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GOLD MEDAL CONTENT Insight TV’s I Am Invincible joins the roster of this year’s MIPCOM Picks.
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SEPTEMBER + OCTOBER 2020 9 FIRST LOOK
Getting back to business in the COVID-19 era; the return of copro
15 SPECIALIST FACTUAL
Producing pandemic-proof wildlife content
MIPCOM 2020 PICKS
THE FINAL CUT
Our picks of the non-ﬁction projects worth ﬁnding this fall
Execs and ﬁlmmakers reﬂect on 50 years of the Public Broadcasting Service
Beach House Pictures’ Donovan Chan on coming back from “The Big Pause”
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UK television presenter Grayson Perry teamed with Channel 4 for a quarantine-friendly series, Grayson’s Art Club.
GOLD MEDAL CONTENT Insight TV’s I Am Invincible joins the roster of this year’s MIPCOM Picks.
ON THE COVER Veteran Josue Barron is one of the featured athletes in Insight TV’s I Am Invincible, highlighting the drive to compete in the Invictus Games.
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all know the old saying: “We plan, God laughs.” But I have a hard time picturing any deity getting a hearty chuckle out of the chaos currently swirling around our planet as we grapple with the realities of living during a pandemic. True, our plans, schemes and forecasts don’t make the Earth orbit around the sun, or inspire the seasons to change. And any discomfort caused by the upending of our lives in this respect pales in comparison to the pain and anguish that COVID-19 is wreaking in territories around the world, as the number of deaths escalates and a vaccine for those who contract the virus remains distant. Still, while putting these things in perspective can help lessen the discomfort of uncertainty, it doesn’t remove its sting entirely. Human beings generally haven’t done well with it historically. We like to know where we are and where we’re going, or at least fool ourselves into thinking we know. From our vantage point, covering the unscripted and non-ﬁction production industry, we at Realscreen are certainly inspired to hear and report on the stories from all sectors of the business that are doing their best to keep moving through the fog. It is truly remarkable how businesses within the industry that typically exist as competitors are sharing resources and intel, and the massive efforts being undertaken to keep people working, programming on air and content in the pipeline illustrate the level of innovation and creativity baked into your industry. But for me, it’s when the calendar lands on the days where ordinarily, I would be tucking into airplane food on a transatlantic ﬂight to MIPCOM, or getting together with our readers at any of the myriad events we’re privileged to take part in, that I feel the sting anew. While event organizers have been equally resourceful when it comes to bringing the international content community together and moving the market forward, it’s safe for me to say that we would all rather bring you together physically as well. In addition, much of the distribution of our print magazine occurs via markets and conferences held around the world, and with those in limbo at present, the likelihood of print issues for January/February 2021, or even March/April ‘21, is dim. Thankfully, our team is working on ways to digitally deliver the features you’ve come to expect from us as well as new initiatives such as our RealTalk video roundtable, with more to come soon. If anything, perhaps this era of uncertainty, in the grand scheme of our evolution as a species, will serve to outﬁt us better for “going with the ﬂow.” After all, having things up in the air is far more preferable than having them come crashing down. So here’s to everyone managing to keep balls in the air despite the strong winds blowing straight at them. The storm will end... it always does.
Up in the air September + October 2020 Volume 24, Issue 1
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Realscreen Summit: The Virtual Marketplace
ake that, COVID-19! You may have made it impossible for the global unscripted and non-fiction entertainment community to congregate in New Orleans in January, but you are not going to take away the opportunity for the industry to connect, pitch, network and do meaningful business. Realscreen has you beat! Introducing the Realscreen Summit: Virtual Marketplace. After months of online webinars and Zoom rooms, virtual conferences are now de rigueur. But until now, the networking and meeting component that is a signature of our events, and indeed many industry confabs, has been limited if not absent. We cannot claim to replicate the experience of meeting our colleagues and partners in the flesh, but we will deliver a strong and vital networking experience that will be just as effective at helping move your business forward and will keep the community engaged until we can meet in-person again, and beyond. Realscreen Summit: Virtual Marketplace will take place between Monday, January 25 and Thursday, February 4, with the market floor and networking reserved for the first four days. The Realscreen Summit will serve up two different experiences for delegates. The Content Pass will offer just that — all of the keynotes, panels and the Realscreen Awards. All will be broadcast live, over the course of two weeks between January 25 and February 4, 2020 and will be made available to registered delegates for one month to view at their leisure through realXchange. The second tier is the Marketplace+ Pass, which will offer access to our sleek new delegates’ lounge, live meetings with other registered delegates, reserved meeting tables and exclusive enterprise suites, and more, all scheduled through our proprietary virtual platform. Networking Pass holders will also have access to all content offered with the Content Pass, along with all of our signature breakout and networking sessions including 30 Minutes With, Speed Pitching, Speed Networking and Meet an Expert. Our tech team has designed a fully-functional marketplace and networking experience, and I can’t wait to share it all with you in the coming weeks. It’s been an interesting year to say the least, but like the industry we serve, we are resilient and remain committed to helping you achieve your business goals. ‘Til next time, go well. Claire Macdonald VP & Publisher Realscreen
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Sound mixer Michael Phelan (top left) and Crazy Legs Productionsâ€™ COO Scott Thigpen (bottom right), on location.
INTO THE UNKNOWN By Jillian Morgan
Safety protocols and pandemic planning are now facts of life for producers and broadcasters around the world. But as the screen content industry attempts to regain its footing, itâ€™s also contending with the uncertainty posed by a crisis that is far from over.
POINTED ARROW John Smithson on the welcome return of the copro.
ith governments easing restrictions designed to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus that sent much of the world into lockdown months ago, the film and TV industry is geearing up again with cautious optimism. Driven by the need to keep productions afloat and programming schedules full, many producers and broadcasters are operating at full-tilt heading into the fall, a period in which many public health experts anticipate a rise in COVID-19 cases globally and perhaps a second wave. “It feels like when you’re walking along in that deep fog and you can only see five feet ahead of you,” Jennifer Dettman, executive director of unscripted at Canadian pubcaster CBC, says. “So much of what we do in television is planning out.” In March, like many other broadcasters, the CBC pivoted to self-shot, fast-turnaround content such as Stronger Together, a celebrity-packed benefit for Canadian food banks carried across several broadcasters in the country. Now, the network is deep in production on heavy hitting formats including Family Feud, Dragon’s Den and Battle of the Blades, with rigorous safety protocols in place. Producers are also working on a tightened schedule so post-production can happen remotely if governments backpedal on recently lifted restrictions. Like Dettman, Sarah Lazenby, head of features and formats at Channel 4, said the UK pubcaster was first focused on fast turnaround commissions such as Jamie Oliver’s Keep Cooking and Carry On and Celebrity Snoop Dogs. “As the world sort of opened up again we’ve started to look at getting some of our big brands back on on the rails,” Lazenby says. One of those was The Great British Bake Off from UKbased Love Productions. Producers shot the format, now in its 10th season, in a completely sterile environment following a nine-day quarantine and three COVID-19 tests. “There’s a whole other layer of work, but a necessary one. Because we are a creative industry, there’s an army of freelancers that rely upon our content and our commissions,” Lazenby says. NEED TO BE NIMBLE In Atlanta, Crazy Legs Productions (TLC’s My Pregnant Husband, Oxygen’s The Prancing Elites Project) started outlining its health and safety protocols as early as the end of January. The company had formed an internal task force in February comprising staff and medical professionals, including an epidemiologist consultant from the Colorado Department of Health. What formed was a living set of guidelines that included virtual video villages, portable hand washing stations and colored wrist bands used to keep contact between departments to a minimum – essentially forming “bubbles,” founder and CEO Tom Cappello explains. Since creating the guidelines, Crazy Legs has gone back to work on more than a dozen projects — from reality and docs to scripted and features — with others coming online this fall. “I told everybody at Crazy Legs, ‘We are not going back to work until we know we can do it safely.’ It was great that the state opened up and we appreciated the guidelines they sent
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Discovery series Dodgeball Thunderdome was shot in two weeks.
