Australia’s Southern Star Group is repositioning its factual units under one roof, and will appoint Simon Willock to the newly created post of group head of factual. Until now, Oxford Scientific Films (the doc production unit of Southern Star Circle, Southern Star’s U.K. operations) and Wild & Real (formerly Primetime Television, now the wildlife and factual catalog of Southern Star Sales) have been managed separately – OSF by Mike Blair and Wild & Real by Willock. But, after re-evaluating Wild & Real’s role in developing factual programming with third-party producers, the company has opted for a new structure.
Says Willock, ‘[Wild & Real] was part of the sales company, which in effect was doing more production than the factual production department. We didn’t produce much factual programming, but 60 or 70 hours of new programming was coming into the company because I was coproducing it with independent producers.’ Willock has been general manager of Wild & Real since 1998 and was previously managing director of Primetime.
‘The intention is definitely to step up the whole factual area,’ Willock explains.
He notes that Southern Star is in the process of firming up a development deal with Mentorn Barraclough Carrey. ‘We have a first project with them called Rome is Rome, which is just finalizing pre-sales with National Geographic and NDR in Germany. Channel 4 is also on board. So, that’s a good one to kick off my new role, because it demonstrates exactly what I’m supposed to be doing – bringing in the pre-sales and the coproduction partners.’
Willock officially becomes group head of factual on October 1. Blair will leave his position as head of factual for Southern Star Circle to return to his news roots at Carlton Television on October 15.