As Donald Trump looks to engineer the world in his own image and turn the planet orange, Sheffield Doc/Fest hosted the panel “Climate Change: The Greatest Story of Our Time?”. The session explored the challenges of telling the story of climate change on screen. The panel consisted of leading figures from across the factual industry, including Arrow Media’s Ash Potterton (Man Made Planet: Earth From Space, C4), Director Jeff Orlowski (Chasing Coral, Netflix), Director Julia Dahr (Thank You For The Rain), Prof Joe Smith (Open University) and Keo Film’s Will Anderson (Hugh’s War on Waste, BBC) and Sky Entertainment’s Celia Taylor.
The poisoned chalice
TV remains one of the most influential and readily accessible mediums for the public to learn about the world. And climate change represents the most significant threat to the survival of this planet. According to a recent IPSOS Mori poll, 80% of the global population now agree climate change is largely the result of human activity.
Despite the clear importance of the subject, climate change programming was previously regarded as a “poisoned chalice” among producers. Arrow’s Ash Potterton, admitted as much during the panel. But after making Man Made Planet: Earth from Space, Arrow recognised that issues with the genre’s “preachy” tone must be addressed. The challenge is to create a show which avoids the old tropes. It needs to be engaging and entertaining, with a broad appeal.
Putting the story first
This attitude shift is part of a wider trend within the production industry. Producers are beginning to explore innovative ways of making shows which tackle climate change. The UK is home to the most creative talent in the world and they’re making climate change shows people want to watch. The industry has recognised the need to put the story first and the subject second. It’s about encouraging producers to use their brilliant storytelling skills to eschew that “preachy” tone. This doesn’t mean every show is going to get it right. But it does mean key lessons are being learned about what works with an audience and what doesn’t.
Take Arrow’s Man Made Planet: Earth from Space as an example. For a supposedly unpopular genre, the ratings revealed that in the 16-24-year-old bracket viewing figures were up 73%! This was achieved by packaging the documentary as a never-before-seen perspective on how the world has changed over the past 45 years. And not solely about climate change.
Climate change is a subject which struggles with balancing small human elements with the grand central issue. It’s a problem of creating scale. With Man Made Planet: Earth from Space, the solution was bouncing from the macro (satellite time-lapse images images showing the dramatic changes caused by mankind) to the individual (plucking out personal stories about the impact climate change has had on them), in order to make it feel both epic and intimate.
Finding a platform
With SVoD, the opportunities to reach different groups of people has become even easier. Chasing Coral from Emmy Award winning director Jeff Orlowski launches on Netflix in July, and tackles the catastrophic damage of coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef. And whilst an exceptional film, where else would such content have found a home where it could reach so many? Orlowski spoke about how Netflix allowed them to take the film on tour to schools, colleges, universities and community centres. We all know someone with a Netflix account, so by letting Orlowski put it on a big screen, it becomes extra marketing for the platform. It also means that the message about global warming reaches a far wider audience – a win-win situation.
With Trump abandoning the Paris climate agreement, it has never been more important for the global community to tackle the single greatest threat to our existence. We’re on the right path and the TV industry is waking up to the responsibility of using its influence as storytellers to spread the message.
There’s just one last thing I’d like to leave you with; more needs to be done and not just by telling stories. It’s time to practice what is being preached. Production companies need to really think about how they can be greener. A good place to start is the albert sustainability initiative for the visual-arts; a venture set up in conjunction with BAFTA which provides guidelines and a commitment to being an eco-friendly producer. I’ll raise an ethically sourced plastic bottle of water to that!
By Xander Ross, Senior Account Executive at Franklin Rae
Last month we ventured to Paris for Series Mania – the co-production event for scripted producers, and it was buzzing. Now in its eighth year, Series Mania is less about selling TV and more about celebrating the creative talent off-screen and nurturing co-production relationships.
Co-producing with partners that can add real value has become more important to a show’s success. Gone are the days where you would receive a healthy commission from a broadcaster to make a show and a good advance from your distributor, plus additional amounts of income from sales. Although having a broadcaster on-board remains somewhat critical, a production may also need co-pro partners that bring something in addition to finance to the table. It could be a different cultural perspective – resulting in a broader appeal amongst audiences, or it could be a fantastic showrunner, casting relationship, a location genius, a rocking writing-room, a relationship with broadcasters in a different territory, a stockpile of the latest hardware, a fantastic post-facility or just a different way of working.
Series Mania has a different vibe to other events we attend. It’s more creative, with producers discussing the challenges of a second series, how networks can kill a show, or even why Nordic comedy travels. There’s also a full day of experienced production companies from all over Europe pitching their show concept on stage in front of the industry – all looking to forge alliances to get their projects off the ground.
