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Director Nanfu Wang is part of Realscreen’s spotlight on fresh talent in docs and unscripted
NEXT GEN NON-FICTION
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RIDING THE REBOOT WAVE
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The birth of haute cuisine 52’
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Losing sleep 52’
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ART & CULTURE
Leonardo’s Madonna revealed 52’ & 90’
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MAY + JUNE 2019 10 FIRST LOOK
Are we approaching SVOD overload?
ON THE SLATE What’s on the way from U.S. cable nets for 2019-2020?
NEXT GEN: UNSCRIPTED
RIDING THE REBOOT WAVE
Fresh prodcos proﬁled
The revival craze continues… but for how long?
NEXT GEN: DOC DIRECTORS Fresh directing talent talks challenges and triumphs
Dr. Lauren Thielen will star in a new Nat Geo Wild series, Lonestar Vet, this fall.
ARCHIVE REPORT Industry perspectives from an indie footage house owner and archivist
42 THE FINAL CUT
Phil Gurin on the importance of protecting IP
iving in Toronto, I’m either blessed or cursed, depending on your thoughts on winter, to be able to experience four seasons. While these days, spring and fall tend to end abruptly without warning and morph instantly into their more extreme successors, it is nice to be able to note the changes as they occur — the rising and falling temperatures, the shifting colors of the landscape. This year, the early signs of spring provided inspiration for the content in these pages. With this issue being the one you’ll ﬁnd on the stands at such events as Sunny Side of the Doc, Shefﬁeld Doc/ Fest, the Banff World Media Festival, the Toronto International Film Festival and our own Realscreen West, why not make a concerted effort to feature newer and yes, younger talent making an impact on the non-ﬁction and unscripted content business? As all of you reading this know, the myriad opportunities that are springing up via the explosion of outlets hungry for programming are matched by the number of new challenges producers of all stripes must face as the business models for buyers adapt and evolve. If it’s hard enough to make sense of it all and keep up momentum as a “preferred vendor,” it’s undoubtedly tougher to carve out a path and build a business as a newer company. And on the doc side, while the genre is enjoying a considerable resurgence across platforms, the demands of the work and the splintered economics involved in funding it make it still incredibly difﬁcult to eke out a career as a documentarian, for veteran ﬁlmmakers and newcomers alike. So, as we hop from conference to conference and gain wisdom and perspective from those who have built careers that stretch over decades, let’s also tip our hats to those who are in the process of building their brands now, through a dizzying concoction of ambition, passion, creativity and fearlessness. May they continue to spring forward with each passing year. Cheers, Barry Walsh Editor and content director Realscreen
May + June 19 Volume 22, Issue 4
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The Second Youth Of R. Stevie Moore
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A LETTER FROM THE PUBLISHER
Tackling the diversity challenge
or the past several years we at Realscreen have made a concerted effort to address issues surrounding diversity and inclusion in the unscripted content industry in meaningful and constructive ways. We try to ensure that programming at our events tackles how communities are represented in the industry — in front of and behind the camera — and what practical steps can be taken by employers of all sizes to address inequality. We try to ensure that our panels and stories within the magazine incorporate perspectives from men and women of diverse backgrounds. We have awarded Realscreen’s Diversity and Inclusion award during the last two Realscreen Awards shows. Through both the magazine and our events, we solicit the perspectives of experts and report on how they think diversity and inclusion can be made a priority in the business of unscripted and non-fiction entertainment. With all this in mind, admittedly, it can be frustrating to hear that we are not doing enough. Sometimes that criticism comes in the form of a remark such as, “You folks should do a panel on diversity one of these days!” While we can refer to the number of sessions at our events explicitly dedicated to the subject, perhaps that isn’t the point. The simple truth is more needs to be done, across the board. Sadly, as the moderators and panelists on these sessions can attest to, with a few exceptions, turnout for those panels is often lighter than we would expect, given what seems to be the keen interest in the subject. But that won’t deter us from continuing to explore ways to keep the discussion moving forward. Our agenda for this year’s Realscreen West will be no exception. But we are always open to hearing how we can do a better job in this regard and help effect real change. What role can Realscreen play in helping to narrow the gaps that continue to exist? My team and I will continue to workshop ideas about this, and we actively encourage your participation. Feel free to talk to me at Realscreen West, and my email, for anyone wanting to reach out, is email@example.com. ‘til next time, go well. Claire Macdonald VP, publisher Realscreen
OVER LOAD By Daniele Alcinii
When pundits began referring to subscription video on demand as “the new cable” they were initially referring to the impact the medium would have on content consumption. But as more services emerge from mega studios and niche players alike, the SVOD ﬁeld is ﬁlling to capacity, much like its cable counterpart did years ago. How will consumers choose to navigate this expanding arena, and how will potential SVOD fatigue impact buyers and sellers of content?
Q&A with Yves Jeanneau, Sunny Side of the Doc
John Smithson on the new realities of runtime
MAY / JUNE ‘19
pple’s announcement in March that the global tech giant is planning its jump into the SVOD business this autumn added yet another heavyhitting name to the expanding field of digital streamers set to challenge Netflix, Amazon and Hulu for the crown. Apple TV+’s deep-pocketed entry into an already crowded U.S. video streaming market — where more than 300 OTT services fight for viewership — now provides consumers with an additional outlet for premium original scripted and unscripted content. But much hyped offerings from Disney+, WarnerMedia, and BBC-Discovery are also forthcoming for the year ahead. That abundance of choice now allows for American consumers to cobble together their own entertainment bundles, selecting from a handful of leading and niche subscription video on demand services from which to view their preferred factual programs. Research from Deloitte’s latest Digital Media Trends survey found that 69% of respondents now subscribe to one or more SVOD services, surpassing subscriptions to traditional pay-TV (remaining relatively flat at 65%) for the first time. It also pointed to Americans consuming more content weekly (38 hours) through a mixture of traditional television and streaming video. Choice, however, can be a double-edged sword. The report, now on its 13th edition, found that consumers sit at the point of exasperation, with nearly half (47%) of all respondents finding themselves frustrated with the number of subscriptions required to access the content they want in the mix of available services. “We’ve reached the point where consumers are making it very clear what they want,” Kevin Westcott, vice chairman and lead for the U.S. telecom, media and entertainment practice at Deloitte, tells Realscreen. “They’re telling us that they’ve got too many subscriptions, that traditional pay television has too many ads and they want content that’s easier to find and easier to access. We in the industry need to respond to those customer demands.” So what’s the solution to subscription fatigue? Those who Realscreen reached out to for this feature couldn’t provide a single, foolproof fix but offered up a number of solutions that could potentially benefit a saturated industry. As households begin to limit their viewing habits to one or two services dependent on their means, the likeliest of solutions is the consolidation of multiple platform operators into one generalized location.
“I can see [bundles] working because for years people have paid one subscription to a cable or satellite provider,” says Phil Birchenall, managing director at international media consultancy K7 Media. “People are used to that and it’s all about making it easy and compelling and taking away the complexity, making it frictionless.” “Consumers don’t want to go to a lot of different places,” adds Adam Lewinson, chief content officer at ad-supported streaming site Tubi TV. “It’s all the more reason why larger aggregators are going to have such an advantage both on the SVOD and AVOD side, because it’s one portal that leads you to significantly more content.” One can see that theory at work in the music streaming service landscape, where consumers can venture to Spotify and Apple Music, among platforms with global appeal, to access nearly any song in a vast content library. “Consumer behavior shows that users are more likely to use only one of those [music] apps, and it’s a very similar winnowing of the field on the video streaming side,” Lewinson says. Some in the industry believe that hybrid video on demand is an area that is expected to gain traction as household subscription costs continue to grow. Westcott argues that consumers not only want their choice of content, but also want it to be easy to access, and so the Deloitte exec anticipates that the 011
We’ve reached the point where consumers have made it very clear what they want. They’re telling us they’ve got too many subscriptions, traditional pay TV has too many ads, and they want content that’s easier to find and access.”
