the Internet is a small fraction of what else is out there. But yes, sometimes something really terrific pops up in some obscure archive that no one has seen or heard before. That’s the good part. The bad

There’s a special place in Hell for editors who just grab stuff off of YouTube.”

part is tracking down who owns the rights to an image or footage and clearing the copyright. That can be an arduous and often frustrating process. NK: But here’s another scary thing. I did a film about 10 years ago on the Occupy Wall Street movement and there was a lot of iPhone video, and because we collected so much stuff from people’s phones, it is an archive of the movement, in a way. And it’s so easy to just delete that video from a phone. People have all these personal archives but then when they run out of space, they’re constantly erasing modern history. With this new technology, we’re kind of willy-nilly about it, but 20 years from now, people will want to see that footage again, because it is modern history.

RS: Are you finding you’re having to incorporate more of that kind of footage into the projects you’re working on? JBB: It depends on the project, but I’ll tell you one of the bigger challenges. With YouTube, you might find something that someone posted and took from their iPhone, but they weren’t the ones who shot it. We get projects where people are saying, ‘We found all this great stuff on YouTube — can you clear it for us?’ That’s the bigger issue. It’s found there but you have to peel the onion back to find the original owner. Trying to figure out ownership [with those clips] has to be our biggest nightmare. EK: There’s a special place in Hell for editors who just grab stuff off of YouTube. (laughs) 054


NK: At the start of every project, I have a class of dos and don’ts before anyone does anything, because it can be an absolute nightmare if people are cruising YouTube and pulling things in and then it’ll take six months to find someone, if you’re lucky, who posted that random video. It can give you the flavor of things that exist out there, but then you go and do your real research. JBB: On the complete other side, it’s also become an amazing tool. I worked on the Kurt Cobain project [the Brett Morgendirected Montage of Heck] and that helped me find connections and uncovered footage. It was a process of months when it came to finding everybody, but it gave a richness to the project.

NK: If you’re able to find the people who shot the stuff, you’re able to get that first-person, in the thick of it stuff. So there are amazing opportunities there. EK: I remember being asked to find footage of people filming themselves being hit by lightning [for Jennifer Baichwal’s Act of God], and I thought there’d be one or two, but there were hundreds! It’s amazing what people will photograph. My idea would be to run for cover, not pick up my phone.





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Fly on the Wall Entertainment CBS is proud to celebrate our friends and colleagues on their 10th anniversary.

Š2019 CBS Corporation

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12/13/18 12:32 PM



By Selina Chignall

Big Brother, produced for CBS by Fly on the Wall Entertainment, is still a multi-platform unscripted juggenaut after 20 seasons.

Over the past decade, Los Angelesbased Fly on the Wall Entertainment has produced big unscripted successes for broadcast, cable and now streaming platforms. Here, its principals discuss the company’s evolution and its approach to meeting the challenge of delivering hits in our fragmented media era.


hen Fly on the Wall co-founders and CEOs Allison Grodner and Rich Meehan reflect on a decade of running their Los Angeles-based unscripted indie, they see themselves as the last of a breed of producer — the jack-of-all-trades. “We pride ourselves on being able to work for all different sizes of networks and streaming services, and all different levels of shows creatively and from a budgetary standpoint,” Meehan tells realscreen. Founded by Grodner and Meehan in the winter of 2009 from the merger of two unscripted production companies,


Allison Grodner Productions and Meehan Productions, Fly on the Wall has gone on to produce major hits on cable and broadcast, including the long-running reality competition format Big Brother on American broadcaster CBS, which just wrapped its 20th season this past summer. Fly on the Wall came to produce the American adaptation of the John de Mol format — and its spin-offs, Celebrity Big Brother, Big Brother After Dark and the late-night show, Big Brother Over The Top — when CBS came to Grodner and her partner at the time following a first season, saying it wanted to keep the format on the broadcaster but was looking to change it up. Grodner pitched a version of the show that diverted from other international versions of the format, with the evictions being decided upon by the house guests — not by an audience popular vote. “You had a hierarchy in the house that was won and would change week to week,” explains Grodner. “That helped drive the drama and the conflict in the game.” Ultimately, CBS went with Grodner’s pitch for the second cycle of Big Brother. Meehan boarded the series in the third season, and rose to the position of executive producer by the seventh season. The producing team says it learns something new with each season, either in front of the camera as house guests touch upon current issues in the zeitgeist, or with challenges behind the scenes. “Whether game related or personal, when you have a group of people locked away for 99 days you have to prepare for anything that can happen, whether it’s inside the house or outside the house,” says Meehan. Indeed, Grodner recalls working on the second season of Big Brother, when the 9/11 terrorist attacks occurred. Due to the nature of the show’s format, it meant that the three finalists in the Big Brother house would only find out about the attack after the event happened. Grodner says the finalists did not see the news broadcasts until after they were out of the house — weeks after the tragedy occurred. The unpredictability baked into the series makes it must-see television for its fans. Even though it’s not the viewers who evict the guests, Meehan says the team still keeps the viewers involved with real-time voting