The organisers did an amazing job too in looking after us delegates. Hospitality really makes such a difference and we were spoilt with drinks at the jawdroppingly gorgeous gilt-laden Hotel de Ville, followed by dinner the next day at The Museum of Natural History.
Throughout the whole event, it was refreshing to see the top European production companies building relationships with their UK counterparts.
Great relationships have to start somewhere and Paris definitely isn’t a bad backdrop. Who knows where they may end up?
By Sophie Naylor, Managing Director at Franklin Rae.
According to Reed Midem, 10,500 delegates descended to the Croisette in Cannes last week for MIPTV. It was definitely much quieter than recent years, but apparently, there were 800 new buyers in town. This begs the question – is it worth attending MIPTV anymore? Perhaps for indies, not so much, especially if you have a distributor on board. MIPCOM is by far the busiest market out of the two, and the “must attend” event, but with that said, there were a number of interesting takeaways from MIPTV 2017…
One of the most informative sessions of the market took place on Tuesday morning. It focused on the future of kids TV and the first half of the session saw Michael Shore, VP and Head of Global Consumer Insights and Foresights at Mattel take to the stage to discuss the future of play.
New age content
According to Michael, the time kids spend watching content has shifted from traditional TV: whilst 59% of time is still spent watching TV, 41% of time is spent on other devices, for example tablets, video game systems and smartphones. The types of content kids watch is also changing substantially. A survey conducted amongst kids aged 3-12 revealed that 69% like to watch full-length TV episodes, 53% like to watch movies and 55% like to watch videos on the internet – this is up by 13%.
It is fair to say that the likes of Netflix and YouTube are defining content for new platforms. For example, on tablets and smartphones alike the majority of kids like to watch YouTube videos over Netflix content, whereas Netflix’s content still dominates TV screens when compared to YouTube videos and traditional programming/live TV.
This new-age content has shaped programming genres quite a bit. Nowadays kids are hooked on watching more user generated content, unboxing videos (video content that captures the unpacking of new products, i.e. new toys, consumer tech, etc… Crazy, I know!), tutorials, videos of other kids playing games, speed drawing, speed gaming, sports/esports and wait for it… jump scares (literally videos that make you jump and scream).
The way kids consume content is changing
So, how do indies keep up with these rapidly changing trends when it comes to creating kids content? This is where Hopster Founder and CEO, Nick Walters and Dan’l Hewitt, VP Non-Linear Programming at The Walt Disney Company came in.
Dan’l stated that within weeks of a child growing older, their interests and the way they consume content changes and they migrate to new content at an increasingly fast pace. In an attempt to keep up and really appeal to varying age groups, The Walt Disney Company works with talent that has the right influence, to stitch content together and create playlists for each creator, ultimately building brand franchises. Mattel is also identifying new ways to stay on trend. A couple of years ago, the company introduced the beloved Barbie as a vlogger. That’s right. Watch out Zoella and Tanya Burr. Barbie officially joined the 21st century by setting up her own YouTube channel in 2015, to share snippets of life in her dreamy Malibu Beach house.
Mattel also recently announced its new Hello Barbie Hologram. Now, at age 58, Barbie is a hologram. The bright pink box contains an animated projection of Barbie, which responds to voice commands. Bring her to life by saying “Hello Barbie” and you can then ask her all kinds of questions, such as “What is the weather going to be like in Malibu tomorrow?” It combines motion-capture animation with Amazon Echo-style voice interactions, and will be available to purchase later this year.
Talking directly to audiences
Nick from Hopster also touched on working with brands and influencers to produce content that is more relevant for kids. Over the years, Nick and his team have fostered great relationships with the likes of eOne, DreamWorks and Millimages to bring some of the best kids content to Hopster, including Peppa Pig, Postman Pat, Noddy and Louie. Nick and the team have also created a platform that lends itself nicely to non-traditional content, which would not potentially work on linear platforms; from music videos and games, to short form content like Punky for example. Punky is a kids animation about a little girl who has Down Syndrome, which teaches kids how to interact with family and that, most importantly, being different is OK.
Unlike linear channels or the likes of YouTube, SVoD platforms such as Hopster can talk directly to their audiences and achieve a much deeper level of engagement with kids – especially if they are based on a subscription model. With over 1.5 million parents subscribed to Hopster all over the world, you could argue that it is the perfect home for long and short form preschool content, that will not only entertain kids, but will help them learn through the stories they love too.
So although MIPTV might have been quieter than last year and the year before that, it definitely presented a good showcase of true trendsetters, who are helping to shape the future of content and more importantly, are willing to impart their insight and wisdom for others to embrace.
By Shereene Witter, Senior Account Director at Franklin Rae.
There are more events in the media & TV industry than you can shake a stick at, and they seem to be multiplying with ‘Must See’ events popping up all over the shop. Now, I love getting out from behind my desk and meeting people IRL so I’m all for attending as many as possible – but how many are really compelling?
