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PICKS WITH POWER Ken Burns’ Muhammad Ali packs a punch as one of our Mipcom Picks.
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SEPTEMBER + OCTOBER 2021 13 FIRST LOOK
The unscripted biz pushes into podcasting; Onyx Collective doc execs talk strategy
20 SPECIALIST FACTUAL FOCUS Expanding the horizons for specialist factual via diversity and inclusion
MIPCOM PICKS 2021
THE FINAL CUT
Execs from across the non-ﬁction/ unscripted industry weigh in on the challenges and opportunities ahead
Our “can’t miss” selections for this year’s market
Michael Cascio on the slippery slope between factual and faking it
Filmmaker Day Al-Mohamed is working on set and behind the scenes to create a more inclusive production industry.
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PICKS WITH POWER Ken Burns’ Muhammad Ali packs a punch as one of our Mipcom Picks.
LOOKING FORWARD: WHAT’S AHEAD FOR UNSCRIPTED?
ON THE COVER Our editorial cover features sports and cultural icon Muhammad Ali, focal point of the latest PBS docuseries from Ken Burns and team. (Photo: Monte Fresco/ Mirropix via Getty Images, courtesy of PBS Intl.)
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ome 33 years after Errol Morris’ s The Thin Blue Line sparked debates about ethics in doc-making due to its use of reenactments, the advent of a new technology has renewed the discussion. This time, it’s director Morgan Neville’s use of AI to replicate the voice of the late Anthony Bourdain in his most recent doc, Roadrunner. But it’s not just Neville’s decision to use the tech to have a Bourdain-like voice recite lines from emails he wrote to friends, but also his choice to not disclose its use somehow in the ﬁlm that has rufﬂed many a feather amongst documentarians, critics and viewers. At Realscreen, we have run two op-eds concerning the controversy and the ethical issues behind it. Pat Aufderheide of the Center for Media and Social Impact penned an online piece for us and in this issue, producer and former network exec Michael Cascio offers his take in our Final Cut section. Both authors reach similar conclusions: by not being transparent with the audience, Neville has undermined the general notion that docs are “real” stories. Admittedly, I’m stymied as to why Mr. Neville chose not to disclose the use of the AI in some capacity outside of a couple of select interviews. But, like ﬁlmmakers such as AJ Schnack and Liz Garbus who have offered their perspectives on the matter in interviews and via Twitter, I’m a little wary of reducing the discussion to the notions of “real” versus “fake.” Anyone familiar with the realities of ﬁlmmaking knows that there is a degree of manipulation inherent in the doc-making process — from the use of “Franken-bites” (voiceover lines from a subject stitched together from different sentences) to the choices of who gets interviewed and who doesn’t, a story needs to be crafted. For some, there is a very clear line to be drawn between craft and creative chicanery. Many, such as Mr. Cascio, point to documentary as the “last bastion of in-depth video journalism,” especially in an era when news channels come weighted with bias of one sort or the other. But, as Schnack and Garbus have discussed on their Twitter feeds, there is another question when it comes to comparing documentary to journalism: the notion of objectivity. In a recent tweet regarding the controversy, Garbus posted: “When we make docs, we are... inserting our POV into the process, emphasizing some things, leaving others out.” Perhaps a distinction needs to be drawn between “the truth” — which often can incorporate multiple perspectives — and “a truth,” or that which is borne out of personal, individual experience. By extension, maybe there is a danger in being too prescriptive about how documentarians can approach either of these things. Some of Neville’s critics have maintained that Bourdain himself — known to be a straightshooter and disdainful of artiﬁce — wouldn’t have approved of the AI experiment. But Neville cites the use of posthumous narration in Sunset Boulevard — one of Bourdain’s favorite ﬁlms, apparently — as providing inspiration for the idea. Sadly, only one person truly knows how Mr. Bourdain would’ve felt about the whole thing, but he can’t tell us.
Truth or dare September + October 2021 Volume 25, Issue 1
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has been an entire year since I sat at my trusty computer ruminating over what to put in this space, and I could not be happier to be back. The past 18 months have been challenging to say the least. But I don’t need to tell you that. Across the board the industry has demonstrated incredible resilience, adaptability and innovation. In more cases than not, it seems that companies have come through the COVID-19 pandemic perhaps a little worse for wear, but still viable and in full force creatively. As the trusted authority on the business of unscripted and non-fiction, I am supremely proud of the work that Realscreen has done to keep serving as a conduit for business during these really tough times. As you can well imagine, our business, which is driven to an enormous extent by the Realscreen Summit and Realscreen West, was essentially rewritten by the pandemic. In mid-May 2020 it became very clear that hosting an in-person Realscreen West was not feasible and we flipped the switch to become fully virtual. Ditto in October. When it was obvious that a Summit in New Orleans was neither safe nor practical, we created a robust networking platform to facilitate meetings and delivered top-notch content and replicated that experience during Realscreen Live this past June. While there is no substitute for meeting in person, we were able to provide the tools for the global community to keep in touch and do business. As we continue to monitor the ever-evolving pandemic situation, we are presently in high gear preparing for the January 2022 edition of the Realscreen Summit. Naturally we’re buoyed by the anticipation of hosting you all again, but there are some added complications. In July 2018, as we began a search for a new location for the Summit, we reached out to the global non-fiction and unscripted production community for input regarding potential cities. Austin was the overwhelming favorite. After an extensive venue review we committed to hosting the 2022 and 2023 editions of the Realscreen Summit at the JW Marriott Austin. In the past couple of weeks I have heard from some members of our community noting that recent political decisions in Texas, most notably Senate Bill 8 and the “constitutional carry” law, do not align with their values and they are expressing their personal discomfort. Unfortunately, venues for large events must be secured years in advance, which makes lastminute location changes infeasible. In most cases, it would mean choosing to cancel the event altogether, which we do not feel is in the best interests of the Realscreen community. If the current situation in Texas had been the reality at the time we were looking for a new location for the event, it most certainly would have impacted our decision. Realscreen does not in any way condone Senate Bill 8, and fiercely supports womens’ rights. We recognize and share in the outrage about this bill, and we are exploring other ways to reflect those concerns. Should you wish to reach out to me with ideas or questions my inbox is open and I look forward to hearing from you at firstname.lastname@example.org. ‘Til next time, go well Claire Macdonald VP and publisher Realscreen
SOUND AND VISION By Andrew Jeffrey
Producers and network groups are ﬂocking to podcasting in the hopes of establishing a foothold in a burgeoning — and potentially lucrative — medium. But moving into a new space involves learning new rules of engagement… and execution.
