Over 800 delegates attended this year’s Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival in the scenic Teton Mountains, and it wasn’t just for the barbecues. The festival attracted 560 films from 13 different categories, and offered attendees 40 filmmaking seminars.
One of the biggest items from the Hole this year came from National Geographic Channels president Sandy McGovern, who – although warning that blue chip wildlife was ‘in serious decline’ – committed to a U,S. launch in third or fourth quarter of 2000, following what she termed an eight-to-twelve month pre-launch phase.
Nature/WNET’s director of science, natural history and features, Bill Grant agreed with McGovern about the state of blue chip, and said that the days of million-dollar budgets for NH are over. Discovery’s Dan Salerno blamed the erosion of viewer interest on fragmentation brought about by the number of channels available, and used a peculiar analogy to demonstrate the point: if Discovery puts a lion show on against an A&E show on Jerry Lewis, Lewis could take the night because viewers have the attitude that if they miss this lion show, they’ll be another on the following night. Perhaps as a result of this trend, ancillary markets seem to be getting more attention. Phil Fairclough, an editor with the BBC NHU, said that they are looking for `360¡ pitches,’ meaning they want to know where the slots for your pitch might be internationally, what merchandising opportunities are available, and what kind of spin-offs are possible.
Most of the seminars towed the ’90s NH line: produce cheap; the story is all-important, and keep it entertaining. (An enviro-message? As DCI’s director of program development, Tom Caliandro put it: ‘Sure, but it’s hard to get an audience for downers.’) NHNZ managing director, Michael Stedman also served as a voice of caution during the tech-frenzied week, calling high definition a ‘minefield.’
And for the few producers who haven’t heard the news yet, TLC reiterated that it is not an educational channel, but rather an entertainment channel.