MAY / JUNE ‘19
HVOD service of the near future will contain a mixture of advertising supported content with lower subscription costs. “If you can, imagine the services that allow you to say, ‘I want the service but I don’t want to pay $7.99 a month. I’ll pay $3.99 a month but I’m willing to take six minutes of commercials per hour.’ Those ad units then are quite valuable,” he notes. Still, the idea may be a tough sell for some companies. “Why would various rights holders — beyond an integrated company like Disney with its different brands under its umbrella — want to work together?” asks Birchenall. “The remedy to subscription fatigue is clearly AVOD,” Tubi’s Lewinson says pointedly. To be clear, Lewinson doesn’t believe that AVOD platforms such as the San Franciscoheadquartered Tubi will replace outright those in the subscription space, but rather that the two business models will thrive alongside one another as consumers begin to realize the value of a large library of free VOD content and activity. “Within a few years we’re going to see SVOD and AVOD at parity,” Lewinson proclaims. “Like any good race, I think you’re going to see positions change, but the marketplace will settle down to a few industry leaders. “At the end of the day, for any streaming service, you have to monetize.” While the overall AVOD model is currently less popular than its subscription alternative, Tubi recently reported record growth in 2018, with 4.3 times the amount of content on the service over the previous year, and in December 2018, customers streamed nearly as much content as they had in all of 2017. The platform also boasts a content volume that it claims to be “more than double in size to Netflix” — with approximately 40,000 hours of content through more than 12,000 movies and television series — and, according to Tubi, consistently ranks as one of the most watched apps on the world’s largest platforms. Subscription fatigue could serve as the initial burst of momentum for expansion throughout the AVOD space. As costs associated with subscriptions continue to rise and adsupported platforms grow their content libraries, the increased revenue stream injected into the AVOD market would allow for higher quality licensing deals, which would in turn bring forth more and more users. Regardless, creating a loyal base of consumers amongst those growing
increasingly fatigued in an oversaturated market requires subscription providers key in on three areas of focus. The first is through premium original content, as 57% of paying streaming users said they subscribed to access original content, according to Deloitte’s study. But beyond originals, SVOD providers then also need to have a broad enough library of content that keeps the customer engaged. The third component, meanwhile, reaches past content and into the realm of consumer engagement. “You also need to have a way for your customers to discover good content in your library and that comes with absolutely deep understanding of your customers — great customer insight, customer analytics and those capabilities,” explains Deloitte’s Westcott. Millennials, 71% of whom subscribe to SVOD platforms for original content, tend to expand their horizons when it comes to new brands such as Quibi and CuriosityStream, says Ward Platt, CEO of global networks at Blue Ant Media, whereas more senior generations tend to be wedded to the traditional ones. For Blue Ant’s wildlife streaming platform Love Nature, a joint venture with Smithsonian Channel, it’s a question of how long you can retain those younger consumers and will they return if the service doesn’t employ personalities or recurring seasons to draw them back. “You have to weigh up how much investment to put into user acquisition and how much investment is put into retention,” says Platt. “Both of those can be fairly expensive investments and ideally you would rather work with partners and platforms that help do a little bit of the marketing to make consumers aware, and that is particularly important for brands that are less well known. “In some ways, Love Nature as a newer brand actually has more interest and traction with a lot of younger consumers versus some of the more traditional brands that are more associated with old media that’s seen as less nimble,” Platt continues. Ultimately, if an SVOD service has a good product and consumers feel loyal to it, they’ll stay. “The proof is that most people aren’t wading in and out of their Netflix subscriptions,” offers Platt. “They just keep [a subscription] all the time.”
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YVES JEANNEAU SUNNY SIDE OF THE DOC
What did the international documentary market look like 30 years ago? Thirty years is a long time. One must remember that documentaries had very little room on public channels. They were mostly produced in-house, rather boring and oldfashioned. The creation of Channel 4 or, in France, of Canal+, really marked a break because these channels were conceived without any in-house production arm, and were commissioning everything outside. I remember one of our ﬁrst battles was to get broadcasters to reduce the length of rights to 10 years from perpetuity. Documentaries were not much traveling outside their home country then, beside maybe the Anglo-Saxon ones.
founder and CEO of international documentary markets Sunny Side of the Doc and Asian Side of the Doc, Yves Jeanneau has seen the myriad evolutions that the genre and the global industry surrounding it have undergone over the last three decades. His prior experience as a producer includes co-founding French prodco Les Films d’Ici and serving as director of documentaries for Pathé Télévision, and on the network side, he headed France 2’s documentary unit from 2001-2005. Realscreen caught up with Jeanneau as he was in the home stretch of preparations for the 30th anniversary edition of Sunny Side of the Doc, taking place in La Rochelle, France, from June 24-27.
And those were the circumstances in which Sunny Side of the Doc was born? At the time, we had recently set Les Films d’Ici together with Richard Copans; we were these ﬂedging independent producers. I was also active as part of the La Bande à Lumières movement, a group of 70 or 80 activist documakers ﬁghting for documentary to get recognition and access to subsidies from the funding body, the CNC. That’s where I met in Lyon [Sunny Side co-founder and MD until 2001] Olivier Masson, and we decided to create La Biennale Européenne du Documentaire, which moved to Marseilles and became Sunny Side of the Doc. My obsession at the time was that if there was a genre suitable to travel abroad, besides animation, it had to be documentary. The ﬁrst Marseilles years proved difﬁcult ones; if not for our stubbornness we would not have continued. The move to La Rochelle was a good one, as it enabled us to build a more professional, and long-lasting space.
How has it all evolved, 30 years later? Documentary has come a hell of a long way. In France, there are now 2,000 documentaries produced per year, and the genre is a strong contributor to export ﬁgures, even though it is the 15% with larger ambitions that are traveling, and the remainder, still under-funded domestic shows. In 30 years, documentary has gained wide recognition. The radical change is that documentary has learned to tell stories, as opposed to merely illustrating a commentary. There is a great diversity of narrative styles, of production models, of stories, and good projects can now come from anywhere. I was surprised by the big number of high quality projects we received this year for our history and science pitches, whereas in some years, we were struggling to ﬁnd six good ones. So 30 years after, I can say that these utopian dreams I had have been completely overcome by reality.
How do you see the future for the genre, and accordingly, the evolution of Sunny Side? I believe that in the current troubled times, demand for documentaries will grow, as in crisis, people look to understand what’s going on. And where traditional broadcasters will remain risk averse, they’ll be challenged by the SVOD platforms, which have no taboo subjects, and, being schedule-free, offer more creative freedom. They are representative of a new lifestyle in not watching TV at a set time anymore. Traditional broadcasters have to catch up [with] their technology, and producers need to learn [that] it’s not anymore just about a ﬁlm, but how to tell a speciﬁc story in a multitude of forms for various audience proﬁles — a media responding to another. Regarding Sunny Side of the Doc, we always managed to be ahead of the changes, interesting ourselves in new territories and players, and in technology innovations, and we will continue this way. This year we will have a major German delegation, and Netﬂix will attend for the ﬁrst time, along with Chinese platform Bilibili. Our Pixi digital exhibition space will this year welcome museums from Latin America, the Middle East and Asia, which are at the forefront of non-linear forms such as VR. Marie-Agnès Bruneau 014
MAY / JUNE ‘19
POINTED ARROW A PRODUCER’S PERSPECTIVE
And never, ever forget that those ads are paying for your brilliant show. The irony is that creative teams have become so skilled at adapting to shorter clocks that, when you do occasionally work on longer clocks of 54-60 minutes, it seems that a lot of extra content is needed to fill the air and you can no longer get away with a sleepy pace to get out of jail. There is a silver lining to the power of the clock. There are more hours and minutes for our ideas than ever before. Led by networks such as HBO, and now dramatically reinforced by the streaming services and encouraged by audiences that just love to binge, the reality is that there is suddenly time. Lots and lots of it. Our world has turned around. The idea determines the length.
By John Smithson
MAY / JUNE ‘19
ll producers live under the tyranny of the clock. It determines, to the second, what we make. Ad sales and the scheduler’s grid combine to impose rigidity on the production process. It is surprising, the power that slot length exerts on the creative structure of what you produce. Is your show worth a 30 (a very rare species these days) or a 60? Can it run for three or four eps — or more? Many of us who started in the public service broadcasting world were house-trained to expect that an hour was an hour (or nearly). A distinctive creative rhythm and storytelling grammar evolved. With lots of time to fill and no ads to break the flow, a measured, often languid pace became the norm. Then, with the rise of cable, everything changed. The compression of time — to use a phrase more in line with the world of Professor Stephen Hawking — has really impacted what we do. An hour, gradually, was reduced into the 50s and then the 40s. For most of our American work we deliver to a clock of around 42 to 44 minutes with six acts. I remember lots of anguish when all this transpired. How could you possibly squeeze your 60 minute masterpiece into a slot 15 minutes shorter? But times change and creative teams adapt. Once ad breaks were something you randomly cut in at the end of the process. Now they are an important stepping stone. I think there are lots of positives about tighter clocks. They impose tautness upon your storytelling. No story ever overstays its welcome. You can’t mess around at the front; you’ve got to get right into it. The breaks become your friends. They are brilliant for page turns, cliff-hangers and just getting a move on. Designed correctly, they do not break the creative flow but enhance it.
There are lots of positives about tighter clocks. They impose tautness upon your storytelling. No story ever overstays its welcome.” This hit me when I saw that Dan Reed’s Leaving Neverland for HBO/C4 ran at just under four hours. A few years ago it would have been squeezed into an hour. We are now in a world in which O.J: Made in America can come in at just under eight hours. Also see Netflix’s eight-parter, The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann. There’s a new, arithmetical order to what is happening. What were previously singles now grow to three or four eps. And what were once miniseries can now grow to six, eight or 10 eps. We’ve just made a six-hour crime serial that only a few years ago would have been a 60 or maybe a 120. I think it is a great development. I believe podcasts are helping, building audience stamina, and getting listeners to feel the power of nitty-gritty storytelling. There is one caveat. Producers and directors are not always the best judges of how long their beloved story should run. Too often there are series or single films that are simply too long. Tightness in storytelling remains a virtue, and there’s nothing to like about flabby films. John Smithson is creative director of Arrow Pictures, a feature and high-end factual label created out of Arrow, the leading indie which he co-founded in 2011.