us. But if internally we didn’t feel it was safe yet, that was number one,” Cappello says. Campfire (Netflix’s The Innocent Man, Hulu’s The Most Dangerous Animal Of All), led by CEO Ross Dinerstein, is in production on 14 projects globally in locations including its homebase in Los Angeles, to major hubs such as New York and London. The film and TV outfit is following safety guidelines put out by governments and guilds, as well as its own protocols. Still, restrictions to limit the spread of the virus are requiring Campfire — and other prodcos in the same boat — to be nimble. “We can’t have as many crew members and we need to give our teams more time to set up, to break down set ups and make sure that when gear’s coming back we’re sanitizing it. It’s adding about 20% to the cost,” Dinerstein says. “Every day I wake up wondering if there’s going to be a shutdown in LA… There are costs involved in the prepping and the fact is that we could be told two days before we start shooting that we can’t do it.” ZOOM FATIGUE For Nancy Daniels, chief brand officer at Discovery and factual — overseeing Discovery Channel and Science Channel in the U.S. — the “Zoom-ification” of content, a novelty at the onset of the pandemic, has worn thin.
Channel 4 enlisted canine camera operators for a lifestyle series with a twist, Celebrity Snoop Dogs.
Lazenby says C4 didn’t venture too far into Zoom territory. Most recently, the pubcaster commissioned the part-scripted, part-travelogue series A Great British, Female, Gay, Disabled, Covid Compliant Adventure (w/t) with host Rosie Jones. “We have to still recognize that we’re in a different position now, we have probably fewer creative rolls of the dice... We’re having to be creative financially and editorially,” Lazenby says, adding collaborations and copros are a “great way to make money go further.” For most broadcasters, while viewership numbers may have climbed during lockdown, revenues and advertising have slumped in recent months as the pandemic continues to grip the global economy. Discovery saw a 14% decrease in ad revenues for Q2 2020, while ViacomCBS reported a 27% dip in ad revenue for the quarter. In Fox’s Q4 2020 report, ad revenues fell 22%. CBC’s ad revenue decreased 14.8% in the ﬁrst quarter of 2020-21. In the UK, ITV reported a 43% drop in ad revenue for the second quarter of 2020. Earlier this year, C4 cut its content budget by £150 million in the face of the restraints
imposed by the pandemic. As C4 looks ahead to the rest of 2020 and 2021, Lazenby says the formats and features unit is still after the “most original, channel-deﬁning, genrebusting shows,” despite funding challenges posed by the current situation. “If you have a great idea, we will ﬁnd a way of funding it. If it’s that good, we’ll get a copro,” she says. “KEEP MOVING FORWARD” While the fall and winter pose much uncertainty for the industry, Dettman says she’s approaching the new COVID-19 reality day by day. “We’re going to keep moving forward and, and hopefully, God willing, we will be able to get through the productions. And I hope there isn’t a second wave, but if there is one, [hopefully] we’re through it before we’re having to shut down,” she adds. Daniels echoes Dettman, adding she’s focused on ensuring Discovery’s productions are operating under the right health and safety protocols. “Right when you think things are going good, something will make you have to take a U-turn. I don’t know how to prepare other than to prepare for anything,” she says. “It could happen next week, it could happen next month, it could happen in ﬁve months that something comes up and we have to pull back again… We do look to run and get as much done as we can but we’re also preparing for the unknown.”
“It’s nice to see, reﬂected on screen, that life might actually get back to normal and we might be able to keep telling stories,” she says. “We’ve been looking at, ‘How can you elevate that and take it to the next level?’” Series launched by Discovery brands in recent months include Discovery Channel’s Josh Gates Tonight and Dodgeball Thunderdome, the latter being shot in just two weeks. Daniels says Discovery is currently most interested in quick turnaround content, as well as programming with coviewing potential. “When you say that a network has a shelf, our shelf is empty. Things don’t hit the shelf. They come in and they go on the air. That’s kind of the world we’re living in right now. I really am thankful to the producers and everyone who’s working so hard to ﬁgure this out because this is hard.” Like Daniels, CBC’s Dettman says, as viewers grapple with “Zoom fatigue,” the pubcaster is moving beyond self-shot TV with an eye toward scalable content that can be executed if the pandemic shutters productions in the fall. “We’re just very mindful of where we might be a year from now and what we’re able to do,” Dettman says.
POINTED ARROW A PRODUCER’S PERSPECTIVE
By John Smithson
we try and get to grips with the long tail of COVID-19, who would have guessed that a blast from the past might just be a key driver of our survival? Welcome back, coproduction, it’s been a long time. Copro was the cornerstone during the rise of the U.S. unscripted cable nets — the magic key to financing ambitious international series, while maintaining a useful and profitable rights position. It makes me misty-eyed for those frequent trips to DC, hopping on the red line to Discovery, Nat Geo or wherever, pitching worked-up ideas with substantial parts of the budget already in place from the UK and hoping for the U.S. to say yes so that we’d be fully financed. It worked for us Brits, with our solid terms of trade that let us benefit from our IP, and it worked for other countries where there was soft money to underpin the budgets. It kept on working for a long time. And then it stopped. As the U.S. cable nets flexed their muscles globally, they wanted full creative and rights ownership. Work-for-hire quickly replaced copro as the default business model. We had to adapt — there was no choice. So indies changed focus to the front end, to make money and cover costs. The back end became insignificant. There were still hybrids, such as British and Canadian producers working together to make the money go further — a model we at Arrow have employed on occasion. But since the millennium, work-for-hire has been everywhere and old-style copros that bring together, say, the U.S., UK, France and Germany, are much rarer. Even the rise of the streamers didn’t change things dramatically. They are as keen to fully fund and own rights as the cable giants. But COVID-19 changed everything. Ad revenues tanked and production budgets were slashed but everyone wanted
SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER ‘20
content, despite the challenges of making anything under coronavirus conditions. The penny dropped and copro was the ‘get-out-of-jail’ card. Big, ambitious, high-budget shows were possible if the costs were split two or three ways. Publically, networks on both sides of the Atlantic started asking for copro propositions, with broadcasters such as Channel 4 in the UK openly touting copro as the way to get your show made. Still, before we all get carried away on the glorious return of copro, some health warnings. There are lots of challenges in getting networks used to working together again, after decades of being in absolute control. How do you handle the multiple aspirations of a diverse group of networks, wrangle notes from three different perspectives, and keep everyone happy? It’s time to learn, or re-learn the subtle arts of managing copro and swerving to avoid the car crashes before they happen. Expectation management is key. Right across the board, from a creative, legal, or production management point of view there can be hassles and potential for conflict. But get it all running smoothly, with smiles all round, and it is genuinely a win-win for everybody.
