What’s in a name?
It’s hard now to think of calling RealScreen anything else, but prior to the magazine’s launch, a few other choice offerings were put forward. Here’s a sampling of those that did not make the cut: What’s up Doc?, Pulp Non-fiction, Third Doc from the Sun and my personal favorite Hot Diggity Doc. (Never again will I question the wisdom of my superiors.)
Of course, RealScreen didn’t catch on right away. The idea of an international trade magazine devoted to the business of docs was something of a novelty back in 1997. It didn’t help that the name was often misconstrued. Popular misnomers were RealSteam (the trade for Swedish spas), RealScream (about the business of horror and mayhem) and RealScene (for the professional poseur). Maybe in a few years.
Was it something we said?
When RealScreen debuted, the editorial team consisted of an editor and a writer. But before long, the lean two-person crew grew, first with the addition of a copy chief, and then with a special reports editor. The editorial team has remained a compact group of four ever since, though the membership has changed. To date, RealScreen has had three editors, three staff writers and three special reports editors, but five copy chiefs – six if we count Jenny Hazan’s two stints. Lucky number seven, we’re waiting…
A very good year
In addition to the launch of RealScreen, lots of exciting things were happening in the world of docs in 1997: The BBC’s ‘Storyville’ strand debuted, with commissioning editor Nick Fraser at the helm; The Big One, filmmaker Michael Moore’s first feature after Roger and Me, premiered (on the BBC); The Long Way Home, by Rabbi Marvin Hier and Richard Trank, took home the Oscar for best documentary feature while A Story of Healing, by Donna Dewey and Carol Pasternak, won for best short doc; and the National Geographic Channel launched internationally. Not bad for a year that also spawned Teletubbies. (How can you trust anyone named Tinky Winky?)