ON THE SLATE
As spring heats up, so too do the slates of assorted U.S. cable networks and digital platforms dealing in unscripted content. From reality reboots to competition series featuring four-legged friends, and from unexplained phenomena to unsolved crimes, Realscreen offers a look at what’s on the way. A&E
A&E has greenlit a competition series featuring working K-9s and their handlers who compete against their amateur counterparts. From MGM-owned prodco Big Fish Entertainment comes Top Dog (w/t), a series that features K-9s, a.k.a. police dogs, in addition to new furry faces as they battle in head-to-head competition through multiple rounds on a full-run K-9 course. Each episode of the series will see the dogs, accompanied by their handlers, as they are tested on their agility, speed, and skill all while competing against the nation’s top competitive civilian canines, with the winning animal crowned “Top Dog.” Executive producers for Big Fish Entertainment are Dan Cesareo, Lucilla D’Agostino and Jordana Starr. Executive producers for A&E Network are Shelly Tatro, Sean Gottlieb and Brad Holcman. A&E holds worldwide distribution rights. Matador Content, meanwhile, produces the 12-episode ﬁrst season of Hero Ink, premiering on June 6. The series follows the team at Houston’s Prison Break Tattoos, a tattoo shop that specializes in creating meaningful ink for ﬁrst responders. Returning to A&E is the Emmy Award-winning strand ‘Biography.’ Country music star Garth Brooks is the subject of the four-part special, Garth: The Road I’m On (w/t). The program is slated to air on the network in Q4 2019. The strand will also feature ﬁve original docs about famed WWE wrestlers, through a deal with WWE Studios. The ﬁrst three docs set to air in the spring of 2020 will feature “Macho Man” Randy Savage, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper and Booker T. Selina Chignall, Barry Walsh
MAY / JUNE ‘19
The Aquarium, from Left/Right and Copper Pot Pictures, goes behind the scenes at the Georgia Aquarium.
Biologist and wrangler of exotic ﬁsh Jeremy Wade (River Monsters) heads back to Animal Planet via Jeremy Wade’s Dark Waters to investigate reports of aquatic mysteries. The series, once again from Icon Films, made its ﬁrst splash in late April. Fish or Die, from Warm Springs Productions, also premiered in April and follows a trio of hardcore ﬁshermen as they explore some of the most remote and dangerous destinations around the world in hopes of ﬁnding rare ﬁsh. Also on the slate: BAFTA-winning ocean cinematographer and modern-day sea explorer Patrick Dykstra combines his love of the marine world and cutting-edge ocean exploration technology in Chasing Ocean Giants (w/t). Granted access to the inner workings of Georgia Aquarium, The Aquarium, premiering in May, documents the aquatic creatures and their dedicated caregivers. Heading over to San Diego, the network will provide audiences with a behind-the-scenes look at San Diego Zoo Global, home to more than 700 species and 6,500 animals across two parks, in The Zoo: San Diego (w/t, Q3 2019). Working exclusively with Coyote Peterson, Animal Planet will launch a new series set to feature wild expeditions and close-up animal experiences while promoting compassion and welfare for the natural world in this year’s Untitled Coyote Peterson Project (w/t). Barn Sanctuary (w/t), meanwhile, follows Dan McKernan, who returns to his rural Michigan roots to convert his family-owned farm into a rescue for barnyard animals, despite having no experience in this area. SC
UP AND COMING
E SLATE BRAVO
NBCUniversal-owned lifestyle network Bravo Media has bolstered its unscripted originals slate with the espionage-focused reality competition series Spy Games from Kinetic Content, a division of Red Arrow Studios. Hosted by model and martial artist Mia Kang, Spy Games is based on the once-secret World War II government program called “Station S,” a British signals intelligence collection site. The competition follows 10 individuals living together on a compound as they are challenged to figure out the secrets of their fellow participants. Three former intelligence professionals — Douglas Laux, Evy Poumpouras and Erroll Southers — train and judge the participants in the art of espionage. Chris Coelen, Karrie Wolfe, Eric Detwiler, John Saade, David Burris and Andrew Wallace serve as executive producers for the series, set to debut later this year. Also on the way for Bravo is another addition to the Below Deck franchise. Below Deck Sailing Vessel (w/t), to be produced by Below Deck and Below Deck: Mediterranean prodco 51 Minds, will follow the crew members serving on luxury sailing yachts as they contend with cramped stations and living quarters, and ever-demanding clientele, while traveling to some of the world’s most exotic locations. SC, BW
River of No Return follows a community of “homesteaders” in Idaho’s Frank Church Wilderness region.
Coming to Discovery Inc.’s flagship channel is the previously announced series Wildlife Warriors (w/t), which follows the efforts of conservationists worldwide as they work to compile the latest version of The Red List, the most comprehensive record ever created of the world’s wildlife. The show marks BBC Studios Natural History Unit’s first non-BBC commission. Meanwhile, Simon Fuller and John Downer’s Serengeti, narrated by Academy Award-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o, follows a cast of African wildlife over the course of a year on the Serengeti. Also in the wildlife genre is Legends of the Wild (w/t), a series that follows two wilderness experts and friends as they set out to explore the natural world. Actor, comedian and retired Marine Rob Riggle journeys around the world in hopes of solving some of its greatest mysteries in Rob Riggle: Global Investigator (w/t). The series is produced by Will Packer Media, Anomaly Entertainment, and Haunted Steel Mill in association with Hazmat Productions. Also on the way but with no air date yet announced is the homesteader-survivalist program River of No Return (w/t), produced by Wheelhouse Entertainment’s Spoke Studios, in association with ITV America and Inspired Entertainment. Heading into space, the previously announced Perfect Planet (w/t) from award-winning executive producer Alastair Fothergill offers a fresh look at life on Earth using state of the art satellite imagery. Touching back on the ground, Mysterious Planet (w/t) takes audiences to five points around the world and showcases the various creatures in each location. SC 019
UP AND COMING
The Scott brothers offer new homeowners their expertise in Property Brothers: Forever Home.
New to the Discovery-owned lifestyle network is My House is Your House, which looks at how homeowners can transform unused areas of their property or turn their dowdy rental spaces into stunning short-term rentals. Say Yes to the Nest, meanwhile, helps newlyweds find their first home together; while Unspouse My House features Orlando Soria, who works with newly single clients to makeover their homes. It premieres in June. In City vs. Burbs, homeowners debate setting down roots in serene suburbs or opting for bustling city life. Late May sees Flip or Flop star Christina Anstead head out on her own in HGTV’s new docuseries Christina on the Coast, in which the real estate and house-flipping expert helps clients spruce up their properties as she also balances home life and career. Property Brothers: Forever Home follows lifestyle megastars Jonathan and Drew Scott as they coach couples in their new digs who need help to make them perfect. The network will swim into summer with pool programming from 8 to 11 p.m. ET/PT every Saturday in July with a pool party lineup that includes Supersize My Pool, in which Mario Lopez helps families upgrade their pools; Pools Off the Deep End, which takes audiences on tours of spectacular residential pools; Pool Hunters, a series that follows homebuyers whose number one priority is scoring the pool of their dreams; and Pool Kings, which spotlights massive pool builds and their amenities. SC 020
The A+E network, home to long-running hit The Curse of Oak Island, is expanding its foothold into the mysterious and potentially paranormal with The UnXplained (w/t) which explores various strange phenomena, including Florida’s Coral Castle, Japan’s “Suicide Forest,” extraterrestrial sightings and bizarre rituals. The 6 x 60-minute series is hosted by Star Trek‘s William Shatner, who also serves as executive producer alongside Kevin Burns for Prometheus Entertainment and Susan E. Leventhal for History. Two new six-hour docudramas will also make their way to History. Washington (w/t; 3 x 120 minutes) tells the lesser-known story of America’s first president, George Washington, using excerpts from his letters, dramatic live action sequences and insights from experts. Washington is produced by Railsplitter Pictures. Doris Kearns Goodwin and Beth Laski serve as executive producers through their Pastimes Productions. Matt Ginsburg and Tim Healy serve as executive producers for Railsplitter. Jennifer Wagman, Zachary Behr and Mary E. Donahue are executive producers for History. Meanwhile, The Food That Built America (w/t; 6 x 60 minutes) tells the story of the food companies and innovators who changed the American culinary landscape, looking at iconic figures such as Henry Heinz, Milton Hershey, John and Will Kellogg, C.W. Post and the McDonald brothers. The Food That Built America is produced by Lucky 8. Greg Henry, Kim Woodard, Isaac Holub and Yoshi Stone are executive producers for Lucky 8. Jim Pasquarella is executive producer for History. Elsewhere, History will kick off its third annual ‘Car Week’ with the live television event Evel Live 2, in partnership with Nitro Circus, premiering July 7 at 8 p.m. ET/ PT. The live event will follow athletes, including champion freestyle motocross athlete Axell Hodges and female freestyle motocross athlete Vicki Golden as they set out to break world records with three motorcycle stunts. Trip Taylor, Dave Mateus and Andy Edwards serve as executive producers for Nitro Circus Media Productions. Zachary Behr, Mary E. Donahue and Eli Lehrer are executive producers for History. ‘Car Week’ features Battle of the 80’s Supercars with David Hasselhoff (w/t), Chuck Norris’s Badass Guide to Military Vehicles (w/t), Live PD Presents America’s Top Police Vehicles (w/t), American Pickers, Counting Cars: Detroit Special and The Lost Corvette. Lastly, History’s In Search Of will be returning, hosted once again by Zachary Quinto. The series, inspired by the ’70s franchise hosted by Star Trek‘s Leonard Nimoy, is produced by Propagate Content, Universal Television Alternative Studio and Before the Door Pictures with Fremantle distributing the series globally. Frederick Blichert Motocross star Vicki Golden is one of the riders taking part in History’s live television event Evel Live 2.