It’s time to re-learn the subtle arts of managing copro and swerving to avoid the car crashes before they happen.” There’s one other big reason why copro is welcome back into our world. The producer can call the shots. You can preserve a much better rights position. Suddenly a back-end is possible and indies can rebuild their rights portfolio. After what we have all been through over the past six months, this is a very welcome development. So is the return of copro a flash in the pan? Once the market starts to pick up, as it surely must, will things flip back to the ‘normal’ of the last few years? Or will a new generation of commissioners and big channel executives see copro as an attractive option that is worth rekindling, rather than re-consigning to the past? Only time — and balance sheets — will tell. John Smithson is creative director of Arrow Pictures, a features and high-end factual label created out of Arrow Media, the leading indie which he co-founded in 2011.
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DIE to BORN
The life of the peshmerga Mustafa Barzani
RISING TO THE CHALLENGE By Daniele Alcinii
While all genres of non-ﬁction production have been impacted by global lockdowns stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, natural history — the genre that brings the world to your living room or laptop — has been especially difﬁcult to produce. But technology, coupled with innovation and fresh talent, is paving the way ahead for networks and producers. Stormborn, from Blue Ant Media’s Love Nature platform, wrapped during lockdown.
the end of March, full or partial lockdowns “We wouldn’t do a shoot if the quality of the images were in any had been implemented across more than way compromised,” explains the BBC Natural History Unit’s head of 100 countries worldwide in an effort to development Gavin Boyland. “The equipment we’re using is much curb infections of the novel coronavirus. the same as we would do if it was a shoot organized out of Bristol Six months later, COVID-19 cases have and traveling out of the UK — a lot of these high-end natural history surpassed 29 million globally. camera operators own their own RED cameras, their own lenses.” The World Health Organization continues to caution nations While the pandemic has accelerated the process of working with about the risks of opening back up too quickly and imposed travel remote crews, several new hurdles have risen to the surface that restrictions remain in place across much of the globe. producers must now maneuver around. For example, if a filmmaker As a result, natural history productions is wanting to direct a sequence but have been forced to cultivate creative is unable to travel — due to bans, ways of churning out new content, and pre-existing health issues or whatever in the process, are handing the genre a else — creative teams have been crucial lifeline. attempting to find innovative solutions Bringing key individuals While wildlife producers have been wherever possible. and then building your crew struggling with the same challenges as “We’re using tools like Zoom around that... you’ll see more most across the unscripted genre during and WhatsApp to actually direct of that post-COVID.” this time of upheaval, organizations sequences, even in the most remote such as National Geographic have and wild places,” states Boyland. continued to fortify their pipelines with BBC’s Springwatch was first greenlights. The pay-TV channel has been working in tandem broadcast 15 years ago and has since become a familiar with parent company Disney and its production partners around seasonal highlight among British audiences for the ways in which the world to establish on-set health and safety protocols, the nature series charts the local wildlife during the changing of affording the American cable network the opportunity to get the season. Launched this year in late May at the peak of the nearly 60% of its productions into the field. lockdown, the pubcaster was forced to incorporate a number of “We’re working with smaller crews and thinking about the ways in which new remote, autonomous and lighter camera technologies will allow us to still capture epic scale and extraordinary behaviors,” Geoff Daniels, Nat Geo’s EVP of global unscripted entertainment, tells Realscreen. “It’s [allowed us to] bring in new, local voices and more diverse and inclusive storytellers … and a new generation of passionate storytellers that can not only speak directly to their local community, but also to the world at large.” And while Nat Geo has been employing local filmmakers and crews for a number of years now, the network has recognized that working with those who know the locale and its native wildlife best elevates the storytelling for a global audience. Blue Ant Media’s specialty channel Love Nature is following a similar path by having key production individuals venture out to remote shoots in order to lead and develop smaller local crews. BBC’s Springwatch “It’s starting to open up the cultivation of the next followed presenters generation of wildlife filmmakers [by] giving these local crews into their back gardens to keep practice under more experienced DOPs and producers,” says production moving. Carlyn Staudt, global general manager at Love Nature. “Instead of always having to bring the entire crew from wherever the production company is based, bringing key individuals and then building your crew around that — I think you’ll see more of that post-COVID.” Despite the challenges that can come from having relatively inexperienced camera crews helming natural history shoots in the midst of a pandemic, studios and broadcasters alike have gone to great lengths to maintain the high standards that audiences expect from premium wildlife programming. 016
SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER ‘20
It’s not a ‘one size fits all’ solution. A remote natural history show in Kenya is very different than a big, actionadventure shoot we may be filming in Iceland.” Daniels
We’re using tools like Zoom and WhatsApp to direct sequences, even in the most wild and remote places.” whole brand a real refresh,” he adds. “The audience figures were higher; the engagements were higher; the social media reach was higher. It’s enabled us to film a live show across the UK in a way that we didn’t think was possible before the lockdown.” Love Nature saw similar roadblocks in the final mixing for the blue-chip natural history series Stormborn, which premieres this November and documents the challenges of survival and breeding for species living on the edges of the northern Atlantic Ocean. The 3 x 45-minute, story-led wildlife drama secured Golden Globe-winning actor Ewan McGregor on board as its narrator, but there was only one problem: pulling it off remotely proved to be tricky, says Staudt. “We really had to work with the Los Angeles sound studio to use technology to overcome that,” she recalls. “They set up a trailer outside of Ewan’s home and built this platform where he could record remotely while beaming in the director and the producer, who were based in Scotland. “We now know that we can do these narration sessions with stars remotely.”