Q&A with Jacqueline Glover & Jihan Robinson, Onyx Collective
John Smithson on factual’s fascination with the UK’s royal family
hen A+E first delved into producing podcasts, and we were lucky to partner with a producer who had a lot of the early results, as with many companies experience in this world,” he adds. “It also was a huge boost that traditionally working in screen content, were we’ve always had an in-house music and sound team and they’ve fairly basic. helped produce multiple podcasts for clients over the years.” In 2017, A+E launched Cold Case Files: The Lanter also says the relatively inexpensive nature of podcasting, Podcast, an audio series to complement the long-running TV hit. compared to a TV series, documentary or even sometimes a sizzle, The series was a test for the company, taking the skeleton of a makes it more attractive. TV series and bringing it to audio, and proved to be successful As a dedicated audiobook and podcast company, Audible has in finding an audience, allowing A+E to branch out into more taken the lead in assisting partner companies who have little ambitious projects since then. experience in audio storytelling, to develop their ideas. Rachel A+E’s experience in breaking into the exploding medium is Ghiazza, executive vice president and head of U.S. content at shared by scores of other broadcasters, production companies Audible, says the company often helps partners with scripting, and outfits predominantly focused on film and television screen performing, producing and editing. content. For many of these companies, podcasting presents a With more companies breaking into podcasting, there’s a wider new medium to tell stories, produce more content, and connect variety of formats and genres being tested. Audible, for instance, with a wider audience. Importantly, it also can represent a is currently working on Breakthrough, an audio-only singing growing revenue stream. competition series it’s producing with From small beginnings to taking The Chainsmokers, which will be the a more focused and expanded first of its kind. approach, A+E currently has nine When it comes to working with podcasts in the marketplace. Some partners, the focus for Audible That’s the power of podcasting... are in-house productions, others are is on innovation and testing new collaborations with partners, and while formats, Ghiazza says. Series such as to go really deep on smaller some are tied to its linear series, others Breakthrough allow the company to stories that you would never give are completely original. Jessie Katz, build on what’s working in audio with a two-hour special to.” director of audio programming and different creators and storylines. podcasting at A+E, says this level of “We really want to create experimentation and variety allows partnerships with companies where them to be prepared for changes in the industry. we can continue to grow the space,” Ghiazza says. “It’s an evolving, shifting landscape in podcasting right now. There’s Brand recognition can help some of the more high-profile headlines every day about who’s acquiring who,” Katz says. screen companies find an audience more quickly in podcasting. Podcasting, as an industry, has grown rapidly since the term Katz says A+E has been encouraged by the bigger swings and was first coined in the early ‘00s, especially in the past several original reporting it’s taken with its podcasts. If the company tries years. In May, the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s Podcast something ambitious with its History Channel podcast that isn’t Advertising Revenue Study projected podcast advertising will directly tied to on-screen content, the familiar ‘H’ logo has enough grow as much in the next two years as it did in the last decade. power to draw in listeners, Katz maintains. Advertising revenues already climbed to US$842 million in “How connected do we need to be with what’s on air right now? 2020, up from $708 million the previous year. Or is it enough that it’s the History Channel and that means Meanwhile, major acquisitions and agreements have brought something to people?” Katz says. high-profile players into the mix. Streaming audio giant Spotify “We can tell totally different stories,” he continues. “In theory, has purchased companies with strong podcasting portfolios such that’s the power of podcasting, especially for us — to go really as The Ringer and Gimlet, while inking content deals with Barack deep on smaller stories that maybe you would never give a huge and Michelle Obama, Joe Rogan and Kim Kardashian West. two-hour special to. There’s a much smaller human interest story in Apple, meanwhile, launched Apple Podcast subscriptions earlier [History This Week] that we can spend 20 minutes getting really this year which let users unlock new content and receive additional detailed about. And we’ve found that’s giving people who love the benefits, a company strategy meant to help the tech behemoth History Channel something special that they don’t find on air.” compete with Spotify. Podcasting’s fast-paced growth is what interested Canadian With the industry expanding through the past few years, prodco Cream Productions in the medium, with the company production companies such as Raleigh-based Trailblazer Studios having launched its podcast division in April. James Farr, Cream’s are creating their own audio projects with dedicated podcast VP of development, echoes Trailblazer’s Lanter in saying that divisions. Earlier this year, Trailblazer announced plans for a slew making, selling and distributing the audio-only content has of podcasts that began in April with American Sport. Jeff Lanter, involved a steep learning curve, particularly on the business side. the studio’s president, says the move into the medium has been But he sees great potential looking ahead. largely seamless. “Podcasting has been building momentum for a while,” Farr “At its heart, it’s storytelling,” Lanter says. says. “But it’s still very much in the Wild West phase as the industry “There are definitely some nuances that affect the learning curve, evolves. International borders are not the same barrier they
SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER ‘21
are in film and television, so we feel the opportunity is unlimited.” Both Farr and Johnny Kalangis, Cream’s VP of digital, note that podcasts are a strong IP source for adapting stories to television, and can be used to test-drive ideas at a lower price point while building buzz. “The barrier to entry for audiences and creators is low,” Kalangis says. “Most people could create and publish a podcast, and audiences continue to gravitate to highly specialized content that speaks to their interests.” Los Angeles-based Asylum Entertainment Group (AEG) launched Audity in 2019 to create audio-focused content. Audity’s work in podcasting has been varied since its launch, ranging from social justice series such as The System with Kim Kardashian West to horror with Eli Roth’s History of Horror. The company also has podcasts in development with talent ranging from strategist Shatonna Nelson, rapper Old Man Saxon and horror webcomic creator Sarah Navin. Ryann Lauckner, president and chief strategy officer for AEG also oversees Audity, and says podcast listeners are some of the most engaged content consumers that creative companies can find. The opportunity to connect with ultra-targeted groups and receive positive feedback is refreshing, Lauckner says. “Many listen to episodes as soon as they drop,” Lauckner offers. “They DM, they email, they find ways to support the creators at the core of the content. That interaction and relationship is really rewarding, especially when they’re growing.” Still, Ghiazza notes that moving into the podcasting space can be more difficult than some realize from a creative perspective. It can be difficult to develop storylines that build a picture in listeners’ minds, she says, adding that nailing the soundscape where listeners feel they’re transported to the scene, without it being disruptive, is crucial. “Finding the way to connect all of those pieces together, it’s an art form,” Ghiazza says. “And getting that all correct, it takes some practice and it takes some work to really get that magic when all the pieces come together just right.”
Podcasting has been building momentum for a while. But it’s still in the Wild West phase as the industry evolves.”
JACQUELINE GLOVER & JIHAN ROBINSON Onyx Collective
May, Disney General Entertainment officially introduced its content brand Onyx Collective, dedicated to curating a slate of premium entertainment from creators of color and underrepresented voices. Led by Freeform president Tara Duncan, the brand is off to a running start, growing its talent roster and stable of scripted and non-scripted projects. Its first, Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson’s acclaimed documentary Summer of Soul (…or, When the Revolution Could Not be Televised), was released theatrically by Disney’s Searchlight Pictures before it landed on Hulu in early July. In June, Onyx Collective added another documentary project to its slate, partnering with OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network and Hulu for The Hair Tales — billed as an exploration of Black women, beauty and identity through the lens of Black hair — from executive producers Tracee Ellis Ross (Black-ish) and Michaela Angela Davis (The Meaning of Mariah Carey). Spearheading the brand’s non-fiction content is Jacqueline Glover, ABC News’ head of documentaries and former VP of HBO Documentary Films, where she worked for nearly three decades, and Jihan Robinson, VP of alternative programming at Freeform. Serving as head of documentary programming and VP of documentary programming, respectively, Glover and Robinson will also oversee Hulu’s The 1619 Project docuseries. “There is a whole Disney company behind Onyx Collective,” Glover tells Realscreen. “There’s these relationships that we have throughout the company that we can leverage. That’s an important aspect of who we are and what we bring to the table.” Now, with more projects in development, the division is firing on all cylinders to build “a home where creators of color are inspired, empowered and have unparalleled access to reach audiences around the world,” as Duncan said in May. “We want to entertain and delight, and while we’re not shying away from obstacles in the lives of people of color, our lives are not inherently political and social justice can be a byproduct of the stories that we tell, but it’s not our mission,” Robinson tells Realscreen. “We’re looking to show the texture of our experiences.” Realscreen caught up with Glover and Robinson to discuss Onyx Collective’s documentary strategy.
SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER ‘21
By Jillian Morgan
What types of docs are you most interested in? JG: We’re certainly looking for projects that are premium. We’re really focusing on uplifting stories... We want to really be original and think about the stories filmmakers want to tell and lean into their creativity and try to be forward thinking as well. JR: We’re looking to identify entertaining and aspirational stories from a distinctly Black and POC point of view. I’m looking for stories with authenticity and optimism and looking to amplify the voices of best in class creators of color, provide a platform for uncompromising stories and creators of color. That’s a core tenet of our work.