MAY / JUNE ‘19
Valley of the Damned from October Films examines a range of murders that take place in the beautiful but isolated mountain region known as Prison Valley in the Colorado Rockies. Elsewhere, journalist, former prosecutor and The View co-host Sunny Hostin journeys across America to explore the stories behind a selection of controversial homicides in The Whole Truth with Sunny Hostin (w/t; ABC News’ Lincoln Square Productions and First Watch Productions). Veteran detective Fil Waters recounts some of the most dramatic cases from his case files at Houston Homicide in The Interrogator, produced by Stephen David Entertainment in partnership with Marabella Productions. And the true-crime special The Lost Boys of Bucks County from Story House Productions looks at a collection of serial murders of five young men in a sleepy suburb of Philadelphia. For 2020, ID is prepping Twisted Love, produced by Khloé Kardashian and 44 Blue Productions, which presents cases in which “love” leads to murder. SC
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On the heels of its acclaimed docuseries Surviving R. Kelly and follow-up special Surviving R. Kelly: The Impact, female-focused network Lifetime has greenlit a roster of unscripted programming that continues its commitment to sharing women’s stories. Lifetime has greenlit a docuseries featuring gymnast and three-time gold medalist Aly Raisman who provides a platform for other Gymnast Aly victims of sexual assault and their Raisman is raising journey as survivors. From Darkness awareness about to Light is produced in-house by surviving sexual assault in From A+E Originals and Emmy winner Darkness to Light. Leah Remini’s No Seriously Productions. Raisman serves as executive producer alongside Remini. Additionally, Lifetime has ordered the documentary series Hopelessly in Love, which will join its unscripted slate next year. Each two-hour documentary film will explore the highs and lows of the world’s most famous couples, and the untimely deaths that plagued each relationship. Featured partners include Anna Nicole Smith and Larry Birkhead; Notorious B.I.G. and Faith Evans; Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes and Andre Rison, and more. Global parenting/family expert Jo Frost, meanwhile, stars in 20 all-new episodes of the award-winning series, Supernanny (see feature, pg. 32). SC
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UP AND COMING
Prairie Dog Manor from Nat Geo Wild will get up close and personal with some ornery characters in the fall.
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Disney-owned National Geographic is prepping the six-part Queens, produced by Wildstar Films, which follows six distinct groups of animals with matriarchal power structures: hyenas, elephants, ring-tailed lemurs, insects, primates and orcas. Race to the Center of the Earth, meanwhile, pits four teams of extreme adventurers against one another in a journey around the world to reach a buoy in the middle of the ocean that holds a US$1 million prize. Produced by Plum Pictures and Profile Pictures, the eight-part series premieres next summer. Nat Geo has also rebooted the quiz show Brain Games, which challenges celebrities to discover their special brain power through interactive games, illusions and social experiments. The eight-part series from Magical Elves and Alfred Street Industries is set to premiere December 2019. Sister net Nat Geo Wild is rolling out a stable of characterled series, including Critter Fixers from Hit + Run Creative, which follows two friends who own Critter Fixer Veterinarian Hospital outside of Atlanta, and Homestead Vets from Glass Entertainment, which features a husband and wife team who care for farm animals in America’s heartland. Elsewhere, audiences will journey to India via Animal SOS from Double Act, which showcases wildlife rescuers who guard against dangerous animal-human encounters. Fall 2019 premieres include the eight-part Lonestar Vet from Spectrum Productions, which follows Dr. Lauren Thielen (from Nat Geo Wild’s Dr. K’s Exotic Animal ER) as she opens a new clinic in her home state of Texas; and the 12-part Prairie Dog Manor from Radley Studios. Specials set for 2020 include Symbio Studios’ Rise of the Black Panther, the coming-of-age story of Saaya the leopard, and EarthTouch’s two-hour March of the Polar Bear. FB, SC, BW 022
MAY / JUNE ‘19
In time for the 50th anniversary of the Lunar Landing, Smithsonian Channel will launch Apollo’s Moon Shot on June 16. The six-part series will explore the historic campaign to land on the Moon through rare access to Apollo artifacts from the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. The network will also launch an augmented reality app in conjunction with the series. More Apollo 11 anniversary programming comes in the form of The Day We Walked on the Moon, produced for Smithsonian Networks and ITV by Finestripe Productions. The special, airing in July, features recollections of the landing from those who played a part in the project as well as other commentators. Another anniversary project, Smithsonian Time Capsule: Beyond Stonewall from Highland Pictures, will mark the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising — a historic series of protests stemming from a police raid of a gay bar in New York’s Greenwich Village. Various British-themed series are also on the Smithsonian slate. Mystic Britain, from Blink Films, takes a 10-part tour through Britain’s most mystic locations, with comedian Clive Anderson and anthropologist Mary-Ann Ochota as the guides. Meanwhile, the three-part Britain in Color, produced by America in Color prodco Arrow International Media, presents rare archive content, from the death of Queen Victoria in 1901 to the BBC’s first color broadcast in 1967, in restored color. Other Britbased programming includes Renegade Pictures’ Private Lives of the Windsors, a three-parter set for October, and Princess Diana’s Wicked Stepmother, from Fremantle and also slated for October. Explosive content is also on tap via two projects about volcanoes. Islands of Fire, from Warehouse 51 Productions and premiering on September 8, explores the volcanic mountains in the mid-Atlantic Ridge. Volcanoes: Dual Destruction, from Emporium Productions, will air the following week, and chronicle two horrific volcanic eruptions that occurred last year, in Guatemala and Hawaii respectively. Also look for Orangutan Jungle School from NHNZ and Blue Ant Media/Love Nature. The 10-part series, a Realscreen MIPCOM Pick for 2018, airs on the network in August and captures the action at a “school” for orphaned orangutans who need to learn vital skills to survive in the wild. BW
Smithsonian Channel has two Apollo 11-themed projects on the way this summer (photo: NASA).
UP AND COMING
Fashion series What Not to Wear, which previously ran for 11 years, returns to the Discovery-owned network in 2020 and helps unsuspecting fashionchallenged people transform their lives. The makeover show will sit alongside HGTV’s companion format What Not to Design, which helps people transform both their unstylish properties and themselves. TLC’s new event series Say Yes to The Dress America, meanwhile, will feature one bride from every state across the country as they are given an all-expensespaid trip to New York City, where they will be lavished with gifts and attention before heading off to a group wedding with all 52 couples at an iconic NYC location, with bridal expert Randy Fenoli ofﬁciating. Half Yard Productions produces, and the Bridal expert series is slated for January of 2020. Randy Fenoli In a new twist on Sharp Entertainment’s hits the 90 Day Fiancé format, 90 Day road across Fiancé: The Other Way, Americans the U.S. leave their country to jet off to for TLC’’s Say Yes to the land of their beloved. The the Dress Family Chantel,, meanwhile, America. will feature Pedro and Chantel of the franchise as they try to live as a modern family. SC
Google-owned video platform YouTube is making a further push into unscripted content alongside a move to make all new YouTube Originals available for free through an ad-supported model. The upcoming slate includes projects with sports channel Dude Perfect, comedy and gaming channel Markiplier and a “top secret” project with pop star Justin Bieber. A Heist with Markiplier Markiplier, produced in partnership with Austin-based Rooster Teeth, will serve as YouTube Originals’ ﬁrst interactive special and is billed as a “genre-bending museum heist” featuring the YouTube gamer. It debuts in the fall. Doc projects include Claire, a documentary from Nick Reed (The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life), which tells the story, through her own words, of YouTube creator Claire Wineland, who documented living with cystic ﬁbrosis and died at the age of 21 following a lung transplant. Other new non-ﬁction projects include a doc special featuring
Paris Hilton, set to debut in 2020 and directed by Alexandra Dean, and produced by Hilton along with Eli Holzman and Aaron Saidman via Industrial Media’s Intellectual Property Corporation. Another special will debut on June 5. Maluma: Lo Que Era, Lo Que Soy, Lo Que Sere follows Latin music superstar and Madonna collaborator Maluma and is helmed by Jessy Terrero. Could You Survive the Movies, premiering in October, features YouTuber Jake Roper as he explores various worlds as depicted in assorted top movies, from Jumanji to Alien. Produced by Ample Entertainment, the series spins off from a special of the same name, which debuted on YouTube last fall. FB, BW
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FOUR REAL B The unscripted production industry has matured considerably over the course of the 2000s, and a new generation of prodcos is making an impact internationally and across platforms with fresh, innovative approaches to unscripted content. Here, we offer a closer look at four companies that have yet to mark their ﬁrst decade in business but that are making waves and scoring greenlights.