Company principals and co-founders Allison Grodner and Rich Meehan.

that can impact the game and the opportunity to vote on their favorite houseguests each season. Big Brother remains a juggernaut for Fly on the Wall and CBS, as it topped the 10 summer shows — out of approximately 150 — in the key adults 18-49 demographic during its 20th season this past summer. The series averaged 5.5 million viewers weekly, with the finale also winning its time period in A18-49 and A25-54. But beyond that series, Fly on the Wall has carved out a slate that

That’s the big challenge: how do you launch a show and get a second cycle?”

ranges across a swath of genres, including home renovation via Flip or Flop Atlanta for Discoveryowned cable channel HGTV. The series features Ken and Anita Corsini, owners of a family business that renovates old Southern properties into charming, modern-day homes. Flip or Flop Atlanta went on to garner 16 million total viewers in its debut season and wrapped up its sophomore season in December. Sarah Kuban, director, original programming & development for HGTV and DIY Network, was involved in the development process for the series, and tells realscreen that she found the Fly on the Wall team to be creative, adaptable and understanding of the HGTV brand, adding, “They have been willing to do whatever it takes to produce a successful show.” Having substantial experience in navigating the twists and turns that come with live production via Big Brother’s “eviction” episodes, Fly on the Wall is keen to capitalize on the current hunger for live content. Recent projects in that vein include TLC’s This is Life Live!, a miniseries that follows families as they face life-changing events live on television. Fly on the Wall has also produced multiple projects for YouTube, including Katy Perry’s Witness World Wide, a live streaming event from June of 2017, which featured the singer living in a Big Brother-style house to promote her fifth studio album, Witness. The event garnered a whopping 49 million views.

Television, on another reality competition series for CBS, Million Dollar Mile. Hosted by former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow, the 10-part series will head to major U.S. cities where everyday athletes will have the chance to compete to win US$1 million every time they run the Million Dollar Mile. The key challenge of the course is that it also features elite athletes whose only goal is to prevent the contestants from winning the money. Describing the format as a “massive undertaking,” the production challenges on the upcoming project include shooting mammoth obstacle courses in downtown Los Angeles at night. During their first night of filming, the team was once again faced with weather issues, as condensation made the obstacles slippery. “We had to move quickly to resurface everything in order to still stay on budget and schedule,” says Grodner. Meehan says this type of project is unlike anything they’ve done up to this point and he’s hopeful the competition-meets-game show will stand out. But even with having the star power of a heavyweight such as James behind the project, Meehan says it’s still a battle to attract substantial audiences in an era of fragmented media. “That’s the big challenge: how do you launch a show and get a second cycle?” Meehan asks. Ultimately, a show can only be as good as the team behind it, and both partners say that working as trusted and trusting collaborators is essential for giving a project its best shot. And when it comes to managing a diverse slate, this synchronicity allows them to “divide and conquer.” Fly on the Wall has a small group of approximately 12 full-time staff based out of their Los Angeles headquarters. However, depending on the productions on the slate, throughout the year they bring on approximately 500 freelancers on a number of projects. In 2018 alone, the prodco partnered with 12 networks and produced more than 500 hours. YouTube’s Relles says he senses that from a production teamwork standpoint, Fly on the Wall has a solid, dependable core working on the projects. “They’re very collaborative and truly understand how to work together.”


This past September, Fly on the Wall was behind the YouTube Original special event Will Smith: The Jump, in which the actor live-streamed a bungee jump out of a helicopter near the Grand Canyon to mark his 50th birthday, and for charity. Will Smith: The Jump generated over 17.5 million views within the first 48 hours of the video going live. YouTube Originals wants to create innovative content unique to its platform while teaming with established partners such as Fly on the Wall who have years of experience in the live genre. Ben Relles, head of unscripted programming for YouTube Originals, worked with the indie on the Katy Perry and Will Smith events. He describes Fly on the Wall as “exceptional collaborators” who were open to feedback over the course of producing those two projects. “They have truly made an effort to understand interactivity on YouTube and how to leverage some of the tools [within the platform],” says Relles. “For example, on both the Katy Perry and Will Smith specials, viewers could choose their camera angles in real time, and Fly on the Wall’s experience with Big Brother was a huge asset there.” But even with years of experience in the live space, Grodner says the genre brings its own challenges. While shooting The Jump, for example, the team had to figure out how to stream live from a location with no production infrastructure or even WiFi capability. Thunder and lightning storms leading up to the actual jump jeopardized the project up to the very last minute. Looking forward, Fly on the Wall is working with SpringHill Entertainment, the shingle established by basketball legend and executive producer LeBron James and producing partner Maverick Carter; in association with Warner Horizon Unscripted & Alternative

Fly on the Wall’s diverse slate incorporates a range of content, from live streaming events to home reno programming such as HGTV’s Flip or Flop Atlanta.