How will Onyx serve to empower creators of color, both established and emerging? JR: It’s really being intentional about equity and creating a balance in the marketplace which might still be considered a radical concept but we think that the ethos of Onyx counters that notion.
When it comes to seeking out emerging creators specifically, how are you going about finding that talent, and is there a way for emerging creators to pitch to you or to make themselves known to you? JG: We’re open to taking pitches. We certainly will be in the spaces where filmmakers are, in addition to working with filmmakers who’ve been doing this for a long time. We’re always keeping our eye out for new folks, certainly at film festivals, markets — all of the obvious places that people go to present their work.
How much of your strategy on the doc side will be leveraging the talent and IP of the various brands under the Disney umbrella? JR: We’re telling stories of underrepresented voices and so, while we wouldn’t turn any story away, we’re really focused on the things that we haven’t seen or the stories that we don’t know more so than leveraging IP for things that are already out there. But, we’re at the very early stages. The mission’s really to bring new voices into the fold.
What are your goals for the future of Onyx Collective? JR: I hope to inspire and delight. For example, [with] Summer of Soul, from the outside it may look like this documentary about this amazing concert, the Harlem Cultural Festival... but you leave from Summer of Soul feeling that this is an incredible historical document about a pivotal time in U.S. history for Black Americans, told through the lens of this concert that presents Black joy and community and culture in a way that feels really positive and energetic… I hope that our programming can do that — create a nuanced perspective and portrayal of Black, POC life. JG: Bringing stories from a very specific point of view but that are universal. These stories are going to be either entertaining or informative or just moving in some way that makes you think about the human condition. Celebrating the filmmakers that tell those stories is important.
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POINTED ARROW A PRODUCER’S PERSPECTIVE
By John Smithson
od Save the Queen. In the UK, the singing of this national anthem is all part of the ritual of living in a monarchy. But we’re not the only ones to be singing. Thanks to Her Majesty, the barons of nonscripted content are truly celebrating, because the British royal family is the gift that keeps on giving, a story with inexhaustible appeal, and they’ve been doing it since 1066. Could this be the biggest factual story of all time? In these torrid times, the endless royal shenanigans are an enduring, compelling TV distraction. This family, with its rich history, glorious pageantry, and endless dramas, is peerless. Just take this year — not exactly a quiet one in the global news cycle. We’ve had the death of the Duke of Edinburgh, the Queen’s partner of 73 years. COVID-19 meant there could be no grand funeral, but the shots of Queen Elizabeth, now 95, alone and mourning in solitude, were moving regardless of where you may be on the monarchist/ republican continuum. The terrestrials cleared their schedules for days and ran special programs in respect. But a record number of viewers, denied their daily linear diet and above all the UK final of MasterChef, complained. The media event of the year also split the nation. Prince Harry and Meghan baring all to Oprah was huge and reignited the family feud narrative that fuels much of the coverage. Meanwhile, Prince Andrew, second son of the Queen and ninth in line to the throne, dragged the monarchy into a darker place. His links to the late sex offender Jeffrey Epstein and now serious allegations from one of Epstein’s alleged victims are a major problem for the Prince and the royal family. Then, of course, there is Princess Diana. Around the anniversary of her death, another royal media storm appeared as the BBC had to make an unconditional apology over how it secured the extraordinary interview in
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which she well and truly detonated any perception of normality in her marriage to Prince Charles, the heir to the throne. Art imitated life as the row played out while a global audience was also streaming Netflix’s megahit The Crown, portraying the life of the world’s most photographed woman. What is forgotten amid the media maelstrom is that the royals did allow in the cameras more than 50 years ago. Royal Family, a BBC doc with unprecedented access to the family at home and play, was a huge global hit in a very different era of TV. Above the fray is Her Majesty. In the UK, public opinion is overwhelmingly supportive and respectful of her. She has never given an interview and I am sure never will. Less stable is the complex, mutually-dependent relationship between monarchy and media, made all the more tangled by royal ventures into our world. Prince Edward, the Queen’s third son, had his
The British royal family is the gift that keeps on giving, a story with inexhaustible appeal.” own indie, Ardent, in the early ‘90s. But Ardent got embroiled in controversy, and faded away. Now there’s Archewell, the new indie created by The Duke and Duchess of Sussex and linked in a creative partnership with Netflix. Their mission: to create “programming that informs, elevates, and inspires”. It’s hard to call how they will do, but certainly they will be closely watched. What is clear is this royal infatuation will run and run, whatever the backdrop. They’ve been capturing imaginations for nearly a thousand years, so I don’t think they’ll run out of steam. The big unknown is what’s next — but whatever it is has the potential to be just as compelling. John Smithson is creative director of Arrow Pictures, a feature and high-end factual label created out of Arrow, the UK-headquartered indie which he cofounded in 2011.
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EXPANDING HORIZONS As the non-ﬁction screen content industry continues to move forward in its efforts to increase diversity and inclusion within its ranks, specialist factual creators and commissioners are also implementing changes that have been a long time coming. By Jillian Morgan
SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER ‘21
Maurice Oniang’o, a mentee in the 2020 National Geographic Field Ready Program. (Photo courtesy Maurice Oniang’o)
ational Geographic’s senior vice president of development and production, Janet Han Vissering, was in the process of stafﬁng up the network’s ﬁrst women-led wildlife program, Queens, in May 2019 when she and her team faced a “cold reality.” Finding women from diverse backgrounds to work on the series proved difﬁcult, she says, and so the idea to create a mentoring program was born. In January 2020, Nat Geo announced Field Ready, designed to equip a new generation of people to work behind the camera across science, adventure and exploration, in addition to natural history. “If there’s a lack of diversity in regular television, for the unscripted production world, there’s an increased lack of diversity in the natural history world on the production side,” Han Vissering says. The natural history genre falls under the umbrella of specialist factual, which also includes science, history, arts and religion, as well as deeper dives into subjects such as engineering and anthropology. For a group of genres that promises to inform, it has long been commissioned and made from a speciﬁc point of view: namely white, male and able-bodied. In the UK, for example, the most recent Diamond report from Creative Diversity Network, released in January, found that disabled people make up just 4.8% of offscreen contributions to factual programming. Also underrepresented were over-50s (18.7%),
transgender people (0.6%) and those from a Black, Asian or minority ethnic (“BAME”) group (12.7%). While strides have been made to diversify stories and crews across specialist factual — take, for instance, Fox’s Malika the Lion Queen or History’s Tulsa Burning: The 1921 Race Massacre, directed by Stanley Nelson and Marco Williams — those doing the work to make the non-ﬁction world more inclusive and accessible say there’s still a long way to go. “As more diverse people are getting into [the genre] — people who may know a different perspective, different cultural backgrounds, different experiences — we can tell and expand on stories, and not just from what I would call a myopic, Western perspective,” Han Vissering says. BRINGING “CREATIVE IDEAS TO TRADITIONAL GENRES” Day Al-Mohamed is a founding member of FWD-DOC, which, as the group’s website states, “seeks to increase the visibility of, support for, and direct access to opportunities, networks, and employment for D/
deaf and disabled ﬁlmmakers.” An author, ﬁlmmaker and disability policy strategist, AlMohamed’s work has largely been in the history genre. The Invalid Corps, a 2019 short about disabled veterans’ contributions during the Civil War, was her ﬁrst documentary as a blind ﬁlmmaker. She says ﬁlmmakers can avoid extractive or exploitative ﬁlmmaking practices and ﬁnd nuance in their storytelling by hiring and collaborating with subjects of their documentaries. One example is Renegades, a digital series for PBS strand ‘American Masters,’ for which Al-Mohamed is the creator, director and writer. The pilot episode delves into the story of the late Kitty O’Neil, a deaf race car driver and stuntwoman known as “the fastest woman in the world.” 021
The production team was more than 50% composed of people with disabilities and women of color also accounted for more than 50% of the team. Al-Mohamed said this was critical in shifting the narrative from one of a disabled person “overcoming” their disability. Instead, the episode explores perceptions around sign language and the concept of Deaf Gain (a reframing of the term “hearing loss”). “The only way we could get to that was because we had folks from the community telling us,” she adds. Christina Douglas, founder and president of New Yorkbased Momentum Content, says a key part of her work is bringing underrepresented voices to the spotlight. “The faces of natural history and wildlife content haven’t been diverse and included the BIPOC community behind the
camera, [nor] female voices and storytellers.” The company’s 2020 Netflix series about small wildlife, Tiny Creatures, recently picked up two Daytime Emmys. “Two elements of my personal experience really played into me creating the show. I’m Vietnamese, I’m African American, I’m Native American, and being those three things really made me aware of different perspectives,” she says. “I actually grew up in a poor household… To me, my
relationship with nature was in the backyard… These diverse perspectives and diverse identities help us bring creative ideas to traditional genres.” Stan Hsue, SVP of development for New Yorkbased Lion TV USA (part of All3Media), who has developed series, pilots and projects for networks including NatGeo Wild, PBS, American Heroes Channel and others, echoes Douglas. “It affects the stories that we choose to tell, how we perceive and frame the stories… As an Asian American TV exec, I have a very different take on certain topics from other execs and colleagues with different backgrounds.”
