Once you get past the money, there are still lots of complaints to be heard about the current state of the industry. Leaving dollar worries aside, here’s what people in the industry say bugs them the most (in no particular order).
What’s your biggest beef?
* Bullshit and snobbery.
* That every story has to have an American angle or it isn’t interesting. In a time when more people travel overseas [than ever before], television programming people are playing to the lowest common denominator, as they do on the networks.
* Why good and proven producers are supposed to feel like they are being done a favor by being able to work with majors.
* The dumbing-down of documentaries and broadcaster unwillingness to address complex issues. I don’t think the public is stupid or uninterested in challenging material.
* Sloppy, slow, indecisive, ignorant commissioning editors. All U.K. channels are guilty, apart from Channel 5.
* The acceptance of shorter and shorter attention spans.
* The incredibly paranoid nature of the industry.
* Not enough promotion for docs from the broadcasters.
* Reality TV – how far will society digress?
* The disappearance of rep cinemas programming feature docs.
* The way far too many documentarians have succumbed to the market, and along with that, the way the U.S. market turns down the best documentaries.
* That the only yardstick now is ratings.
* The lack of diversity in content and storytellers. Why can’t more docs show a range of diversity within the story rather than keeping all the ‘ethnicity’ to separate films?
* The turn-around time from pitch to contract averages nine months.
* Credits. Networks that cut them out are removing a key reason why we do this work. We want to be authors and sign our work.
* Lazy programmers who only want to look at series or projects by a small group of producers/distributors.
* That there is a general lack of craft in the production of many documentaries, creating pedestrian or mediocre filmmaking.
* Complaining producers.
* Alright, one money beef: No back-end for independent producers/filmmakers. Previously, the program budget was covered by sale of domestic rights, and international rights/revenue streams were reserved for the independent to make a living and keep the production company alive between projects. Today, the independent producer is seeing entire world rights sold to fund the production budget, leaving no room for future profit for the producer. Commissioners need to rethink this, and give the independent producer at least 15% of the production budget as an executive producer fee and allow the independent to share in the profits (if any) at an earlier stage. Twenty-five percent of revenue should go to the independent producer – when the funder recoups 75% of the budget.