Last week, I was lucky enough to go to the INTV conference held in Jerusalem. The event, created by Keshet International, focuses on innovation in TV and is far and away my favourite. Admittedly, it’s the only event I go to where the location is not only warm and sunny (big advantage when coming from UK at the beginning of March) but has 3000 years of history, pilgrimages, worship, religion and conflict at its heart. Somehow, even that’s a small sideshow in comparison to the fabulous speakers. INTV manages to balance television’s creative talent alongside international commercial challenges, and the ever- changing media landscape, whilst giving a snapshot into all genres.
Speakers and influencers
Big Light Productions’ Frank Spotnitz extolling the purpose of Writers Rooms for TV
INTV 2017’s line up included; CMC’s CEO Li Ruigang, Fox CEO Dana Walden, CNN President Jeff Zucker, Torlief Hoppe, writer of The Killing, Jennifer Salke President NBC Entertainment, the incredibly talented team behind The Night Manager – director Susanne Bier, producer Stephen Garrett and actor/producer Hugh Laurie, the multi-talented Frank Spotnitz from Big Light Productions, writer/ creator Tami Sagher, whose credits include Girls, Inside Amy Schumer and 30 Rock, alongside the UK’s very own Channel 4 CEO, David Abrahams, and entertainment commissioners BBC’s Kate Phillips and ITV’s Peter Davey, among others.
INTV manages to create an intimate atmosphere where people are engaged, and where speakers and influencers aren’t whisked away in black jeeps with tinted windows as soon as they finish their ‘bit’. It’s an event where people actually meet each other, have lunch and chat. In the world of screen-swiping and 15 minute meetings, this is mega.
Yep, I’ve drunk the INTV kool-aid and I’m a fully signed up fan. I’ve returned to my desk inspired and fallen in love with TV all over again. NB. It’s also significantly cheaper than Cannes!
By Sophie Naylor, Managing Director at Franklin Rae
Last night the Franklin Rae team took a trip down to The Hospital Club for the very first Turn On, Tune In event of the year, with some of the industry’s most respected programme makers.
We were treated to a talk from panel show producer Matt Nida, whose production credits include Big Fat Quiz of the Year, 8 out of 10 Cats and Would I Lie To You. Over the course of the evening, Matt let us in on a few secrets and tips on the tricky art of making a panel show – here’s what we learnt…
In most successful panel shows the points system doesn’t really mean anything at all! Instead, the competitive element of the format offers a starting point for chat across the panel.
All about chemistry
A successful panel show should feel like the audience is a fly on the wall at a really great dinner party – chemistry and debate between the panelists is also essential.
Simply does it
It’s a mistake to think a panel show can be based on anything, or that an intricate and unique twist is a sure-fire way to make a hit. In fact, keeping the format of the show simple is often most effective in allowing the jokes to flow.
Producers are always on the hunt for creative ways to get panelists out from behind their desks or stands – but only if there is a clear reason and/or it’s funny.
Sometimes the best technique is to build rounds or questions around anecdotes and stories that guests have to offer. So research, research, research! Thoroughly researched chats can often provide comedy gold.
All in all it was an enlightening and informative evening, and we’re looking forward to the next one!
By Chloe Lawrance, Junior Account Executive at Franklin Rae.
Last week we attended a breakfast event at BAFTA with a number of the specialist factual commissioners from the BBC, Sky, Nat Geo and Channel 4.
Despite an early start the David Lean room was full capacity, with filmmakers and production company’s all looking for insight into the latest trends and what’s on the commissioners radars.
A key take away across the panel was ‘authenticity of experience’, something which in an era of ‘alternative fact’ and ‘fake news’ Tom McDonald, Head Of Specialist Factual commissioning for the BBC, said is imperative. Authentic portrayal is something specialist factual programming must provide.
Conversation also touched on the ever changing digital world and what this would mean for the genre. Many on the panel agreed that the traditional 30’ and 60’ minute format is becoming increasingly old fashioned. With VoD and SVoD becoming more and more the first port of call for viewers, the commissioners said there was a greater flexibility for filmmakers to make engaging content that could be 15’ or 90’ minutes in length. Short form has definitely become more popular in recent years, especially for people on the go i.e. commuters, and younger audiences who traditionally take to YouTube for a quick fix. So there are ample opportunities to make specialist factual more accessible for these audiences.
Snow Leopard – India – Planet Earth II
Moderated by media-veteran and journalist, John Plunkett it was a fascinating morning listening to key figures from a genre that is still riding on the crest of the wave of successful recent hits such as Planet Earth II, The Secret Life of 4/5/6 year olds and 24 Hours in A&E. Specialist factual is a genre that we are confident can create informative, entertaining and must see programming.
By Michael Goward, Account Executive at Franklin Rae.