VE Day: Minute by Minute) recalls a moment several years ago, at the World Congress of Science and Factual Producers, where she came face-toface with the lack of women and diverse executives in the specialist factual field. “As a woman, I felt slightly left out in terms of, ‘Oh, I’m not part of that boys club,’” she says. Since then, she’s seen improvements, largely from the network side where commissioning power and money resides. “If they say you have to do something or we’re not going to pay you, which is what they can say to a production company, then that happens.” Woodcut Media is developing two projects of note that feature diverse talent and diverse storytelling for two networks, one in the UK and one in the U.S. The third season of the prodco’s
“IF YOU WANT TO DO SOMETHING, HIRE” Kate Beal, CEO of Woodcut Media (Channel 5’s Secret History of WW2, Discovery Channel UK’s Tony Robinson’s
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Combat Ships for Smithsonian Channel is one title being transformed with a diversity focus. “That’s one good example where there is change happening,” she says. “We’ve never, ever been given money to just develop diverse ideas in specialist factual.” Since the summer of 2020, calls for decision-makers in the entertainment industry to contend with issues of racism and inequality both in front of and behind the camera have intensified. ViacomCBS, for instance, committed to a “no diversity, no commission” policy across its entire organization. BBC Studios instituted guidelines requiring a minimum of 20% of on-screen talent and production teams on all BBC and thirdparty UK commissions to have a BAME background, a lived experience of disability or to be from a lowincome background. “Some of the programs and series where specifically the mission is to diversify and be more inclusive of the types of stories they tell and also the people that they have on their crews and in the writers rooms and all of that — they all sound really great. I would simultaneously say that it’s hard to say, at this point, what will actually come to fruition,” Momentum’s Douglas says. “How many of these programs will actually create paid opportunities for those underrepresented groups?” For Al-Mohamed, the industry has not gone far enough to include disability as part of diversity, equity
Day Al-Mohamed says it’s crucial for companies to include disability in diversity, equity and inclusion targets.
and inclusion (DE&I) targets. She says the lack of visibility and the unwillingness to hire are the biggest issues for disabled filmmakers. “We see it with professionals of color, and we’ve seen it with women. Disability is no different from those insofar as it’s not adequately represented,” she says. “There’s always that question of capacity. Can they do the job? And the short answer is, absolutely” “If you actually want to do something, hire,” she adds. “When folks worry about, ‘Am I getting it right? What if I say the wrong thing?’ ...If you’re not sure, ask. People will tell you… The rest is just all about getting the film done.” As these changes continue to reshape the specialist factual genre, however slowly, Lion TV USA’s Hsue says he expects a wave of Black and Indigenous creatives and creatives of color in the near future, but admits it will take time. “I think we have to challenge ourselves to dig deep to reach out to diverse talents and creatives.” “We can’t let our foot off the gas pedal,” Nat Geo’s Han Vissering says. “It’s really important for all the leaders, anyone who’s in a position of decision making, to continue that push.” 023
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LOOKING FORWARD The enduring pandemic, new entrants, mega-deals and calls for diversity continue to reshape film, TV and streaming. For our last (and only) issue of 2021, Realscreen has surveyed the non-fiction and unscripted screen community. Producers, buyers, distributors and agents reflected on the past 18 months — from remote work to the streaming revolution, COVID-19 and efforts towards diversity, equity and inclusion — and offered predictions on what’s yet to come. And while shifts to the entertainment landscape continue to shake up the business, the unanimous verdict is that the future appears bright — if the genre can match the pace of change. By Justin Anderson, Andrew Jeffrey and Jillian Morgan 025
As the industry moves into a “post-pandemic” period, what’s the biggest change you see ahead for how you will produce, buy and/or sell content? Every project must be worth the risk — we want big ideas and big swings and to know that if we need to go on hiatus or pivot, we have back-up plans ready and creative flexibility. Jennifer O’Connell, EVP, non-fiction and live-action family, HBO Max With the influx of entrants into the streaming media ecosystem, some of the ongoing focus for the postpandemic period may involve even more nimble acquisitions and greenlighting of content upstream. Sylvia Bugg, chief programming executive, PBS We inevitably have to ensure we meet the demands of this evolving landscape of buyers and develop a premium side to our business. Returning brands will always work but maybe now is the death knell for content that simply “does a job.” Paul Heaney, CEO, Bossanova I don’t see a huge change coming from the way we’ve learned to conduct business over the past 18 months. I’m not sure there’s ever going to be a return to the prepandemic way of doing things. Eli Lehrer, EVP and head of programming, History We’re now seeing distributors becoming more involved in both content creation and direct-toconsumer delivery — a trend that is likely to continue to develop post-pandemic. Fiona Gilroy, content sales and acquisitions director, Flame Distribution
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What trends have emerged during the pandemic in terms of buying, selling and packaging content, and which will remain going forward? The big premium doc space, the unscripted space, the FAST AVOD world, and the real drive to tell diverse inclusive stories with big talent — those are really the major trends that we’re experiencing in our world. Solange Attwood, EVP, Blue Ant International
The further acceptance of digital and social media talent [as] longform unscripted stars will likely continue to grow… Additionally, the rise of the documentary filmmaker/ director. Marc Kamler, partner and head of unscripted content, A3 Artists Agency
Some of the organic, less “produced” vibe we captured during quarantine will remain. Kathleen Finch, chief lifestyle brands officer, Discovery, Inc.