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BLAC KFI N Location: New York City Year established: 2014 Principal: Geno McDermott Major credits to date: Finding Escobar’s Millions (Discovery); Legendary Catch (Nat Geo); My Perfect World: The Aaron Hernandez Story; Brothers In Arms (History); Bad Henry, Primal Instinct, Homicide City, I Am Homicide (all for ID).
outique factual indie Blackﬁn has come a long way since its humble beginnings ﬁve years ago. Launched by director and executive producer Geno McDermott, the then-28-year-old had little else but a single camera and an iMac for editing in his possession, all while renting an ofﬁce space through shared workspace start-up WeWork. The company’s ﬁrst month in existence, however, was a strong signiﬁer of the rapid successes to come for the young CEO, who sold Blackﬁn’s ﬁrst development project to Animal Planet and 11 more that year to various cable networks. The business has since grown into one of the largest New York-based unscripted production outﬁts. Blackﬁn now has more than 100 employees working across 12 series currently in production at such networks as Netﬂix, Discovery, Investigation Discovery, National Geographic, A&E, History, VH1, AMC and CNN.
What are the core values that drive your company? I started this company as an independent creator and producer. Our core values are that we treat independent producers, creators and talent that come to us with the utmost respect. I know what it was like to be out there in the middle of nowhere, ﬁnding a great show myself and partnering it up with a company — it’s just a very thankless transaction. In our soul, that’s very important to us with all of our partners. Another thing that’s very important to me is the nature of our business as far as credits go. If you create a show here and you’re an intern, I’m going to give you an executive producer credit. I think a lot of people here feel inspired to create and to actually succeed in this industry where they feel like I won’t hold them back.
What’s your strategy when it comes to breaking through the clutter and succeeding in such a competitive marketplace? As far as the pitching process and creating ideas, for us, it’s our materials. It’s more of a quality than quantity thing for us. At Blackﬁn we’re strategically getting three or ﬁve projects out a quarter that are very well thought out — very extensive treatments and very high-end trailers — so that the client can see what they’re buying. That’s one of our strengths.
What’s the one piece of advice you wish you had when you were ﬁrst launching Blackﬁn? When you start a company, your main focus is how do you sell more projects. The main advice I wish I had gotten is to make sure your legal and accounting are in order so that when you start selling things and when more starts coming in, you’re able to handle all the work. Daniele Alcinii 025
ince launching just over three years ago, Antidote Productions has scored a number of high-proﬁle commissions, including work for Channel 4, the BBC, Smithsonian Channel and National Geographic. Headed up by Leila Monks and Laura Jones, the prodco specializes in talent-based and access-driven programming, with a focus on UK broadcasters and international platforms in the U.S., Canada, Australia and across Asia. In 2017, UK ﬁrm Edge Investments took a stake in the company for £1 million. Their credits range from explorations of gender and trans identities in What Makes a Woman, to the portraits of mothers ﬁghting addiction in Addicted: Last Chance Mums, to a deep dive into the cultural impact of YouTube in the age of social media in YouTube Revolution.
What can you tell me about Antidote’s upcoming projects? Leila Monks: Antidote is well known for making talent-led, hard hitting and high proﬁle documentaries. We have two more of those in the pipeline for release this year — both with new talent and for major UK channels. We have a number of new faces we are developing series for across genres ranging from current affairs to arts and science for broadcasters both here and in North America. Then we have a high-budget, blue chip, wildlife two-parter that keeps our “changing people’s perceptions” ethos alive and that should be released in 2020. We have also developed longer running series on a straight-to-distribution model — making use of our international experience. What has been the biggest learning curve as a production company to date? People are everything! Hiring the right staff is crucial if you want to a) deliver on the visions you have sold and b) have time to focus on development and growing the business.
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A N T I D OT E P RO DUC TI O NS
Location: London, UK Year established: 2015 Principals: Leila Monks and Laura Jones Major credits to date: What Makes a Woman, Addicted: Last Chance Mums, Mysteries of the Mekong, Professor Green: Suicide and Me, YouTube Revolution
What was the genesis of Antidote? Laura and I had worked together over 10 years ago at a distributor/ production company. Although we only spent 12 months under the same roof, we remained in touch and both decided to go freelance around the same time. I was then introduced to two young food talents who I wanted to develop for TV. I immediately thought of Laura to bring on board to help me produce the taster and develop the idea. It was a great experience — we worked really well together and had fantastic synergy both creatively and professionally. We wanted to pitch the idea to BBC3 so we booked in a meeting. They weren’t interested in the food talent, but we ended up having a conversation about Professor Green and suicide, and the rest, as they say, is history.
What advice would you give to those looking to start their own production company? Don’t do it! (Joke). I would say strategy is really important. Taking a step back to work out where you are going wrong/right, learning from it and then really thinking carefully about what you are pitching, how you are pitching, and who you are pitching to. It’s too easy to get sucked into the here and now but the only way to grow a successful business is to take that time out and see the bigger picture. Frederick Blichert
R E N OW N E D FI LM S L to R: Jones, Withers, Welch
Location: London/Los Angeles Year established: 2013 Principals: Max Welch, Duane Jones and Tim Withers Major credits to date: Backyard Envy (Bravo); Peng Life (Channel 4); Generation Grime (Sky Arts); NYPD: Biggest Gang in New York? (BBC); The Women Who Kill Lions (Channel 4 and Netﬂix); Stacey Dooley Investigates: Hate and Pride in Orlando (BBC3); Top Dad (Channel 4); So Awkward (ITV2)
hen Max Welch, Duane Jones and Tim Withers decided to set up Renowned Films back in 2013, they had a clear vision of what content they wanted to create in an industry they see as both risk averse and lacking diversity. “We wanted to offer difﬁcult, deep access to worlds others wouldn’t penetrate, support new talent — as we ourselves were — and we knew we always had to make shows that have a thoughtprovoking tone of voice,” the founders tell Realscreen via email. Backed by U.S. prodco Critical Content, which bought a stake in 2017, Renowned Films has gone on to produce numerous projects for linear TV and SVOD, including the documentary Generation Grime for Sky Arts and Top Dad for UK pubcaster Channel 4, and is now making headway in the U.S. via Bravo’s Backyard Envy and the upcoming Copwatch America for BET.
What can you tell us about Renowned’s upcoming projects? [They range] from a new entry point to the homes space with Backyard Envy on Bravo, to Copwatch America, a compelling and important documentary series for BET that examines the crisis of police brutality and the communities ﬁghting back to help reform this. [They also include] a global competition series for a big OTT platform, a soon to be announced relationships format for a major UK network, a new and dynamic twist on travel for a global digital platform and an “of the moment” format for a global, youth-skewed network that examines the state of modern dating and its subsequent consequences. In our upcoming shows this year we are continuing to always push new characters, new talent, challenge the status quo — from views on monogamy to race and LGBTQ issues — or push entertainment for young audiences forward with our understanding of youth culture and the demographic.
What has been your biggest learning curve as a production company to date? Sometimes, it’s not just about the idea and if the production company can deliver, but also, should you really work with a particular network and will there be the creative synergies and support in execution to make the best version of an idea that you can. Sometimes, it is better to pass up on an offer or do due diligence on if you’ll get the support you need to realize a show’s potential. Quality control works both ways sometimes and we learned this the difﬁcult way.
How has Critical Content’s partnership with Renowned impacted the company? We feel we’ve established our partnership as something new and different in the U.S. marketplace. [It’s] a coming together of creatives which we think is genuinely fresh and has got U.S. buyers genuinely excited to try and ﬁnd shows to work with us all on. We’re looking forward to the next few years working with them, with big ideas in play and bigger things to come.
What advice would you give to those looking to start their own production company? Be naive in your ambitions, big and bold in your risk taking, but back it up with the stamina, execution and creativity to achieve what you set out to do. Selina Chignall
MAY / JUNE ‘19
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M O M E N T U M CO NTENT
Location: New York, NY Year established: 2016 Principals: Christina Douglas, CEO; Anna Snead, head of development Major credits to date: Primal Instinct (seasons 1 and 2)
ith a growing slate of true crime programming and a recent overall deal with Industrial Media, Momentum Content is quickly proving its mettle in the unscripted space, less than three years after its launch. Soon after setting up shop, Momentum signed a copro deal with Blackﬁn, with whom Momentum co-founder Christina Douglas served as development executive on I Am Homicide while at Investigation Discovery. Prior to ID, Douglas had worked with various brands across the Discovery portfolio, and across departments. In addition to two seasons of Primal Instinct on Investigation Discovery, Momentum is working on as-yet untitled projects at Netﬂix and History to expand its slate.