But for operations this large to safely head back into the field during a pandemic, incurring additional costs and logistical challenges will be inevitable. This is particularly true for media organizations having to create bespoke protocols from scratch to ensure that the highest level of standards are being considered, from daily temperature checks and self-screenings, to using face masks, constant sanitizing and employing medical personnel at ground level. “The truth is that there’s no price you can put on people’s health and safety in the field,” Nat Geo’s Daniels says. “We’re keeping all of our crews outfitted with the highest level
safety measures and combine them with filmmaking ingenuity to ensure this year’s program made it to air. “We talked a lot to live engineers and looked at ways that we could do Springwatch, but in a remote way. Minimal people on the ground, presenters basically in their back gardens,” says Boyland. “That’s now created a version of Springwatch that we’re actually going to do [once we’re] out of lockdown because it gave it the
of masks, of PPE and protocols that are in place in terms of social distancing, [as well as] real time testing for all crew members and for all talent. “Each production company has to create, in partnership with us, their own set of COVID-19 protocols,” he adds. “They create with us a manual — vetted with Disney — [where] we come up with best practices, but it’s not a ‘one-size fits all’ solution. A remote natural history show happening in Kenya is very different than a big, action-adventure shoot that we might be filming in Iceland.” But if there’s one thing that the pandemic has taught us, it’s that life is precious and fragile. It’s why National Geographic, with Daniels at the helm of global unscripted, is contemplating the legacy the network and its partners are leaving behind while simultaneously planning for a future that “ultimately ensures that we’re going to have a healthier planet for tomorrow and for generations to come.” “The content that we’re creating has a huge purpose,” Daniels says. “We’re using social media, digital platforms, the magazine, outreach initiatives and grant making to really seed back into those communities the tools that they need to be able to further preserve and protect what they’ve got so that we’re able to celebrate that well into the future.” He adds that it’s important “to have left an imprint on the people that have worked with us in support of those projects on the ground, so that they can continue the legacy of that show and to continue to increase their own sense of worth and value in what they do and what they’re protecting – that’s really the mission for everybody.” 017
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While the process of acquiring programming has changed this year due to the challenges and travel restrictions posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the amount of compelling content available for buyers around the world remains consistent. Submissions for our MIPCOM Picks this year spanned all the usual genres — natural history, science, social issues and current affairs, formats and factual entertainment among them — but, with some projects produced in the midst of the global lockdown, innovation and ingenuity needed to take center stage. So while some of the productions you’ll see in these pages wrapped ﬁlming prior to the pandemic, other projects used the limitations posed by the crisis to ﬁnd a new way to explore their subject matter. And unsurprisingly, for a world in the throes of ﬂux from various vantage points, a sizable portion of the projects chosen reﬂect the pain we are experiencing together and the perseverance we are employing to get through it. Congrats to our Best in Show, which wins a pass to the Realscreen Summit 2021 for the submitting company.
BEST IN SHOW
BEST IN SHOW
BEST IN SHOW
FLINT: WHO CAN YOU TRUST? Narrated by Alec Baldwin and directed by Scottish ﬁlmmaker Anthony Baxter (You’ve Been Trumped), this feature doc explores the lingering impact of the water crisis in Flint, Michigan that has extended over several years. In April of 2014, with a planned pipeline designed to provide a cheaper water source still in limbo, the city opted to take its water supply from the Flint River. By May, residents began complaining about the smell and color of the water and by August, e.coli and other bacteria was detected and water boiling advisories were issued. By September, the city issued a lead advisory, and by December, Flint’s mayor declared a state of emergency. Filmed over ﬁve years, Flint examines the chain of events, the systemic racism that inﬂuenced them and the aftermath as citizens pursue justice for those who have suffered and died as a result.
Partners: Montrose Pictures in association with Screen Scotland, BBC Scotland and El Dorado Pictures; distributed by Cargo Films and Releasing Length: 114 minutes Premiere: February 2020 (Glasgow Film Festival) Rights available: All rights worldwide
MICHAEL PALIN: TRAVELS OF A LIFETIME From his days as part of the ground-breaking, provocative UK comedy troupe Monty Python’s Flying Circus to his more recent career in television as an unﬂappable globetrotter, Michael Palin has always projected a mix of insatiable curiosity and deft humor. This series sees Palin and a raft of famous fans looking back on some of his travelogues, including Around The World In 80 Days, Pole To Pole, Full Circle and Sahara, providing a glimpse into the challenges of making the programs, and the mischievous sense of adventure that made them unique television events.
Partners: Firecrest Films for BBC2; distributed by Banijay Group Length/volume: 4 x 60 minutes Airing: October 2020 (UK) Rights available: All rights worldwide excluding UK
MEAT THE FUTURE As the planet faces multiple challenges regarding resources, the sustainability of the global food supply chain is no longer being taken for granted. This feature doc follows the efforts of those hoping to create a viable, synthetic alternative to meat that uses animal cells to create a food source that can be free from disease and infection, while also removing the need to breed and slaughter animals to feed the world. While it’s an industry in its infancy, and there are significant hurdles to face (a “meatball” created from the process cost $18,000 a pound in 2016), Meat the Future illuminates the progress being made towards revolutionizing how and what we eat.
INSIDE ITALY’S COVID WAR Partners: LizMars for documentary Channel (Canada) Length: 1 x 78 minutes; 1 x 90 minutes Premiered: April 2020 (Hot Docs) Rights available: All rights worldwide excl. Canada
OUR DNA JOURNEY First airing on ITV and now being shopped by BBC Studios as a format, Our DNA Journey combines the current interest in exploring ancestry through DNA testing with the ageold “buddy movie” trope. The central theme: two celebrities (seen here: UK comedians Ant and Dec) each take a DNA test and have their genealogy extensively mapped by experts. From there, they hit the road together to wherever their genetic mapping leads them, reunite with family members they didn’t know they had and learn more about themselves, and each other.
As the COVID-19 pandemic first began to sweep the globe, Italy was one of the countries that was hardest hit. This documentary from the team behind the award-winning PBS current affairs strand ‘Frontline’ takes viewers behind the scenes at a hospital in Northern Italy as doctors, nurses and staff contend with the challenges posed by attempting to save patients battling the virus. Unprecedented access depicts the struggle and the heroism as it happens, and provides a remarkable window into a situation that sadly continues to unfold around the world.
Partners: PBS ‘Frontline’, Sasha Achilli; distributed by PBS International Length: 54 minutes Aired: May 2020 (PBS) Rights available: All rights worldwide
POOCH PERFECT Partners: Produced by Voltage; distributed by BBC Studios Distribution Length/volume: 75 minutes Premiere: October 2019, ITV Rights available: World format rights
Dog grooming is a booming business, and this format, created by Beyond Productions’ London-based team, capitalizes on the coiffed canine craze to entertaining, familyfriendly effect. First debuting in Australia with actor and fifth generation junior dog handler Rebel Wilson as host, the format sees dog groomers go head to head (and paw to paw) against each other in themed challenges designed to turn plain pooches into fabulous furry friends. A UK version is on the way via BBC1 with Sheridan Smith as host and another local version from a major broadcaster is also soon to be announced.
Partners: Seven Studios for Seven Network; distributed by Beyond Rights Length/volume: 8 x 60 minutes Premiere: February 2020 (Seven, Australia) Rights available: Worldwide excluding Australia, format rights
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9/11 KIDS On the morning of September 11, 2001, U.S. president George W. Bush was visiting Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida, listening as 16 children between the ages of six and seven read from the children’s book, The Pet Goat. Then, in a moment captured by the press and aired worldwide, White House chief of staff Andy Card approached the president and whispered in his ear: “A second plane has hit the second tower. America is under attack.” This documentary catches up with the class of “9/11 kids,” now in their 20s, and examines how that moment, and all that came after, impacted their lives and continues to do so now.
GENERAL HERCULES Partners: Saloon Media, a Blue Ant Studios company, for documentary Channel (Canada); distributed by Blue Ant International Length/volume: 1 x 90 minutes, 1 x 100 minutes Premiere: Spring 2020 (documentary Channel, CBC Gem, CBC)
Partners: Toy Shop Entertainment in association with Screen Australia and Screen Queensland; distributed by Toy Shop Entertainment Length: 90 minutes Premiere: TBD Rights available: Worldwide
Rights available: Worldwide excluding Canada
SURVIVING JEFFREY EPSTEIN Directed by Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg (Joan Rivers - A Piece of Work), this four-part limited series examines how financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein built a global network preying on young girls and women, and how he evaded justice until his second arrest in July of 2019 on charges of sex trafficking of minors in Florida and New York. Despite the death of Epstein while in custody, ruled as a suicide, more has yet to be uncovered about who may have aided and abetted the sordid affair. Like Lifetime’s previous limited series, Surviving R. Kelly, the program features interviews with survivors attempting to move ahead in their lives while fighting for justice.
