Discovery reaches out in Asia and Latin America

Discovery's international branches have been busy of late, sussing out the hot new talent in Latin America and Asia at the Television Producer's Workshop in Valencia, Spain (April 29 to May 2) and at the First Time Filmmakers initiative in Singapore (April 26 and 27).
May 10, 2001

Doc-makers in Latin America and Iberia have come a long way towards understanding the Discovery style, according to Ryan Shiotani, VP of programming for Discovery Networks, Latin America/Iberia. He notes that producers at the third annual Television Producer’s Workshop (held in Valencia, Spain, from April 29 to May 2) ‘have become much more familiar with what we’re looking for. The pitches and projects we received were generally very targeted, very much in line with our programming strategy.’

The purpose of the event is to encourage growth of factual production in the Spanish-speaking regions, primarily to fill the air on the six 24-hour channels that make up Discovery Latin America/Iberia – Discovery Channel, Discovery Kids, Discovery Health, Discovery Travel & Adventure, Animal Planet and People+Arts. To sweeten the pot for producers, Discovery invites commissioning editors from other parts of the Discovery family, as well as those from other international broadcasters. In attendance this year, says Shiotani, were representatives from Canal+, the BBC, Channel 22 in Mexico, Channel 13 in Chile, France 2, France 3, Discovery Europe and Discovery Asia, among others. In all, there were more than 300 attendees.

After a pitching session of 12 proposals, Discovery Latin America/Iberia awarded four US$8,000 development contracts, and signed one coproduction deal (Discovery’s portion of the budget is still under negotiation). The winners of the development contracts are: Joan Manuel Serrat: The Last Troubadour, Niza in Spain; On the Line of Duty, Televideo in Colombia; San Martin and O’Higgins: We Want a Nation, Nueva Imagen in Chile and Cuatro Cabezas in Argentina; and Garavito, Children’s Serial Killer, WYF Television in Colombia. Gaudi’s Shadows, by La Productora in Spain, won the coproduction deal.

Shiotani comments on each of the programs:

Serrat – ‘The program stood out because the pitch and presentation really showed that the production company had done extensive research, and Serrat as a subject has great relevance for the Ibero-American region.’

Duty – ‘It’s about a new industry of security guards and protection in Latin America, which is very relevant for our viewers, and takes a look at the new technology that has been developed in the region. This fits with Discovery’s [approach] of going behind the scenes of a particular industry and showing how it works.’

San Martin – ‘It was a very exciting pitch. They’re looking at [these two important historical leaders, San Martin of Argentina and O'Higgins of Chile] from the unique perspective of their friendship.’

Garavito – ‘It’s a story about a serial killer from Colombia. This obviously is something that fits into types of programming that have been successful on both Discovery and People+Arts.’

Gaudi – ‘We’re always looking for biographies about great figures, in particular from our region. Gaudi made such a huge contribution to art and architecture. Again, this production company has done a great deal of research, approaching it from the view of his methodology.’

At DNI’s First Time Filmmakers workshop, held in Singapore on April 26 and 27, Discovery Networks International has given six budding doc talents their first big break. The reward is funding for their 30-minute films, a platform for their finished works (the docs will air on the Discovery Channel in Asia during the fourth quarter of 2001) and, perhaps most importantly, an ‘in’ with Discovery.

The winning proposals, which originated with prodcos from a range of territories within Asia, were the top picks from a field of 400 entries. The general theme of each doc is the impact of technology and innovation on the lives of people in Asia. The projects include: This Beautiful House (w/t) by Tan Pin Pin in Singapore; The Boat-maker and the Sea (w/t) by Mohd Naguib Razak, Malaysia; Trojan Box (w/t) by Kidlat de Guia, Philippines; Yadi (w/t) by Chandra Tanzil, Indonesia; When Technology and Innovation Enter the Dharma Practice Zone (w/t) by Prakhan Chalaemkhet, Thailand; and Cultural Preservation through Technology (w/t) by Chung-Chiang Yeh, Taiwan.

About The Author
Daniele Alcinii is a news reporter at realscreen, the leading international publisher of non-fiction film and television industry news and content. He joins the rs team with journalism experience following a stint out west with Sun Media in Edmonton's Capital Region, and communications work in Melbourne, Australia and Toronto. You can follow him on Twitter at @danielealcinii.