What was the genesis of the company? Christina Douglas: Before launching Momentum Content, I spent nearly a decade on the network side of the industry, in a variety of roles, at a variety of networks. I remember the day I dreamt up a distinct vision for a show that would feature an African American detective, who would tell harrowing stories straight from his case ﬁles, à la Luther. In my research, I discovered Sheriff Garry McFadden — a homicide detective based in Charlotte, North Carolina, who worked over 800 cases in his career. We greenlit the project with Blackﬁn, who were remarkable creative partners and produced a truly beautiful show which was later titled I Am Homicide. After the success of that show, I realized I was spending the majority of my time not just buying content, but conceptualizing my own ideas. When they would eventually be greenlit, I wouldn’t see the project again until rough cut, and found that sometimes the show matched my vision, sometimes it didn’t. It was then that I knew it was time to go over to production. I took the leap in 2016, and it’s been a riveting ride.
What can you tell me about Momentum Content’s upcoming projects? We are unveiling an edgy new limited series that analyzes iconic pop culture stories with Emmy-winning director Nicole Rittenmeyer. We are also doubling down on our casting efforts for a slate of new lifestyle formats. And, of course, we have a batch of new crime projects in the oven. Recently, we gained exclusive access to an elite squad of detectives that we’ve developed an active, justice-seeking format around. We’re also rolling out with an urgent documentary series about missing Native American women across America.
What has been the biggest learning curve? I would say one of the biggest challenges I’ve come across is knowing when to stop developing something. When you’ve invested time in a new idea, it’s tough to recognize that you may be slowly falling out of love with it. If I start to have that feeling, I often ask myself: Am I seeing this through because I spent time on it, or because I still truly believe in it? Don’t be afraid to admit that maybe the best place to take the project is nowhere at all.
What advice would you give to those looking to start their own production company? When I was ﬁrst toying with the idea of launching Momentum, a good friend in the industry gave me simple yet invaluable advice: to believe in myself. It might sound cliché, but it was exactly what I needed to hear. FB
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RIDING THE R As the old maxim goes, “If it ain’t broke…” And if the success of several big “refreshes” is any indication, the reboot craze is in no danger of dying down any time soon. Here, execs behind a couple of recent reboots discuss the reasons behind the endurance of the trend, and the market forces giving it momentum. Robert
By Selina Chignall
MAY / JUNE ‘19
ith a seemingly endless variety of content available at consumers’ fingertips these days, having a breakout series can be a challenge for any network. In such an environment, where new series compete not only with other programs making their debut but also with much-loved catalog titles, the odds are stacked against a fresh series making it past season one. And this is why networks turn to much-loved series to reboot. Recent examples of old favorites soon to return include Blind Date, coming to Bravo, and The Biggest Loser, headed to USA Network. The strategy can pay off. TLC’s Trading Spaces, which first aired in 2000, was brought back in the spring of 2018, produced by Endemol Shine North America subsidiary Authentic Entertainment. The premiere episode of the home reno program averaged 2.8 million P2+ viewers and took the number one spot in all of television for the night. Meanwhile, streaming giant Netflix’s Queer Eye, a modern reboot of Bravo’s Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, has become a cultural phenomenon, garnering numerous awards in the process for the streamer and producers ITV Entertainment and Scout Productions. “Why not take something that has a legacy, that has some tradition behind it, that people are familiar with?” says Don Robert, EVP of research at A+E Networks. “The job is to make sure you understand what it was — the magic — behind what made that show successful and then, by bringing it back, what are you going to do to enhance it?” Among the latest entries in the reboot wave is Lifetime’s Supernanny with Jo Frost, which first aired in the U.S. on ABC in 2005, before going off the air after seven seasons. A+E-owned Lifetime then picked up the series, titled America’s Supernanny, which ran for two seasons with host Deborah Tillman. “There is a lot of meat and substance that we can bring to this type of show while bringing in the network DNA of Lifetime — hope and uplifting family values — to the concept, which we think will elevate the show to resonate with audiences today,” he adds. When looking to reboot a series, Robert says the A+E team is looking for what was the best in class when it originally aired. But while carbon copies won’t fly, neither will complete overhauls. He says A+E is only looking to tweak elements of a show, in an effort to create cultural
Left: The Hills’ Kristin Cavallari is luring viewers to Fox’s Paradise Hotel; Right: Jo Frost is coming to back to the U.S. for another run as Supernanny, via Lifetime.
relevance that will resonate with new audiences while keeping the viewers who watched the original. “From a business point of view, we prefer shows that are highly repeatable, because these are what we call the workhorses,” says Robert. These shows tend to do well for subsequent airings, and across platforms. Rob Wade, president of alternative programming at Fox, agrees that a successful reboot needs to have currency and relevance, while giving the original idea something of a rebirth. “It’s great to have a title that people recognize, but I think you have to reinvent it in the best way you can, with the highest caliber talent,” says Wade. Fox is putting that to the test with the reboot of the early 2000s reality competition format Paradise Hotel, this time hosted by Laguna Beach and The Hills alumna Kristin Cavallari and produced by SallyAnn Salsano’s 495 Productions and Mentorn Media. While the reboot, which premiered in early May, could garner curiosity from its original run and significant support from Cavallari’s followers, Wade says he expects that like other
The job is to make sure you understand what it was — the magic — behind what made that show successful and then, by bringing it back, what are you going to do to enhance it?”
unscripted hits currently on air, the advent of social media and its ability to foster fan engagement will also help refresh the format. He maintains that although the original Paradise Hotel wasn’t necessarily a big format, he felt it had built a strong foundation. When Fox first premiered the series on Monday and Wednesday, its 25 regular telecasts averaged a 3.2/9 among Adults 18-49 and was watched by 6.4 million total viewers, excluding specials. And with the unscripted genre having matured over the course of three decades, while creative producers are still coming to the table with ideas, it’s more challenging than ever in a mature market to have something completely original to pitch. Why reinvent the wheel when a unique twist on a familiar concept or subgenre might do the trick? “You have a piece of IP that is proven,” says Wade regarding the allure of the reboot. “You have a format that is often enduring and has global reach, and I think that is really tempting.” While the volume of reboots ebbs and flows, Wade says the trend will remain strong, just as it has through the course of broadcasting history. He points to quiz show Match Game, revived multiple times over the course of four decades. “Look, we all do the best we can — and we’ve been very lucky to find some incredibly good looking and smart people who are here to play a game… and hopefully, find love along the way,” says SallyAnn Salsano about checking back into Paradise Hotel. Besides banking on a potential established fan base, Salsano puts emphasis on the almighty nostalgia factor that she says perhaps takes viewers to an easier time in their lives “when the world didn’t seem so freaking crazy. “It’s also a nice feeling to turn on the TV and be able to just enjoy what’s happening, and not worry about the state of the world for a little while.”
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BREAKING THROUGH Bing Liu
As recent studies concerning the sustainability of carving out a career in documentary ﬁlmmaking have made clear, it’s not a line of work for the faint of heart. But simultaneously, with more platforms and audiences hungry for content and new opportunities for funding and distribution emerging, perhaps it’s never been a better time for passionate creators to enter the fray. Here, Realscreen spotlights several directors who have taken the plunge and are breaking through with their early projects. 035
Major credits: Hooligan Sparrow (2016), I Am Another You (2017), One Child Nation (2018) Nanfu Wang’s path to documentary filmmaking wasn’t a simple one growing up in a remote village in Jiangxi Province, China. The Emmy-nominated and Peabody-winning filmmaker was just a child when her father passed away at the age of 34. Wang’s family could not afford to send her to high school or college, and so her education ended at the age of 12 when she was forced to drop out and instead offer financial support to her loved ones. Wang persisted. She overcame poverty and lack of access to formal secondary education to earn graduate degrees in communications and documentary film at Shanghai University, Ohio University and NYU, respectively. Her feature-length films now bring to light the injustices that she faced while growing up in China: the education system, the nation’s One Child policy, the healthcare system and poverty, and government corruption. Wang’s third and most recent film, One Child Nation, won the Grand Jury Prize for Documentary Feature at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.
Major credit: Minding the Gap (2018) When Bing Liu, director of the Academy Award nominated documentary Minding the Gap, reflects on how the acclaimed film has impacted his life, he sums up the situation in three words: “Validating, enthralling and disorienting.” Liu’s 93-minute debut feature film depicts the lives of the director, an avid skateboarder, and his friends in their hometown of Rockford, Illinois. Minding the Gap follows these men over the span of 12 years as they navigate new responsibilities of adulthood and outside forces that threaten their long-standing friendships. Despite picking up numerous accolades for Minding the Gap, including a Peabody Award, an IDA Documentary Award and a shout-out from former U.S. president Barack Obama, Liu says, for the most part, his life feels pretty much the same. “I still live in the same apartment I have for the past five years with three friends,” Liu reveals. “I skate as much as I can and try to make the most of this crazy thing we call life.”