If the past four years have taught us anything, it’s that anyone can run for office… and sometimes make it all the way. This Australian feature doc takes us to Kalgoorlie, Western Australia where Greek migrant John Katahanas, dubbed a “personality” by local press and also known as General Hercules, embarks on a campaign to change the system and run for mayor. Writer/director Brodie Poole (Where the River Runs Red) explores how the General’s bid for the mayoralty reflects the relationship between a local government and the citizens of a town undergoing change.
BURNING SKY Partners: Bungalow Media and Entertainment for Lifetime; distributed by A+E Networks International Length/volume: 4 x 60 minutes Aired: August 2020 (Lifetime) Rights available: Worldwide
On March 1, 1954, a defining moment in history occurred in the form of “Operation Castle.” The top secret endeavor of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission saw a 15-megaton hydrogen bomb explode off the Bikini atoll in the South Pacific, the biggest detonation ever set off by the U.S. government to this day and a device 1,000 times bigger than what was dropped on Hiroshima in World War II. Close to a half-century later, marines who were part of the operation while serving aboard the USS Curtiss can now speak openly about what they saw, and how it impacted them physically and emotionally. This project features declassified footage seen for the first time and witness testimony that casts more light on an operation that previously was cloaked in secrecy.
Partners: Evolution Media TV; distributed by Earth Touch Length: 1 x 50 minutes Premiere: TBD Rights available: All rights worldwide
ON THE RECORD Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering are no strangers to difficult stories, as the team behind such films as The Hunting Ground, which explored sexual assault on college campuses, and The Invisible War, which examined rape in the U.S. military. Here, they follow former music exec Drew Dixon as she grapples with the decision to reveal allegations of sexual assault against hiphop mogul Russell Simmons. Testimony of other women who have also made similar allegations against Simmons is also featured (Simmons has denied all allegations). At its heart, it examines what the New York Times called “a survivor’s intimate confrontations with cultural pressures and trauma.”
‘TIL KINGDOM COME Partners: Warner Max, Jane Doe Films, Impact Partners, Level Forward, Artemis Rising, Shark Island Productions; distributed by Dogwoof Broadcasters: HBO Max, Direct TV, TV2 Denmark, Globo Brazil, Sky UK, NITV Australia, Rialto NZ, VGTV Norway Length: 95 minutes Premiere: January ‘20 Rights available: Contact Dogwoof
CELEBRITY SNOOP PETS As the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention. As global lockdowns effectively froze the television production landscape, broadcasters faced the dilemma of dwindling programming reserves, and captive audiences clamoring for new content. Thus, what came to be known as “COVID-friendly” production came to the rescue, with the bulk of the content self-shot. And in this instance, the cinematographers came from a, shall we say, different talent pool. Celebrity Snoop Pets provides tours of sumptuous celeb abodes, but with the celeb’s pets (in the case of the UK series, dogs) doing the filming via GoPros strapped to their backs, and no doubt in search of treats.
Politics and religion are frequently intertwined, and in the United States, the relationship between various administrations and the Evangelical Christian church has often impacted the making of policy. This film from Maya Zinshtein explores how the “End Times” teaching prevalent in evangelical circles today is not only influencing the behavior of churchgoers, but also American foreign policy. As pastors implore their congregations to donate to Israel to protect it from the tumult prophesied in advance of the Second Coming, the film examines how preparations for an expected apocalypse are also feeding into political power plays in the U.S. and the Middle East.
Partners: Ventureland and Passion Pictures in coproduction with Piraya Film; KAN IPBC (Israel) and NDR (Germany)’ distributed by MetFilm Sales Length: 76 minutes Premiered: Sept. 2020 (Doc Aviv) Rights available: Contact MetFilm Sales
LAST HORNS OF AFRICA Partners: Stellify Media for Channel 4; distributed by Sony Pictures Television Length: 4 x 30 minutes Aired: June 2020 (UK) Rights available: Worldwide excluding the UK
As rhinos hover on the brink of extinction, much attention has been paid to the work done by those trying to stem the illegal wildlife trade and rhino poaching. This film takes us to South Africa, where its Kruger National Park has become a flashpoint for the battle against poaching. Filmmakers follow the efforts of two conservationists as they work in tandem with a covert operation determined to defeat one of South Africa’s primary poaching syndicates. With footage stemming from the undercover operations and interviews with some of the poachers themselves, this project delves deeply into the complex issues and figures enmeshed within the battle against poaching.
Partners: White Spark Pictures / Banovich Studios / Cross Boarder Productions; distributed by Off the Fence Length: 90 minutes Airing: TBD Rights available: All rights worldwide
DAVID FOSTER: OFF THE RECORD Filmmaker Barry Avrich turns his lens on multiple Grammy winner, composer and record producer David Foster, the man behind hits from such heavyweights as Whitney Houston, Michael Bublé, Chicago, Barbra Streisand and Celine Dion, among others. Here, viewers will gain insight into the recording process behind some of the biggest hits of the last few decades, as well as the inner workings of the producer who shaped the final product.
STAGE: THE CULINARY INTERNSHIP Partners: Melbar Entertainment Group; distributed by TVF International Length: 1 x 44 minutes; 1 x 89 minutes; 1 x 106 minutes Premiere: September 2019 (TIFF) Rights available: Worldwide excl. Canada, USA, UK, Eire, Malta, Australia and New Zealand
Tucked into the hills outside of San Sebastian, Mugaritz has frequently been hailed as one of the world’s best — and most daring — restaurants. The Michelin two-starred resto is also home to Chef Andoni Luis Aduriz (seen on Netflix’s Chef’s Table), proclaimed as “a rebel in the kitchen” who prioritizes “culinary evolution and an interdisciplinary approach,” or so says his bio. This doc follows the action as a group of young aspiring chefs takes part in a nine-month apprenticeship under Aduriz and serves as both a study of the talented hopefuls, and the “anything goes” approach to edible exploration employed by the head chef and his home base.
JAMIE’S EASY MEALS FOR EVERY DAY
FLYING OBJECTS: A STATE SECRET
While some interesting culinary trends have emerged out of lockdown — sourdough bread, anyone? — one thing is for certain. More time at home means more time to up your cooking skills. And who better to help you on that mission than Jamie Oliver? This series, originally for the UK’s Channel 4, showcases the congenial chef at his country home, prepping healthy and hearty meals that won’t intimidate novice cooks or break the bank, as many of them feature eight ingredients or less.
In any other year that wasn’t marked with a global pandemic, massive civil unrest and unstable global superpowers, the news that the U.S. government declassified video footage of unidentified flying objects zooming over the Earth’s oceans would be “stop the presses” stuff. Still, this doc should satisfy those who want to know more about the secret U.S. government program centered around UFOs that has been active for years, and the “unidentified aerial phenomena” that appears in the videos now officially released by the Pentagon. They’re out there… but what exactly are they?
