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.