What inspired you to first become a filmmaker? Since I was little, I always liked storytelling. I hoped whatever I did would have some social impact, and potentially change some of the injustices I saw growing up in China. One is my father’s death when I was 12 — it made me question a lot of the healthcare system because he shouldn’t have died at the age of 34. My father’s death affected me [because] it made me re-think time. Wanting to change these injustices and tell stories, while also feeling extremely precious about time and knowing I have limited time in the world, I started thinking about journalism.
What was the funding process like for you with Minding the Gap? It was just going to be a self-funded project until Kartemquin came on to coproduce in 2015. I applied to every grant possible and got turned down, sometimes twice. ‘POV’ and then ITVS came on in 2017 to allow us to finish the film — it was my second time applying to ITVS. Then later that year, Sundance came on to help us extend the edit; [that was] also my second time applying to Sundance.
How do you typically go about getting your films financed? Fundraising is the most challenging and my least favorite part of filmmaking. In an ideal world, we wouldn’t have to fundraise but could focus on creating films. It’s frustrating because it feels like you spend 60% of your time trying to get the film made — it feels discouraging. The first film, Hooligan Sparrow, was the most difficult because I was learning about everything. I was lucky though, [in that I received] investment for it. It gave me a lot of confidence that people believed in it so much that they were willing to put up their money even though we know the risks of returns on documentaries. I hoped that the second film, I Am Another You, would be easier but it turned out not to be the case as it was completely self-funded. It’s a valuable lesson that I learned — as a filmmaker or artist, your previous success does not guarantee your future success. What advice would you give to emerging filmmakers? I believe you need to be in love, and passionate about this to endure every aspect. Emerging filmmakers need to know how challenging and difficult it can be, but also know that if they really want to do it, it’s possible. Success lasts for five seconds and failure lasts for five months. After that you have to do it all over, and whether it’s success or failure it doesn’t matter that much — keep going and treat every film like it’s the first and as fuel to start over again. Daniele Alcinii 036
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What projects are you currently working on? The one most close to being done is something I developed with Concordia [Studio] in early 2017 that I’m co-directing with Josh Altman, about [the idea of] confronting the past in order to move forward as it pertains to young men struggling with gun violence in Chicago. What advice would you give to filmmakers trying to break into the doc-making industry? “Industry” belies that there is a lot of money and resources in documentary, which, despite the growth of interest in the field recently, isn’t necessarily true. I freelanced as a camera assistant throughout my years of making my side projects. My advice would be to tell stories that inspire and sustain a fuel that can propel you beyond rejection, doubt, and a dearth of resources in the field. The most innovative and important stories are ones worth pouring your soul into. Do it for the right reasons. Selina Chignall
WAAD AL-KATEAB Major credit: For Sama (with Edward Watts) Since the Arab Spring gave way to the Syrian Civil War in 2011, citizen journalist Waad al-Kateab (an alias) has given witness to the atrocities of a Syrian city under siege. Al-Kateab’s cameras have captured the horrors of war from the frontline. She has seen the destruction of Aleppo, her home. She has seen mothers burying their children. The majority of her reports for Channel 4 News in the UK have come from within the emergency room where her husband Hamza (also not his real name), a doctor, worked. Her intimate debut feature, For Sama, follows a similar pattern by documenting the female experience of living in an active war zone. Filmed over the course of five years, For Sama depicts the filmmaker navigating through love, marriage and motherhood during the revolution in Aleppo. What was the genesis of For Sama? During the siege, I was trying to document personal stuff with stories from the people who lived around me. I was really trying to document their whole lives: how the people are living, why they’re living there and, at the same time, why I was there and what I was doing. Then we left Aleppo in December 2016 [for] Turkey. I came to the UK for a visit for the RTS Awards, and on this visit I met [Channel 4 commissioning editor for news and current affairs] Siobhan Sinnerton, who introduced me to Ed [co-director Edward Watts] who had the passion and experience to do something about Syria. We discussed the idea and after a while we met in Istanbul. From my understanding, you had no previous formal training as a filmmaker. Can you tell me about those early days and the difficulties you faced? In 2011 I started with my phone. Gradually I had a camera and some training from a local station in Syria. I tried to teach myself how to use this [camera], and friends around me were sharing about our experiences. I had an illegal version of Avid — we were just trying to do anything that would be useful. At that time I really learned to use the camera but my experience wasn’t academic, it was just about problem solving. What advice do you have for up and coming filmmakers on how to break through? The only thing I would say is to believe in what you’re trying to do. [I had] the belief that this could save me, or even if it didn’t save me, it would make an impact on my life or the cause I was fighting for. DA
ELAN AND JONATHAN BOGARĪN Major credit: 306 Hollywood Siblings and filmmaking partners Elan and Jonathan Bogarín have garnered several awards and high praise since directing their first feature, 306 Hollywood, in 2018, under their El Tigre banner, including being named among Filmmaker Magazine’s 25 New Faces of Independent Film in 2017. 306 Hollywood was produced in association with Chicago Media Project and Laokoon Filmgroup. It received support from Sundance Institute Documentary Program / JustFilms Ford Foundation, Hot Docs, IFP, and NYSCA, as well as winning the Cuban Hat Audience Award for best pitch at the 2017 Hot Docs Forum. The film is a magical-realist look at the siblings’ family history, and an archaeological excavation of their late grandmother’s house, turning her life into a metaphor for the nature of memory, time and history. What led you to make 306 Hollywood? Jonathan and Elan Bogarín: We wanted to make a documentary in which ordinary people feel as extraordinary on screen as they do in real life. Our grandmother was a huge influence on us but how could we show her imagination, humor and honesty to people who didn’t know her? We borrowed from 2,500 years of art history and weaved mythology into the story of an ordinary/extraordinary woman who lived most of her life in a small house in New Jersey. How did you go about financing the project as first-time documentary filmmakers? JB/EB: We started a production company and spent years creating videos and digital strategy for some of the world’s top museums and arts organizations. This served as a source of funding as well as a valuable way to build our filmmaking skills. As we got towards the end of the process we received funding from an amazing group of investor EPs and grantors who really believed in our work. It looks like the magical realist approach to non-fiction is taking off. What are the advantages of blending other genres into documentary? JB: The traditional languages of documentary have certain limitations, and it’s really exciting to be among a generation of filmmakers and audiences who are expanding the ways we see reality in film. EB: I find the filmic language of non-fiction to be limiting. Stemming from the tradition of journalism, we’re told that we’re only allowed to use the following four languages to depict “truth”: interview, archival, vérité, and recreations. However, this leaves out the subjective experience of a character — how do they feel? Blending magical realism and other storytelling techniques into non-fiction allows us to create documentaries that don’t just report facts but depict the inner lives, memories and realities of real-life people. What advice would you give to emerging filmmakers? JB: Build collaborations and partnerships early on so that you have as much support as possible. Ask a lot of questions. Create a strategy as best as you can and adjust as needed because things will never go quite as planned. Find your story and believe in it. Frederick Blichert 037
FROM THE TRENCHES New and emerging content platforms have spiked the demand for programming and, one would assume, for programming that makes heavy use of archive. While it’s easy to see what the advantages of that are (like more business) what are the challenges? With new programming platforms and all the stock content available there are assumptions that because content can be seen on the Internet and accessed via various platforms that it is free to use and that there are no rights restrictions. Most clips have rights restrictions for any kind of public broadcast, streaming, or public use and need to be licensed accordingly. In fact, clients now want signed contracts indemnifying their use of the content. Another assumption is that footage should be free or cheap. In my opinion, there has been a de-valuing of the skill, hard work, and time invested in content available from footage archives. Cinematographers spend years in the ﬁeld learning their profession and then building a collection. Libraries spend thousands of hours building platforms, keywording, color correcting, and ingesting and then archiving collections to their platforms. All of this work has value. Making content available has value. Often producers wonder why footage costs what it does and question license fees. These are only some of the factors involved.
ike every other media sector, the footage business has undergone signiﬁcant change with the advent of digital technology, consolidation and conglomerates, and the rise of emerging content platforms offers both opportunities and challenges. And as with the production community, it’s the independent businesses that can be impacted the most by such upheaval. We talked to Paula Lumbard, founder and president of Los Angeles-based, boutique footage house FootageBank about the current state of the industry from the indie perspective.
With both the rise of social media and the democratization of content creation, how has your client base changed, if at all? And do these new clients often need an “education” regarding certain issues surrounding using footage? Each new supplier as well as client brings education opportunities. Often we need to educate our clients as well as shooters about release issues when it comes to locations, buildings, and people in clips. At FootageBank, cinematographers are carefully vetted for their understanding of these issues before content is accepted into our collection. When new formats are introduced we ﬁrst ﬁnd out from our clients (particularly broadcast/scripted shows) what cameras they are using. We then educate ourselves about the cameras and formats if need be, and then educate our shooters and any future clients about these new cameras and formats.