Partners: Jamie Oliver Productions for Channel 4; distributed by Fremantle Length/volume: 24 x 30 minutes Premiered: August 2020 (C4) Rights available: Worldwide excluding UK
Partners: Butternut Productions for CBC documentary Channel; distributed by Cargo Films and Releasing Length: 1 x 78 minutes; 1 x 60 minutes Premiered: November 2019 (Canada) Rights available: All rights worldwide
Partners: Produced by Scientifilms for Planete+ France and NHK Length: 1 x 52 minutes; 1 x 90 minutes Premiered: April 2020 (France) Rights available: All rights worldwide
THE BEVERLY ALLITT TAPES In a case that shocked the UK and the world, Beverly Allitt, a nurse working in a Lincolnshire hospital in 1991, was convicted in 1993 of four counts of murder, three counts of attemped murder and six counts of grievous bodily harm carried out against 13 children in total over the span of 59 days. Nicknamed “The Angel of Death” by British tabloids, Allitt is currently serving 13 life sentences in the UK. This probing doc features interviews with survivors, medical professionals and investigators, and features never-before-heard police interview tapes that shed more light on the mystery behind the heinous crimes.
I AM INVINCIBLE Partners: Woodcut Media for Sky Crime Length/volume: 3 x 60 minutes Aired: August 2020 (Sky Crime) Rights available: Worldwide excluding UK
25 SIBLINGS & ME Some non-fiction stories can easily be filed under the “stranger than fiction” heading, and this project is one of them. It explores the story of Oli, a young man with Asperger’s Syndrome whose biological father was an anonymous sperm donor in the U.S. Suddenly, he finds out that the same man fathered 25 other children, which prompts Oli to travel to America and meet the family he never knew, and perhaps find a sense of belonging that to this point has eluded him.
This series follows six competitors training for the Invictus Games, an athletics event for veterans founded by Prince Harry featuring sports such as wheelchair basketball and sitting volleyball among others. Here, you’ll see how the athletes have moved from trauma to recovery and how they, through their dedication and talent, illustrate that living with disabilities doesn’t remotely equal inability.
Partners: Insight TV; distributed by Insight TV Length/volume: 3 x 45 minutes Aired: May 2020 (Insight TV) Rights available: All rights worldwide
PETER: THE HUMAN CYBORG Partners: Expectation for BBC3; distributed by Orange Smarty Length: 1 x 60 minutes Airing: Fall 2020 Rights available: Worldwide excluding UK and Eire
In 2017, British robotics scientist Peter ScottMorgan was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease (MND), a terminal illness that impacts the brain and nervous system and causes progressive weakness. But, like fellow scientist Stephen Hawking, who also had the condition, Scott-Morgan isn’t allowing it to limit him. In fact, it is inspiring him to move beyond what it means to be human, by incorporating cutting-edge technologies to aid his digestion, speech, mobility and more. The documentary provides a portrait of bravery and love for life that should resonate strongly with viewers.
Partners: Cardiff Productions for Channel 4; distributed by Silverlining TV Length: 60 minutes Aired: August 2020 (C4) Rights available: Worldwide excl. UK and Eire, Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Germany
APT Worldwide 55 Summer Street Boston, MA 02110 U.S.A. Contact: Judy Barlow Judy_Barlow@APTonline.org Tel: 1-617-338-4455
a) Behind the Wings (8x30) Join host Matthew Burchette as he goes “behind the wings” to explore some of history’s most iconic aviation treasures, with access to amazing aerospace organizations and interviews with flying icons. Peek into the cockpits of rare warbirds, fly in a state-of-the-art Skyhawk, climb into the cockpit of the legendary B-52 Bomber and a whole lot more! Playing Frisbee in North Korea (1x60) In North Korea, calling leader Kim Jong Un fat can get you killed. Any other complaints about daily life there gets North Koreans incarcerated in brutal work camps. What harm could come from playing Frisbee? PLAYING FRISBEE IN NORTH KOREA is the first documentary produced and directed from inside North Korea by an African-American female filmmaker, Savanna Washington. Love Wins Over Hate (1x60) LOVE WINS OVER HATE explores the lives of six former white supremacists and ultraconservatives. Each one of them explains how they went through a transformation from being filled with hate, anger, and rage to acceptance and appreciating diversity. All have gone on to teach many other people to love, rather than hate. They talk honestly and openly about their former beliefs, the pain they inflicted on others, and their fight for a better world, devoid of hate. b) Hacking Your Mind (4x60) Series bring to life powerful new discoveries about how we make everyday decisions as basic as who to marry, what to eat, who to vote for, and what to buy. Understanding how we make these choices make us look at our lives in entirely new way. HACKING YOUR MIND reveals how marketers, social media companies and politicians are taking advantage of these processes, and shows how we can all protect ourselves by ‘hacking our own minds.’ c) Yoga in Practice (39x30) YOGA IN PRACTICE presents yoga as a transformational practice of physical and mental awareness that helps viewers to move more freely and truly appreciate each moment. The series offers instruction in the fundamentals of yoga from host Stacey Millner-Collins, a certified Anusara yoga teacher and founder and director of City Yoga in Columbia, South Carolina.
CBC & Radio-Canada Distribution 205 Wellington Street West Toronto, Ontario M5V 3G7 Contact: Gwen Jones McCauley, Director, Global Distribution email@example.com, +1 416 205 3506
CBC & Radio-Canada Distribution is the international content licensing arm of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation - Canada’s English language national public broadcaster and Radio Canada - Canada’s French language national broadcaster.
Fridge Wars (6 x 44) What happens when two celebrity chefs are forced to race against the clock and make an extraordinary meal using only the ingredients taken from the fridges of two everyday families? FRIDGE WARS! Hosted by comedian Emma Hunter, each episode of this cutthroat culinary format begins in the family’s home where Emma conducts a surprise fridge raid, taking everything from last week’s leftover lasagna to the condiments. With the ingredients in hand, the competition heats up in the studio where two of the country’s best chefs are given 45 minutes to create a 5-star dish using ingredients they’ve never seen. When time’s up, the family takes their place at the dining room table, tasting each meal and scoring them on look, taste and originality. The results go in the FRIDGE WARS vault and the competition takes place again with a new family and another fridge full of challenging ingredients. With the scores tabulated, the chefs and families are brought together to find out which chef created the most mouth-watering masterpieces and is named this week’s FRIDGE WARS champion.
Rebellion (1 x 52) In the summer of 2018, an unlikely group of citizens each took a stand against the systems that refused to acknowledge the global warming crisis. REBELLION takes us back to the moments that sparked a global movement. In Sweden, a then 15-yearold Greta Thunberg skips school, and stands poignantly alone in front of the Swedish parliament with a handmade sign that reads “School Strike for Climate”. She is about to become the symbol of a generation. In Washington, Hollywood actress Jane Fonda, along with her famous friends, converge on Capitol Hill weekly in an effort dubbed “Fire Drill Fridays”, demanding a Green New Deal and No New Fossil Fuels. She is arrested multiple times, including on the eve of her 82nd birthday. In London, Sir David Attenborough, “the most trusted voice in Britain”, famous for his BBC nature films, is criticized for not properly addressing the global warming crisis. He writes a response that will be heard around the world. “Climate change is our greatest threat in thousands of years. The collapse of our civilization and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon”. From the streets of Delhi to the steps of Congress, REBELLION reveals the momentum of a generation in revolt.