Which genres will flourish in a post-pandemic world, and which will not? Big, joyful, splashy, bold, authentic, with some kind of unique twist. We are also interested in social experiments that don’t take themselves too seriously. JO This generation is making its own content because it insists on representation, and on being part of the story and the conversation. So we’ve got to figure out how to support and democratize that process, and help take UGC and first person storytelling to the next level. Jill Dickerson, senior development manager, Snap Originals We’ll likely see more thought put into shows that may require large crews, in-person audiences, and/or travel, as any and all of those will be impacted by future health scares. MK It’s more about tone for me than genre. There is a huge appetite for warm, feel good stories coming out of the pandemic… There’s been a surge in family/intergenerational viewing too and popular factual can play a huge part in meeting audience needs for shared viewing. Johnny Webb, CEO, HiddenLight Productions
Buyers are spending more time in development stages. We see this trend and the push for packaging to continue as the networks/streamers compete amongst themselves for a place in the market. Kate Harrison Karman, president, Cream Productions
Working remotely is here to stay. From pitching to directing, all these can be done remotely just as effectively as in-person. Randy Barbato and Fenton Bailey, co-founders, World of Wonder
What challenges are you preparing for in the year ahead? Finding financing to develop and produce the not-soobvious stories… Buyers are increasingly taking less risks and going for safer bets. Anna Godas, CEO, Dogwoof Our challenge will be breaking through the clutter and attracting viewers across all available platforms. SB COVID-19 is forcing us to constantly adapt how we make content… Some of these adaptations have actually been beneficial and led us to doing our jobs in ways that are more economical, more efficient, more creative. EL Many producers are reporting talent shortages in key production roles. We must also consider the increased costs as a result of COVID-19 protocols and how these are covered in budget negotiations with broadcasters. Chris Bonney, CEO, rights, Cineflix Media Budgets are decreasing and margins are getting smaller. Unscripted has always been a volume business to a certain extent, but that’s never been truer. Courtny Catzel, partner, co-head of New York non-scripted, ICM Partners I don’t personally feel the challenges are new — they are simply more pronounced as the world starts edging back to “normal” and many of us are working to redefine our business model after such a turbulent period. KHK Funding budgets have to stretch further. There’s more of a push for coproductions to spread the cost burden amongst several commissioners. FG
g to as enton
There are more producers and buyers in this space than ever before. It has opened up more opportunities for international coproductions, allowing us to bring premium, high-impact documentary and factual series to audiences for a fraction of the cost. Jennifer Dettman, CBC executive director, unscripted content and chair, documentary channel We’re feeling pretty bullish that the unscripted world is going to continue to be an important pillar for a lot of our buyers. SA The unique and unexpected stories unscripted can tell, its costeffectiveness, the speed at which unscripted can move — all of those things are hugely valuable regardless of how much scripted is being made. EL There was a resurgence in premium unscripted before 2020 and the pandemic has accelerated this even more. Kate Beal, CEO, Woodcut Media The drive to premium box set factual will continue. We are working with a number of high-end scripted directors on our documentary series — we love that cross-fertilization of genres in look and feel. Expect the top end of unscripted content to be every bit as much “event TV” as scripted. JW
What will buying and selling content look like as in-person gatherings return to film festivals, conferences and markets? What the pandemic has made clear is that we don’t need as many F2F events for the business to go on. My guess is that many events/markets/festivals may not survive. AG Virtual conferences and markets have reduced the financial barriers for participation for many creators and producers, so we hope that virtual marketplaces and networking is a trend that will continue after the pandemic. JD There’ll be a cross-platform selling strategy from the bigger businesses, using all means to keep relationships strong and eyeballs on their slates. PH I for one am excited about the prospect of returning to in-person events so long as we can do so safely and effectively. Zoom/ Teams/Slack have all made the act of connecting to others easier than ever but nothing beats feeling and seeing the passion of producers talking through their ideas in-person. Harry Gamsu, VP, acquisitions, Fremantle International
Do you see efforts to make the industry more diverse remaining a priority? What efforts are you/ your company making in this area? It’s critical that the entire industry continues to focus on doubling down on working with female and minority owned and operated production companies and diverse showrunners and crew so that we can ensure the stories we are telling and the content we are making speaks to and supports all communities in a more equitable way… that is a huge part of our goals for Snap Originals in 2022 and beyond. JD In the last year, we have implemented DEI initiatives with intentionality — across all areas of production, distribution, behind the camera and on screen. SB
We’re increasing diverse representation with our on-air talent as well as among the teams producing our content. We’re also creating crossnetwork opportunities and coproductions between networks like HGTV, Food Network, TLC and OWN to introduce talent… to as broad and diverse an audience as possible. KF Institutional racism, sexism, and bias don’t disappear overnight. I am fortunate to represent a roster of diverse storytellers and activists and it’s my turn to listen, support my clients and fight on their behalf, and that extends beyond the financial. CC
Any predictions for the future of the unscripted/ non-fiction screen industry?
e es. push e s elves Kate ent,
Do you think the appetite for unscripted content will remain as strong from buyers as scripted returns to full strength?
It’s time for reality to be more self-aware, transparent, and authentic. JO I think there’s going to be more consolidation, and conglomerates are going to get bigger. SA I think the proliferation of bingeing content in one sitting — combined with all the traditional providers making their content available on multiple platforms — means there are now more potential unscripted fans than ever before. Keeping these fans entertained 24/7, instead of considering the old constraints of primetime, means the future for unscripted is pretty much unstoppable. KF Unscripted producers have a real opportunity to build their brands because the market is bigger and more open than it has ever been. CB I predict going into festival season we’ll see more recordbreaking deals paid for the best in new factual content resulting from greater competition than every between global platforms vying to compete with Netflix in the genre. HG Better than ever, stronger than ever, and more than ever. RB and FB
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While personal and business travel is still hampered by the pandemic, programming is still traveling globally, and the annual Mipcom conference is a prime opportunity to see some of the content on the move. From social issues to true crime, and from blue-chip natural history to archive-led documentary, there’s a wealth of great stuff in the mix this spring, as seen here. As usual, our editorial team screened scores of clips of programming being shopped to arrive at this list of picks. Congrats to our Best in Show, which will receive a pass to the 2022 Realscreen Summit for the submitting company.
BEST IN SHOW The Conductor Growing up in New York, a young Marin Alsop was instantly enthralled by the world of classical music — and conducting in particular — after attending a concert conducted by the legendary Leonard Bernstein. But her road to the podium would be long and ﬁlled with naysayers. Still, with her passion and talent fueling her and with Bernstein serving as a mentor, she fought on, and has created a career built on ﬁrsts — she was the ﬁrst woman to be appointed as music director for a major symphony orchestra, the ﬁrst woman to conduct the BBC’s Last Night of the Proms, et cetera. This engrossing ﬁlm chronicles how Alsop smashed the glass ceiling she repeatedly encountered in her ascent.
Partners: Directed by Bernadette Wegenstein, produced by Anne Porter; distributed by Cargo Films & Releasing Length: 90 minutes Premiered: June 2021 (Tribeca Film Festival) Rights available: Worldwide
Muhammad Ali For those familiar with the work of Ken Burns, it’s a given that when he finds a subject to explore, the resulting multi-part project will be well worth the time investment required to take it all in. We expect it to be the same story with this four-part exploration of one of the most recognizable and significant figures in modern culture. First breaking into the boxing world as Cassius Clay, Muhammad Ali revealed himself to be much more than a brash bruiser. By refusing to fight in the Vietnam War he proved he was a man of conscience. By his steadfast observance of his religion, he proved himself to be a man of faith. And of course, with his remarkable gift of gab, the threetime heavyweight champion of the world showed he was a warrior with wit. Directed by Ken Burns, Sarah Burns and David McMahon.
Bat Superpowers Partners: Florentine Films for PBS; distributed by PBS International Length: Eight hours over four parts Premiered: September 2021 (PBS) Rights available: Worldwide
The Art Dispute Scores of us have descended upon museums, slowly strolling hallways and enraptured by the historical works of art we’re taking in. But the stories behind how some of those pieces arrived in these museums and on these shores aren’t always well known. This inventive series combines historical research, testimony from experts and unique animation to provide the context behind important discussions about how colonialism and appropriation have shaped culture.
SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER ‘21
In popular culture and in the shadowy substance of our superstitions, bats have frequently received a bad rap. But that fear and loathing has intensified as of late, as scientists endeavor to locate the origins of a pandemic that has stopped the world. This program, part of PBS’s estimable science strand ‘Nova,’ enlightens the viewer regarding some of the incredible abilities of these creatures, such as their innate resistance to some of the diseases they carry, including Ebola and MERS. We also meet some of the scientists who are studying bats to uncover the secrets they may hold towards living longer, healthier lives.
Partners: Films à Cinq; distributed by PBS International Length: 57 minutes Aired: September 2021 (PBS) Rights available: Worldwide
Changing the Game Partners: Hazazah for BBNVARA; distributed by DFW International Volume: Eight episodes Rights available: Worldwide excluding the Netherlands
From filmmaker Michael Barnett (Superheroes) comes this exploration of what has emerged as an explosive issue in sports and, to a larger degree, our society — inclusion for transgender athletes. Having run on the festival circuit for the last couple of years and now airing in the U.S. via Hulu, the film follows three teens as they navigate their sporting lives and their journeys as trans kids, illustrating the obstacles they’ve faced and the battles won in fighting for the right to compete.
Partners: SuperFilms!; distributed by Hulu (U.S.), Principal Media (International) Length: 88 minutes Premiered: 2019 Rights available: Worldwide excluding the U.S. and its territories
Race Against the Tide The Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick, Canada, is an amazing natural spectacle, home to the world’s highest tides. It is here where the action for this unique unscripted competition series takes place, as teams of expert sand sculpture artists take to the beach to wow judges with creations that could typically take weeks to craft, facing off against each other and against the oncoming torrents of ocean that will wash their work away. Coproduced by the team behind Netflix’s Blown Away (marblemedia, working here with Hemmings House Pictures), this is another competition series that takes a deep dive into a fascinating world.
Is My Country Prejudiced? Partners: marblemedia and Hemmings House Pictures for CBC; distributed by Distribution360 Length: 10 x 30 minutes Premiered: September 2021 (CBC) Rights available: Worldwide excluding Canada; format rights
There Are No Fakes When internationally renowned musician Kevin Hearn purchased a painting by iconic Indigenous artist Norval Morrisseau, and subsequently was told it was a forgery, he sued the gallery from which he purchased it. But beyond the lawsuit, the experience prompted a wider investigation into the murky world of art fraud, and the troubling reality of exploitation and appropriation of Indigenous culture. From filmmaker Jamie Kastner, this doc offers up intriguing twists and turns as it explores these issues.
When Australia’s SBS first aired its nonfiction series Is Australia Racist? in 2017, its groundbreaking approach to studying racism in Australia, which included using hidden cameras and actors to see how people would react in certain situations, prompted a national discussion on the question. Since then, that approach has been used for other topics — most recently, attitudes towards disability — to illuminate the work that needs to be done to create a truly inclusive society. Now, format rights for the program are being shopped internationally, providing other broadcasters the opportunity to pose questions that may be uncomfortable but are ultimately of utmost importance — and can make for engrossing and educational viewing.
Partners: Joined Up Films for SBS; distributed by Magnify Media Rights available: Format rights worldwide outside of Australia
Chernobyl ‘86 Partners: Cave 7 Productions; distributed internationally by CBC and RadioCanada Distribution Length: 114 minutes Premiered: April 2019 (Hot Docs) Rights available: World excluding English Canada, Australia, New Zealand, UK and U.S.
From director James Jones, helmer of such acclaimed docs as On the President’s Orders and Mosul, comes this exhaustive account of the events of April 26, 1986 — the date of the most significant nuclear accident in history. On that Saturday, a safety test conducted on the No. 4 reactor at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, located in what was then known as Soviet Ukraine, went badly wrong, resulting in the destruction of the reactor building and considerable radioactive contamination impacting the USSR and parts of Western Europe. Using newly discovered archive, Jones and his team paint a chilling picture of this historic disaster. (Photo: Sputnik/Igor Kostin)
Partners: Top Hat, in association with Sky Studios; distributed by Sky Studios Length: 90 minutes Airing: November 2021 Rights available: Worldwide excl. Sky territories (UK, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Austria)
Cannon Arm and the Arcade Quest Patrons of Copenhagen’s Bip Bip Bar are accustomed to the sight of Cannon Arm — a man with a graying mullet, usually found playing the 1980s arcade game Gyrrus, sometimes for hours on end on one coin. In fact, Cannon Arm (or Kim) is locally heralded for playing a single game of Gyrrus for 49 hours straight. But while that may boggle many a mind, Cannon Arm has a bigger goal in sight — to play for 100 hours, or four days straight, on a single coin. This feel-good film follows Kim and his friends as they prepare for the day when he tackles his quest.
Last Winter of the Tsaatan Partners: Good Company Pictures, Katrine Sahlstrøm; distributed by Cargo Films & Releasing Length: 97 minutes Premiered: May 2021 (CPH:DOX) Rights available: Worldwide excluding Denmark & Sweden
In Northern Mongolia, an Indigenous tribe is facing an unprecedented challenge to its way of life, established over thousands of years. This nomadic, reindeer herding community is now under pressure from Mongolian government to send its children to school from the age of six. Parents, therefore, are facing the decision of retaining their livelihood and traditions, or gambling on steering their children into a new, different future. This film, directed by Pierre Da Silva & Hervé Bouchaud, follows one family as it grapples with this new reality, as well as the challenges ever present in their current world.
My Childhood, My Country: 20 Years in Afghanistan
In this timely documentary, filmmakers Phil Grabsky and Shoaib Sharifi encapsulate the experiences of a young male growing up in one of the most volatile places on Earth, Afghanistan. Filmed over a span of 20 years, the project follows Mir, whom we are introduced to at the tender age of seven, and who grows up to become a news cameraman operating out of Kabul. Through his perspective, we are given a riveting personal window into two tumultuous decades of conflict, and gain a sense of the challenges that still lie ahead.
The first original true crime series to air on South Africa’s Showmax was a home run for the streamer, setting records for the most hours watched in its first four days of launch. As with other hits in the genre, its subject is stranger than fiction and stacked full of twists and turns. Focusing on a series of murders taking place between 2012 and 2016 known as The Krugersdorp Killings, the 11 murders were all tied to a shadowy group, dubbed Electus per Deus (or Chosen by God). Combining archive footage and interviews with investigators, victims’ family members and others who knew the perpetrators, the limited series should prove extremely bingeworthy for fans of the genre.
Partners: Seventh Art Productions in association with ARTE and WDR; distributed internationally for TV and digital by Bomanbridge Media Length: 1 x 90 minutes; 2 x 60 minutes Premieres: September (ITV) and October (SBS) Rights available: All rights worldwide
SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER ‘21
Partners: Sable Rouge for ARTE France; distributed by Zed Length: 52 minutes Airing: October 2021 Rights available: Worldwide
Partners: IdeaCandy for Showmax (South Africa); distributed by Arrested Industries Length: Four x 60 minutes Premiered: July 2021 Rights available: All rights worldwide excluding South Africa
Osprey: Sea Raptor Narrated with impressive gravitas by actor Sean Bean (Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones), this cinematic, blue-chip doc follows a pair of osprey — a lifelong couple — as they reunite in an American wetland to raise their young after traversing continents. Cameras capture the action of their mind-boggling migrations, their return to reconstruct their nest, their aweinspiring hunts, and more.