With what was once called “new media” not being so new anymore, how has the rights and licensing environment changed? Has it become more complicated and if so, how? Not only has technology changed but the licensing environment has signiﬁcantly changed and has contributed to the growth of the “research and rights and clearance” business. Researchers and rights and clearance experts are now the people who best navigate the global footage marketplace, they clearly understand licensing issues, and they know various library specialties. Footage licensing has become far more complicated. From the start of production or even pre-production it is important to understand there are rights issues. Going back 25 years prior to global platforms and streaming, there was not a rights person on every television show like there is today. One did not sign a hard copy of a license agreement for every clip license like we do today.
By Barry Walsh With the arrival of online footage platforms and larger, global companies continuing to buy up smaller shops and their catalogs, what’s the market like for an indie footage house today? As the larger global companies have acquired other footage shops or merged, and with new technologies, there is a constant inﬂux of new content into the marketplace, from independent shooters loading footage to global companies, to those submitting clips to smaller boutique companies like FootageBank, or those launching start-up footage companies. Clients seeking clips are awash in possibilities. For footage companies there is no doubt the waters are muddy when trying to catch the eye of clients. Being self-funded and the daughter of a migrant worker who became an entrepreneur, I learned that relationship building both with my product/content suppliers and clients is where success thrives. I chose to plant my ﬂag in the rightsmanaged footage market with carefully selected high-quality and rightssecured content and believe this strategy has helped FootageBank survive. 039
ASKANARCHIVIST rchival material is often an integral part of a documentary film and factual television as it provides context, history and additional depth to the story. But as any producer working with archive can testify, it can be a timeconsuming and costly process, and preliminary prep work is essential. Realscreen talked to archivist Lucie HandleyGirard from Toronto’s ArQuives, formerly the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives, to get some tips on how to make the most out of your trip to the archives, and your collaboration with the archivists.
You can go into an archive with a broad knowledge and they’ll feed you records, but this can be overwhelming and time-consuming. Eventually you have to narrow it down yourself, so it’s faster for everyone to do this in advance. 040
By Selina Chignall
What is the key piece of advice that you would give producers/filmmakers who are new to working with archivists? Understand the archival environment you are entering. Is it a government archive? Is it a corporate archive? Does it specialize in moving images? Is it a community archive like The ArQuives? This helps you get a sense of the archive’s potential capacity and limitations, and hopefully this will help manage expectations. Do your research in advance — understand basic timelines, events, names or organizations that you want to inquire about. You can go into an archive with a broad knowledge and they’ll feed you records, but this can be overwhelming and time consuming. Eventually you have to narrow it down yourself, so it’s faster for everyone to do this in advance. There are a lot of online resources and jumping off points for your research if you look. Some archives offer research services, where you can pay for an archival researcher to do all of this work for you, but not all of them. It depends on the resources the archive has. When we receive a request we ask for your timelines and then see if we can realistically fulfill the request with our resources.
What’s the biggest misconception producers have when working with, or wanting to work with footage? That the archivist will be able to tell them who the copyright holders are. It is the user’s responsibility to identify the copyright holder and track them down to ask for permission for use. Additionally, that the archivist will have a complete understanding of the contents of the footage. Archivists are not going to watch the footage for you [producers] to locate what you need. We don’t do this without being paid by you by the hour, if we have the labor available. Very little of our moving image footage is digitized, therefore to even simply watch it or use it in your film, here filmmakers will be asked to cover digitization costs.
How much footage do you have on site, and what is its range? What formats do you work with? I can’t tell you how much — there is a lot. Formats range from 8mm to 16mm to DVCAM tape to Betamax and VHS tape. We have most formats including digital files.
Do you license the clips or do you coordinate licensing between clients and the rights holders? We license moving images if we have copyright over them. We don’t coordinate licensing between copyright holders and users.
What is the most common mistake made by filmmakers or producers who are working with archives that you have encountered? Nothing can be done quickly, so give archivists plenty of leeway and advance notice. Expecting archives to have processed (or cataloged) all the moving images in our collections and then know details about them is unrealistic, especially when we can’t watch it all due to limited labor and out of date formats.
Do you look for footage from other sources or footage companies for clients, or do you strictly manage what is in house? Filmmakers can hire someone here who understands our collection to do in-house research for them. I also refer filmmakers to other archives that I think may be of help, but I don’t liaise with other archives on their behalf. 041
How much lead time should a client give you? It depends on the type of request. If researchers want material pulled to look at, I generally ask for one week’s notice because here, not all of our material is in the building and I am juggling many other requests and tasks.
THE FINAL CUT
The issue of IP theft has plagued the format industry for years. But the plethora of platforms hungry for content is making the Wild West of the format business even wilder. It’s now crucial for the industry’s players — small, large and all points between — to get serious about IP protection, says veteran format executive Phil Gurin.
t’s a very dangerous time for people who create intellectual property. It’s also a very sexy time. There are more platforms all over the world eager to exploit the creative efforts of writers, producers, directors, creators and talent, and there is more opportunity to have your creation viewed by the largest audiences possible in the shortest time imaginable. Which means it’s a good time to make money, and making money is sexy. But therein lies a dilemma. With so much content available for so many in such a diverse distribution ecosystem, all intellectual property runs the risk of becoming disposable, and thus less valuable. What once was a thriving catalog business has been turned upside down by so much ﬁrst-run new content that if you have seen it once, it hardly merits a second viewing with so much else you haven’t yet seen out there to choose from. (Ah, remember the joy — and value — of reruns?)
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This urge to create new content fuels the artist, but also tempts the copycat. There is now a common language for viewer consumption the world over. With all due consideration made for local custom and culture, the predominant shape of unscripted content has been dictated by a handful of major creative players (American, British, Scandinavian, Dutch, Israeli, Japanese, Korean), with a smattering of other hits developed in other territories. So when one of the big territories creates a big hit at home, the rush to license it around the world becomes a mad dash to beat the rip-offs. The common belief is that the ﬁrst one to market in a given format wins, that there is room for a second format of a common theme, but after that the returns get small. The race to be ﬁrst, whether legally or illegally, is what drives the format business. Sadly, it also drives the stealing business. The thinking is thus: if I create it, great. If I create the second version, not
so bad. But if I didn’t create either, hell, let’s make up our own and get it out there fast and dare someone to sue. The courts have been reluctant to reward lawsuits over copyright infringement in the format business. There are many examples of similar shows in the marketplace, but unless it’s 100% the same, it’s viewed as different and therefore not a copy. Among reasonable people you could look at the original and the rip-off and see what happened. But without a damning, “smoking gun” document that says, “Let’s copy this show,” judicial systems around the world don’t seem to be helping to protect original content creation. It’s the Wild West, guns a-blazing! And given the wide variety of cultural expectations and divergent legal theories in places where the notion of intellectual property is not established, format creators ﬁnd themselves trying to protect their ideas in territories where the very idea of owning intellectual property is not understood or recognized. But there is hope. And there is money to be made, so it’s all still worth ﬁghting for. If format industry stakeholders can agree to a certain set of industry standards, and if companies large, medium and small can agree on foundational principles of fairness and honesty, the business can perhaps save itself. If courts can’t effectively combat format theft, perhaps it’s up to us to protect our own. Call it the religion of formats, or vaccinations for format protection. Whether theological or medical, when a large enough group agrees to a fundamental premise, the religion can spread, or the disease gets wiped out. We need herd mentality to keep our business alive. Without a viable, safe and protectable format industry, rip-offs will dominate, ﬁrst to air will be the only lucrative source of revenue, and the underpinning of the entire distribution system will collapse. Giant multinationals will see their values decrease as the content they own, create and sell will be stolen and replaced
with inferior merchandise, like a bad handbag or knock-off toy. If, together, the industry works to shame the cheaters and thieves, if together we establish common practices for registering and protecting formats, and if together we develop globally agreed upon guidelines to establish what is — and what is not — a format, we can protect the business that feeds our families. FRAPA is a not-for-proﬁt international organization with hundreds of members in dozens of countries aligned to learn about and protect the format business. Its website has tools to help companies and creators learn how to protect their content. Its Code of Conduct is a methodology by which its members agree to respectful practices. And its Declaration of Cooperation (which, in full discloure, was penned by me) is a foundational manifesto for members and non-members alike to sign and acknowledge what and how we should all work with one another. It all comes down to this: I’ll buy from you; you buy from me. I won’t rip you off; you don’t rip me off. I will treat you with respect; you treat me with respect. If we can start with these basic common ethical fundamentals, and our own industry set of rights and responsibilities, we can protect and grow the fastest moving sector of the entertainment industry. It’s dangerous for sure. But it’s up to each and every one of us, if we hope to survive.
Without a viable, safe and protectable format industry, rip-offs will dominate, ﬁrst to air will be the only lucrative source of revenue, and the underpinning of the entire distribution system will collapse.”
Award-winning writer-producer Phil Gurin is president and CEO of globally focused The Gurin Company, and cochairman of FRAPA (The Format Recognition and Protection Association), which can be found online at www.frapa.org.
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