Murder on the Fringe (3 x 96 / 6 x 48) MURDER ON THE FRINGE takes viewers on a chilling journey into some of the most fascinating homicide stories of the 21st century, committed in society’s most marginalized communities. This collection of films explores the highly sensationalized case of a transgender woman attacked by a client who became unhappy with the terms of their arrangment; the mysterious murder of an adult film producer who made a deal that took a deadly turn; and a stealthy serial killer who went undetected as gay men continued to go missing in a busy urban neighorhood. Each story offers new insights from investigators, neverbefore-seen footage of the events leading up to the crimes, testimony from those closest to the victims, and in some cases, the accused themselves. These incredible stories reveal the hardships of marginalized communities looking for justice and answers as they mourn the loss of their friends and loved ones.
ZDF Enterprises GmbH Erich-Dombrowski-Str.1 55127 Mainz / Germany phone: +49-6131-9911611 fax: +49-6131-9912611 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org website: www.zdf-enterprises.de
Anthropocene (3 x 50’ / Science + Knowledge) The elements of fire, water and air formed the earth over billions of years – until humans severely transformed the planet within a short time. Scientists today talk about the anthropocene, the human epoch. This narrated “Terra X” threeparter tells us this story, from the beginnings of human civilisation to the present day. For this in-house production, the ZDF team travelled the globe, to Ethiopia, Australia, Iceland, the USA and China among others. Frontlines (8 x 50’ / History + Biographies) Frontlines takes you deep into the heart of battle, to reveal the critical turning points in some of WWII’s most decisive confrontations, from the killing fields of Normandy to the hazardous mountains of Italy, over the vast Pacific Ocean and into devastated Berlin. Compelling first-person testimony from all sides, cutting edge analysis, location demonstrations and vivid storytelling dispel the myths to provide new insights into the thrilling events that shaped the outcome of the war.
The Return of the Bears (1 x 50’ / Wildlife + Nature) The return of the brown bears is the most exciting and most controversial rewilding program in the history of Europe. This can be the ultimate success story, showing, that we welcome brown bears back and we are ready to share the land with a predator, which we previously hunted to extinction in large parts of Europe. But is Europe ready to accept the burden it takes, to coexist with brown bears?
MIPTV LISTINGS AVAILABLE Contact Joel Pinto 416.408.0863 email@example.com
IDFA Forum & IDFA DocLab Forum November 16 – 20* Docs for Sale meetings November 16 – 20*
Accreditation deadline: October 10
IDFA DocLab November 19 – 29 Docs for Sale Catalogue Updated throughout the year* IDFAcademy November 19 to 20 and 23 to 25* (accreditation closed) IDFA Bertha Fund IBF Classic: December 10 IBF Europe Distribution:Applications accepted continuously until October 1 IBF Europe Co-Production: April 1, 2021 *These activities take place exclusively online
International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam idfa.nl
PBS PBS SPOTLIGHT SPOTLIGHT
2020 marks the 50th anniversary of America’s Public Broadcasting Service, a 330-plus member collective of public television stations stretching from coast to coast. As the country it serves contends with myriad challenges — the impact of a global pandemic, a national reckoning concerning racial inequity and an increasingly polarized populace among them — its purpose has perhaps never been clearer. By Barry Walsh
PBS natural history strand ‘Nature’ will feature Australian Bushfire Rescue in late October.
AT YOUR SERVICE 035
Congratulations to PBS on 50 years of inspiration At DW, it‘s our goal to expand the horizons of our viewers. That‘s why we have proudly provided quality content to PBS stations for more than 30 years. Whether it‘s global news from a different perspective, with DW News or The Day, or shows like Focus on Europe, Global 3000, euromaxx and In Good Shape, our programming on PBS covers the whole spectrum.
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IMPACT AND INFLUENCE The “guide star” Kerger references first shone in 1969, when the service was created by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to operate and manage a nationwide program distribution system that would connect all local U.S. public television stations. The service was also intended to provide a distribution channel for national programs to all of those stations. The aim for the programming: educational content that would reflect the diverse interests of Americans. Shortly after its creation, PBS brought Sesame Street to life, the first preschool educational program to base its content and production values on formative and laboratory research. Still airing 40 years later, it is PBS’s longest-running series. In October of 1970, PBS began broadcasting as a network, with Julia Child’s The French Chef as its first series. As the years progressed, more defining series and strands
joined the roster, as did a growing number of member stations: ‘Masterpiece Theatre’ from WGBH in 1971; Bill Moyers’ Journal and WNET’s ‘Great Performances’ in 1972; science strand ‘NOVA’ in 1975; The MacNeil/Lehrer Report in 1976; Carl Sagan’s Cosmos in 1980; natural history strand ‘Nature’ from WNET in 1982; awardwinning current affairs strand ‘Frontline’ from WGBH in 1983; WGBH’s ‘American Experience’, television’s mostThe public television watched history series, and model is, for me, the documentary strand ‘P.O.V.’ in 1988; and independent very best... While doc strand ‘Independent I could get $30 Lens’ in 1999 are just some of million to do a film the highlights. Each project would be a jewel in any on the Vietnam war, network’s crown — ‘Frontline’ nobody else would alone has snared a whopping give me 10 and a 89 Emmy awards and 20 Peabody awards. half years to do it.” The network also, over the course of its history and its programming, influenced the unscripted programming revolution that began in earnest in the early Nineties. In 1973, An American Family provided a fly-on-the-wall look at “typical Americans” the Louds, and gave viewers an unprecedented look at that family’s struggles and ultimate fracturing. It would prove to be a hugely influential series to producers Jon Murray and Mary-Ellis Bunim, who would subsequently create The Real World for MTV. PBS was also first out of the gate with home improvement series, via This Old House which made its debut in 1980, and the “artefactual” genre popularized by hits such as History’s Pawn Stars had its beginnings in Antiques Roadshow, which first aired on PBS in 1997. Burns
alling from the same house in New England where he’s lived for 41 years, Ken Burns remembers the circumstances that brought him to what he considers his other home. “I struggled to find funding for the first film out of college,” he says, recalling the steps that led him to begin his filmmaking career by working with PBS for his first doc, 1981’s The Brooklyn Bridge. “I realized that so many of the sources for this research required that you give the finished project to public television. So in the late Seventies that was an interesting bargain. What I didn’t anticipate was that it would initiate a relationship with a family that I’m proud to be accepted by. “That was the best bargain I’ve made,” he adds. Undoubtedly, millions of viewers of Burns’ work via the Public Broadcasting Service, and scores of PBS executives past and present, are also glad that the director and executive producer behind such landmark documentaries as The Civil War, Vietnam, Baseball and the recent Country Music made that pact all those years ago. But, as influential and synonymous with PBS as that work is, it is but one strand of the public broadcaster’s DNA. And as PBS marks its 50th anniversary this year, the organization and its partners, ranging from producers and filmmakers to “viewers like you”, are celebrating not only the work that has defined its mission over those five decades, but the nature of the mission itself. “I always say that the two most important letters in our name are the first and the last, [standing for] ‘Public’ and ‘Service,’” says Paula Kerger, PBS’s president and CEO. “So there probably isn’t a better way to mark this 50th anniversary than to be in deep public service, and to use the time to think about what we will look like in the next 50 years if we are still tied to that guide star of who we are as a media organization. “We care about audience size and hopefully our content is entertaining, but really, what we strive for is that educational, inspirational piece which ties to that public service anchor,” she adds.