We pride ourselves on being able to work for all different sizes of networks and streaming services, and all different levels of shows creatively and from a budgetary standpoint.”


To paraphrase Frank Sinatra, when it came to quality documentary and unscripted content, 2018 was a very good year indeed. Here, the Realscreen editorial team offers its picks for the best non-fiction content of the past year.

306 Hollywood It was May of 2017 when I was introduced to the directorial debut of Elan and Jonathan Bogarín. The brother-and-sister filmmakers were in Toronto pitching their film, 306 Hollywood, to a room of financiers and fund representatives during the 2017 Hot Docs Forum. Seeing a very rough trailer, I was immediately enthralled. The 88-minute, magic-realist film chronicles the siblings — who together run New York-based studio El Tigre Productions — as they undertake an archaeological excavation of the home of their late grandmother, Annette Ontell, who spent more than 70 years in a modest house at 306 Hollywood Avenue in New Jersey. Ten years of interviews with Ontell between the ages of 83 and 93 provide an honest reflection on a life well lived. These intimate moments are coupled with a journey from her home in New Jersey to ancient Rome as the Bogaríns search for the connections between memory and history, and what life remains in the objects left behind. Reminiscent of Wes Anderson’s film aesthetic, 306 Hollywood flexes its creative muscles throughout its run time and utilizes cinematic shifts in an attempt to dive deeper into the story of what happens when someone is gone. Appearing throughout are such flourishes as a doll house-sized replica of their grandmother’s house, and dramatic recreations through dancers and actors lip-syncing to family conversations preserved on tape. Daniele Alcinii



On Her Shoulders In war zones and conflict-ridden areas, women face not only the harsh realities of physical harm but sexual violence as well, as was the case in recent years for thousands of women, at the hands of the terrorist organization ISIS as it swept through parts of the Middle East. Award-winning director Alexandria Bombach captures this reality in her 2018 film On Her Shoulders. In the 94-minute feature film, the Sante Fenative director, who took the U.S. doc directing prize at Sundance, paints an intimate and powerful portrait of Nadia Murad, a Yazidi woman fighting on the international stage as the voice of her people. Murad survived the genocide of Yazidis in Northern Iraq in 2014 but was subjected to sexual and physical abuse at the hands of her ISIS captors before she was able to flee and escape to Germany in 2015. Bombach follows Murad, the recipient of the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize, as she struggles with the weight and responsibility of seeking justice on behalf of her people. The director captures the toll it takes on Murad emotionally as she is swarmed by desperate refugees in camps, and relives her traumatic experiences during interviews with the media and politicians — all while attempting to carve out some semblance of a normal life. Murad is captivating in every frame; perhaps most powerfully in her on-screen moments of quiet and reflection. Those moments add to the visceral nature of the documentary as audiences witness this quiet but powerful woman faced with a seemingly impossible mission that was thrust upon her shoulders. Selina Chignall

Queer Eye I remember watching the original Queer Eye for the Straight Guy when it first aired in 2003 on Bravo. It was one of very few shows mainstreaming queer identities and felt new and exciting at a time when reality TV was first impacting the zeitgeist. I was pleased to hear that Queer Eye was being rebooted at Netflix, with new hosts taking over the task of making over each episode’s subject, no longer merely limited to the “straight guy.” I was also pleased to find the show so compulsively watchable. Each host has his own specialty — food, fashion, culture, design and grooming — but each also takes time to get to know whoever they make over, tailoring the makeover to the person’s personality, lifestyle and interests. It’s a feel-good show that offers real, deep insights into how we relate to each other. It also strays into tough subjects such as racism in policing, transphobia and religious intolerance without feeling flippant, and challenges stereotypes by including diverse subjects, from a trans man, to a Christian mother, to a gay man preparing to come out to his mom. The first two seasons of Queer Eye felt like a hopeful ray of light in a rather dark 2018, but they never felt trivial or fluffy. Frederick Blichert


Factually Focussed

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