The Otter: A Legend Returns Partners: Love Nature and the WNET Group in association with CosmoVision; distributed by Blue Ant International Length: 60 minutes Premiering: PBS in the U.S., Love Nature linear and streaming outside of U.S. and UK, Sky Nature in the UK Rights available: Outside of commissioning territories; contact Blue Ant Intl. for more information
Red Elvis While he might not have been a household name in North America, in the Soviet Bloc during the Cold War, singer-actor Dean Reed was an icon. Growing more disillusioned with American foreign policy and by a career that was stalling Stateside, the handsome would-be pop star from Denver, Colorado found an audience in South America, and spent considerable time in Chile and Argentina, hobnobbing with such cultural giants as Pablo Neruda and Victor Jara. Eventually he made his way to East Germany, and became the biggest pop star behind the Iron Curtain. His death under mysterious circumstances in 1986 added a tragic twist to an already fascinating story. This project features exclusive access to Reed’s friends and family, as well as a trove of archive.
Otters have had a pretty good run in various habitats, but in the Netherlands, they practically vanished in the late 1980s due to pollution, traffic, hunting and the loss of their natural habitat. After successful efforts to reintroduce them to the region, the Dutch otter is once again doing its signature backstroke through the canals, but it still faces challenges in the densely populated and increasingly urban environment. This natural history doc provides a unique window into the story of a species once again finding its way in a changing world. (Photo: Hilco Jansma Prods.)
Partners: Hilco Jansma Productions, Ispida Wildlife Productions; distributed by Albatross World Sales Length: 52 minutes Aired: January (EO) Rights available: Worldwide
Last of the Giants Partners: Talos Films and Sky Studios in association with Curiosity Studios for Sky Documentaries and NOW; distrib. by Sky Studios Length: 90 minutes Premiering: November 2021
French television host and adventurer Cyril Chauquet is known to audiences worldwide as the presenter of Chasing Monsters, in which the rugged extreme angler takes on some of the nastiest, meanest fishes stalking the seas. Here, Chauquet and his team travel to some of the planet’s harshest environments in search of more high-stakes adventure, and more incredible creatures.
Partners: Untamed Productions for Discovery Canada; distributed by Fremantle International Length: Eight x 60 minutes Aired: August (Evasion) Rights available: All rights excluding Canada
Rights: EMEA/Asia excl. Sky territories (UK, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Austria)
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Great Escapes With Morgan Freeman Prisons are designed to keep the bad guys on the inside. But for some captive geniuses, incarceration was just another safe to crack. Hosted by Morgan Freeman, star of The Shawshank Redemption — one of the greatest prisonbreak movies of all time — this series profiles history’s greatest escape masterminds and their plans, from inspiration to execution through to the harrowing manhunts that followed. Season 1: 8 x 1 hour | Produced by Revelations Entertainment Cold Case Files The groundbreaking Emmy-nominated series returns to examine murder cases that have remained unsolved for years. Using recent advances in technology and featuring interviews with those closest to the cases, explore the twists and turns that finally cracked fascinating cases that defied the odds. Season 2: 20 x 1 hour | Produced by Six West Media™ Group Invisible Monsters: Serial Killers in America Bundy, Gacy, Dahmer — the names of these infamous serial killers strike fear into the hearts of many, but how were they able to evade capture for so long? Featuring exclusive interviews with survivors, investigators, and family members, this series unpicks the complex cultural landscape that allowed these monsters to hide in plain sight. Season 1: 6 x 1 hour | Produced by Category 6 Media
THE MYSTERY OF JOAN OF ARC 52’ & 90’ – 4K She changed the course of history: a cold case following the most enigmatic heroine of the middle ages. An epic rise and a spectacular fall: the destiny of a young village girl who claimed to have been sent by God to save France from the English invaders. Exalted by an entire people, she had the ear of the powerful, became a war leader, won decisive battles, liberated cities and had her king crowned. Her adventure would take a tragic turn – at the age of 19, she was burned alive at the stake after a mock trial. The film is a deep dive into European medieval history, a blend of animation and historical documentary. JIM MORRISON – LAST DAYS IN PARIS 52’ The reopening of the cold case of Jim Morrison’s death... Was it a heart attack? A CIA plot? An overdose? With exclusive interviews, we discover the truth about the artists’ mysterious death. Fifty years ago, in Paris, during the night of July 2nd to 3rd, 1971, the body of rock star Jim Morrison was found lifeless in the bathtub of an apartment by his American girlfriend, Pamela Courson. The circumstances of his death were mysterious, but it was not made public until a few days later. Only one thing is certain. That night Jim Morrison joined 27 Club, a group of libertarian idols, such as Janis Joplin, Brian Jones or Jimi Hendrix, destroyed by their excesses at the age of twenty-seven years old. A WOMAN AT THE HEAD OF DIOR 52’ Follow the footsteps of Maria Grazia Chiuri, the first woman to be appointed head of Dior. An exclusive and unique immersion in the magical backstage of one of the world’s most prestigious and iconic “maison de couture” and discover the secrets of Dior’s first lady. The 2022 cruise show will take place in Greece, at the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens. The artistic director opens the doors of her intimacy to us, we follow the elaboration of the collection by her side, we discover her working method with her daughter, the frantic rhythm of the haute couture workshops, the doubts, the changes and the last preparations before the dazzling fashion show in Athens. When the show begins, Maria Grazia Chiuri’s vision takes full shape before our eyes. In 1951, Christian Dior himself came to present his creations on the Acropolis of Athens. The circle is complete: 70 years later, the name Dior still spreads its magic and beauty in the middle of the ancient capital.
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ZDF Enterprises was founded in 1993 and is responsible for worldwide program distribution, international co-productions, program acquisition as well as the merchandising of strong program brands in its own name, for broadcaster ZDF, and for third parties. Bound into a strong group of 18 subsidiaries and affiliated companies, ZDF Enterprises manages the largest German-language program stock worldwide and an impressive portfolio of international productions, consisting of series and miniseries, TV movies, documentaries and children’s programs. ZDF Enterprises provides a comprehensive, fullservice offering and covers every step in the chain of creation and exploitation of successful content, from development to production and marketing.
Rescued Chimpanzees of the Congo with Jane Goodall ZDFE.unscripted | Wildlife + Nature | 5 x 50’ plus 1 x 50’ Special With unprecedented access and filmed over 30 years, this groundbreaking series uncovers Jane Goodall’s journey to create the largest chimp sanctuary in Africa, and follows the rehabilitation of a cast of orphaned chimpanzees from recovery to eventually living in a wild environment. From malnutrition and tetanus to disease and paralysis, the sanctuary’s director Rebeca Atencia and her team are challenged daily on a whole range of issues. Reacting to the problems thrown at them, but over time building up unbelievable knowledge that is now leading the scientific world in its approach. Their work is pivotal in supporting law enforcement efforts to reduce illegal trafficking of great apes. No matter how many laws are made, they can’t be enforced unless there is a safe place for the chimps to go. That place is Tchimpounga. Produced by Off the Fence Productions with the support of the Jane Goodall Institute for Curiosity Stream in association with ZDF Enterprises
ZDFE.unscripted | History + Biographies | 7 x 50’ Ancient Superstructures reveals the secrets behind the world’s most famous monuments. Some of the ancient marvels which are among the most studied and scrutinized monuments in the world still remain shrouded in mystery. What if the answers were right in front of us… but invisible to the human eye? This ground-breaking series takes a unique approach in delving into engineering mysteries behind the world’s most famous ancient structures, by observing them from different perspectives of scale. From satellite imagery and aerial views right down to macro and microscopic levels, each perspective reveals data that helps shed new light on historical and construction enigmas that have baffled historians for years. While season covered Mount Saint-Michel, Petra, the Desert Rose, the Great Wall of China and Machu Picchu, season 2 is about the Louvre, Angkor Wat and the Hagia Sophia. Produced by PERNEL MEDIA in association with RMC Découverte, Histoire and ZDF Enterprises. Ancient Engineering
ZDFE.unscripted | Science + Knowledge | 10 x 50’ Ancient Engineering is a 10-episode documentary series bursting with the most exciting and intriguing feats of engineering from the ancient world, which have inspired and influenced modern-day engineering. Each stand-alone episode showcases one pinnacle piece of engineering; iconic achievements like the pyramids, Stonehenge, the Great Wall of China, Roman roads and the Taj Mahal. Blending stunning archive footage, specially shot expert interviews, dramatic reconstructions, breath-taking aerial images and drawing upon the latest insights gained through technologies that are revealing secrets of the ancient world — we shed new light on the techniques, materials and innovative thinking behind each ancient engineering feat and offer a new perspective on their fascinating and important histories. The series is produced by Off the Fence for CuriosityStream in association with PLANETE+ and ZDF.info.