PIVOTING DURING THE PANDEMIC Having joined the service in 2006, succeeding its first woman president, Pat Mitchell, Kerger is the longest-running president and CEO in its history to date. And while she is keenly aware of the importance of the service’s storied history, she is intently focused on its present and future, especially as America grapples with the myriad challenges currently facing it. “Our signature project for this 50th anniversary year was going to be American Portrait [from RadicalMedia]. Because it was multi-platform, because it started as a digital-first experiment, and because we’re public, it was the one project that we thought was really going to bring the public in. And then all of this happened and all the plans and events that we were going to do went by the by,” she explains. “But American Portrait ended up being a prescient choice, because we were out in the field collecting comment from people, talking about their lives in this period.” 037
And after the killing of George Floyd brought about a national and global call for action to address racism, “There was yet another pivot to get people talking about race, identity and where we sit in this country,” she says of both American Portrait and upcoming projects from PBS contributor Dr. Henry Louis Gates. “It’s been an opportunity to really grab this moment.” VP of programming Sylvia Bugg agrees, Bugg Kerger citing strands such as ‘Frontline’ and the PBS News Hour as programming staples that could be especially nimble and react to the stories of the day, as well as specials within the network’s huge catalog that had a new relevance in these tumultuous times. “When we were first managing our way through COVID, we were able Managing our way to look at a pretty vast, existing inventory of through COVID... content… Luckily we we have such a rich haven’t had significant inventory of programs impact upon production, but we have such a rich that we can tap into.” inventory of programs that we can tap into.” Past programs that returned to fare has been a key driver in the schedule recently included that area. Ken Burns’ Baseball, and Citing the contributions of Stanley Nelson’s Freedom filmmakers such as Burns, Nelson, Riders featuring the late U.S. and Frederick Wiseman among congressman John Lewis, which others, Kerger offers: “It may streamed on PBS.org. be a brazen thing to say but I believe that historically and to “AMERICA’S HOME OF this day we are America’s home DOCUMENTARY” for documentary. There are other Reflecting and fostering the outlets for documentary film but national conversation around they don’t define themselves by it burning issues such as racism, — we do. Factual programming is immigration, gun control and at the heart of what public TV is.” political movements has been a For his part, Burns maintains crucial component of the PBS that PBS provides a home for mission statement, and Kerger his “deep dives” into American says the network’s documentary history — including his nine-part
SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER ‘20
Ken Burns and team at Grand Canyon National Park (photo by Craig Mellish)
The public expects us to be fearless and to focus on the stories that need to be told... That’s why people ultimately support us.”
epic The Civil War which drew an incredible 39 million viewers — that wouldn’t exist elsewhere. “More than 70% of the budget needs to be raised externally,” he says of the process behind bringing his projects to life. “Someone at the BBC literallydropped her teacup at a lunch when she learned that for every film I have to literally reinvent the wheel in terms of funding. I could easily go to a premium channel or now, the streaming services, and get the budget, but the problem is that the public television model is, for me, the very best. The simple explanation is that while I could get $30 million from any of those entities to do a film on the Vietnam war, nobody else would give me 10 and a half years to do it.” PBS receives funding through its member stations, pledge drives and private donations from
individuals and corporations as well as federal funding through the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. While the network and its member stations may not boast the seemingly bottomless pocketbooks of some of streaming behemoths currently reshaping the market, they carry ample reserves of fearlessness and — going back to that sense of mission — purpose that perhaps money can’t buy. “The public expects us to be fearless and to focus on the stories that need to be told,” sums up Kerger. “I feel very grateful that I work alongside a lot of extraordinary people who recognize that that’s why we exist, and I think that’s why ultimately people support us.”
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Back from the Big Pause Based in Singapore, Beach House Pictures felt the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic upon its business early in the course of the crisis. But as countries in the East further stem the tide of the virus and Western territories attempt to follow suit, Beach House’s creative director Donovan Chan says collaboration and innovation is crucial for getting back to work. 040
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ike many of you reading this, we headed into 2020 excited about the opportunities ahead; it was looking like one of Beach House Pictures’ busiest years at Blue Ant Media yet. We all know what came next — the loud “whoosh” as the wind vanished from the sails of our collective slates due to COVID-19. That was compounded by the raw emotions that came with the experience — abject terror, utter disappointment and unprecedented confusion — but not always in that order. Instead of a packed year, we had the Big Pause, as we struggled with a roster
of cancellations, suspensions and diminished budgets. As a Singapore-headquartered production company with an international business from China to the U.S., we experienced a double dose of the pandemic as territories began shutting down from the East to the West. From a business standpoint, the worst thing was the lack of a road map out of the dire situation we found ourselves in. However, because we were one of the first producers to face the pandemic, we have been among the first to begin to navigate our way through it. China and then Singapore reopened for business, with more countries finding their way back in some shape or
form. Meanwhile, the world was consuming content at an unparalleled rate as streamers expanded internationally. If we moved fast, worked smart and were entrepreneurial, we could yet salvage the year. The team found ingenious solutions and applied for crucial subsidies to retain our talent. We moved staff to work from home or work in the office safely and kept communications flowing between teams. We focused on keeping busy even though it was tempting to slow down. And by intensifying content development and pitching during lockdown, we continued to sell new, exciting shows. It has taught us a lot
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Moving into production on the second season of MasterChef Singapore, Beach House Pictures is adapting the gameplay to adhere to strict protocols.
about our company’s resilience and we’re now looking ahead to a promising 2021. This has been helped, in no small part, by BHP actively establishing processes and protocols with multiple channel partners in Asia and in the U.S. to get us back into production. BHP’s managing director Jocelyn Little also worked closely with the government committee for the Singapore TV and Film industry to help map out industry standard protocols to get the country’s producers up and running safely and effectively. 042
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Amongst our first shows to move forward into production was the second season of MasterChef Singapore. Part of the hard work involved in making it happen includes implementing meticulous safety measures and contingencies for casting and filming to protect the team and following government-mandated protocols. These include standard social distancing rules and PPE gear, to more complex maneuvers like reducing the crew numbers on set and enforcing a “no sharing” rule on equipment for both cast and crew. During the audition stage
happening now, we have avoided big gatherings in favor of private camera tests. When the series goes to air, it will be evident that responsible social distancing measures are being practiced, but it won’t be a focus of our storytelling. One of the more tactical ideas was to develop creative gameplay to keep the competition entertaining while avoiding close interaction to keep it safe. Other contingencies include devising challenges to play out in large, airy indoor locations to allow bigger events to play out safely, with diners at tables with suitably spaced seating.
All of this additional work has paid dividends as we now have more series with other international partners moving into production in Singapore, as well as in other reopened territories. Of course, these greenlights weren’t given just because of clear safety protocols, but the trust that comes with an efficient and sound plan to keep people safe while maintaining the quality and integrity of the production cannot be underestimated. It’s a trend that we foresee will continue growing for more international partnerships coming out of the pandemic.
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