Channel 4 head of documentaries and features Steve Hewlett has succeeded in his bid to lure acclaimed filmmaker Peter Dale away from the bbc to become C4′s commissioning editor for documentaries.
Dale, who has been at the bbc for most of his career, is a highly regarded talent in the u.k. documentary field. Last month he won the prestigious Grierson Award for one film from The System, his five-part study of the u.k. welfare state. Previously, he had won two Royal Television Society best-doc awards for The System and The Dead, which marked the 25th anniversary of the Northern Ireland conflict. He said: ‘It’s a job which anyone who cares about documentaries would be thrilled to accept. It has the potential to influence the future of the genre for some time to come and makes a very exciting prospect.’
The appointment of such a heavyweight is confirmation of Hewlett’s intention to tackle complex subject-matter as part of C4′s factual output. In March, he expressed his concern to RealScreen about ‘a move towards the commissioning of documentaries where entertainment supersedes the objectives of insight or information.’
Dale’s appointment completes a sweeping reappraisal of responsibilities at C4. Alongside Dale, Alan Hayling, who runs Secret History and Secret Lives, becomes editor of documentaries, with an expanded remit. Hewlett has also appointed Peter Grimsdale as commissioning editor for history, which he will add to his existing responsibilities for religion and features.
The opportunity to poach Dale came when the previous head of documentaries, Peter Moore, requested a new role within C4. Moore, who conceived and developed the award-winning Cutting Edge strand, has become senior editor, factual programs, with a responsibility for working on special projects with award-winning filmmakers such as Paul Watson and Phil Agland. His role in charge of Cutting Edge has gone to Charles Furneaux.
Hewlett also told RealScreen that he had received the full weight of support for his ambition from the recently appointed C4 chief executive, Michael Jackson. This claim has been underlined by the separate announcement that maverick u.s. filmmaker Michael Moore is to join C4 on a two-year exclusive contract. Moore is best known in the u.k. for his series TV Nation, which was commissioned for bbc2 by Jackson in his previous role.
Jackson was closely involved in the deal which will see Moore make three tv series and two films over the next two years. There are also plans to give Moore a live chat show relayed from the u.s.
It is not the first time C4 has signed such a high-profile auteur filmmaker on an exclusive basis. The popular and controversial Nick Broomfield (Kurt and Courtney) is already a leading light in C4′s raft of filmmakers.
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