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FAKING IT By Michael Cascio
Use of AI to mimic the voice of Anthony Bourdain in Roadrunner has raised eyebrows in the doc community. (Photo: CNN/Focus Features)
SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER ‘21
his documentary Roadrunner, director Morgan Neville used an artiﬁcially created voice to mimic the ﬁlm’s subject, Anthony Bourdain. Media critics pounced. “This tells you all you need to know about the ethics of the people behind this project,” tweeted one outraged observer. A Washington Post reporter similarly tweeted: “This sucks.” Neville had apparently violated an unwritten rule about faking things in serious documentaries, but shrugged it off: “We can have a documentary-ethics panel about it later,” Neville told The New York Times. Well, let’s have that discussion now, please, minus the panel. The primary question: What kind of responsibilities do we have in producing documentaries and factual programming? This debate has been going on since the ’90s — the 1890s, when a ﬁlmmaker tried to recreate the Battle of Santiago using a toy boat and cigar smoke. The discussion got louder a hundred years later when some overly “produced” reality series appeared to make faking it fair game. The issue seems especially relevant now, with trust in the media at an all-time low. After all, if you can’t believe what you see and hear in a “serious” documentary, what can you believe? As a network executive supervising all kinds of factual programming, I was rarely in favor of outright recreations. I understood that you would need them, say, to tell the story of King Tut, and no one would be fooled into thinking the footage of ancient Egypt was anything but what it was — a cheesy recreation. And it’s different if you’re recreating the bullet trajectory in the Kennedy assassination,
where the reenactment is purposeful and labelled as such. But it was especially annoying to see faked footage supposedly used to improve a story, even if what was being used was completely made up and wasn’t actually part of the scene and not identiﬁed as a recreation. This was faking it. To me, we were misleading the viewer about what really happened. It was also lazy. For producers, it’s sometimes easier and more fun to recreate the story instead of combing the archives or using other creative techniques — POV shooting, movement on still photos, clever graphics, better writing, more in-depth interviewing, slo-mo, pacing and so on. But I was swimming upstream and out of touch. While I came from a news background where faking it was discouraged or forbidden, I had to accept that very few professionals in long-form production seemed to think that fakery might call into question their integrity or their projects’ veracity. Basically, it was OK to fake it without telling the viewers. So I gave in. And the ratings for some of the series that may have used, uh, enhancements in scripting and other areas of the ﬁnal product seemed to show that audiences weren’t too fussed. Still, I worry that we’re selling out long-term truth for short-term gains. Serious documentaries are the last bastion of in-depth video journalism. I’m not talking about mass market reality TV. No one cares if The Real Housewives is real — or even if they’re housewives. We expect those shows to entertain us in the same way as scripted drama and
So why can’t a reenactment be used in the same way, as long as it conveys the overall truth? Sometimes, there just isn’t enough visual material to cover a great story, and it seems to be the only way to show what happened. Except that it didn’t happen that way. And a camera wasn’t there. The fact is, all those other tricks of the trade are generally acceptable. But outright fakery of video violates that code of ethics that snared Morgan Neville.
My take is that the more ﬁlmmakers try to make a feature ﬁlm instead of a factual documentary, they’re more likely to enhance the visuals or audio to fool the audience into thinking what they’re seeing is real — just like a scripted movie.”
Make no mistake, journalistic standards still occasionally prevail. On PBS, Ken Burns will use audio or still photos to make the story come alive without faked action for action’s sake. And news-based programs like 60 Minutes and Dateline have perfected the art of non-reenactment recreations (e.g., the empty swing set representing the missing child). But they’re the exceptions. My take is that the more ﬁlmmakers try to make a feature ﬁlm instead of a factual documentary, they’re more likely to enhance the visuals or audio to fool the audience into thinking what they’re seeing is real — just like a scripted movie. They’re not covering the news, so those rules don’t apply. I’ve seen it happen at so many levels that raising an objection is seen as a quaint impediment. One boss actually told me about our factual shows at the time, “Just don’t call it journalism.” When it’s articulated, the argument in favor of faking things boils down to this: All documentaries fake things in some way to tell a story. Editing, shooting, lighting, audio, music — they’re all manipulated to create a mood or message.
(Never mind that his sin involved audio of Bourdain, it was a primary violation.) The practice undermines credibility of documentaries in general and, without disclaimers to tell us otherwise, could be seen as being speciﬁcally designed to trick the viewer. So, what’s the answer? More documentarians are finding alternatives to tiresome recreations. Most notably, there’s been an increasing use of animation that seems to address this issue with impressive creativity. And user-generated video is so ubiquitous that it seems likely that an event will have been recorded — on surveillance video if nothing else. Ultimately, though, it will be up to the audience. Instinctively, viewers can differentiate between what is generally real and what is low-brow fakery. But it will take vigilance on the part of the production community to establish standards that make the distinction clearer to viewers when things look real but aren’t. I’m still swimming upstream, though, and I understand that few others seem to feel the same. Call me an impractical idealist, but I believe in the value of setting limits. Real is real and fake is fake. If you start from that premise, you have to rely on making everything else work to tell the story. Sometimes, that may seem to be more trouble than it’s worth. But preserving the integrity of the production, and the ﬁnal product, should make that effort worthwhile. Michael Cascio is president and CEO of M&C Media LLC, where he advises selected media and production partners, and produces documentaries.
Editor’s note: In Morgan Neville’s statement on the use of A.I. in Roadrunner, ﬁrst published in The New Yorker and provided to Realscreen, the director said he discussed using the technology from his ﬁrst meetings with Kim Witherspoon, Bourdain’s longtime agent and representative for the Estate, his ex-wife, Ottavia Busia, and all stakeholders. The technology used was 45 seconds of footage that pulls directly from Bourdain’s own words, found from written documents and sources. “Nobody ever raised an objection,” Neville said. “In fact it was part of my initial pitch of having Tony narrate the ﬁlm posthumously a’la Sunset Boulevard — one of Tony’s favorite ﬁlms and one he had even reenacted himself on Cook’s Tour. Kim Witherspoon told me that she didn’t think Tony would care. His brother Chris told me that he thought it was clever.” On July 17, Busia tweeted, “I certainly was not the one who said Tony would have been cool with that.” New Yorker reporter Helen Rosner wrote in “The Ethics of a Deepfake Anthony Bourdain Voice” that, in an email to Rosner, Busia recalled the idea of AI coming up in an initial conversation with Neville, but beyond that conversation, she was not involved. “I didn’t mean to imply that Ottavia thought Tony would’ve liked it. All I know is that nobody ever expressed any reservations to me in using AI in making the ﬁlm,” Neville said in his statement. “In the end I understood this technique was boundary pushing. But isn’t that Bourdain?”
THE FINAL CUT
comedy. The critique of Neville, however, is especially loud because he is so respected for his documentary work (Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, Twenty Feet from Stardom), and because simply revealing the practice might have stemmed the criticism.
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