Influential People – the Gatekeeper

Patricia Boutinard-Rouelle: Chosen for her daring vision and influence in programming
November 1, 2003

France 3 isn’t the biggest player in its territory, but when it comes to doc programming, it has taken the lead, thanks in large part to the efforts of Patricia Boutinard-Rouelle, France 3′s head of documentaries.

It was Boutinard-Rouelle who spearheaded Species Odyssey, an innovative non-fiction production about Earth’s first humans that was one of the year’s most spectacular success stories. She recognized that France 3 needed to take a chance with its doc programming if it was going make a mark in primetime, and she embraced the use of fiction techniques in the production as a way to take non-fiction in a new direction.

It was a risk, because the approach runs counter to the strong tradition of auteur docs in France, but the gamble paid off. Not only did the film draw a huge audience (one third of all viewers in France, a record-breaking achievement), it paved the way for more primetime doc slots on France 3 and more creative commissions. Perhaps most importantly to producers, Species Odyssey‘s success also gave Boutinard-Rouelle the ability to throw her support behind more expensive projects.

Producer Fred Fougea of Paris-based prodco Boréales says he encountered no difficulties when he presented her with the US$4.1 million estimated budget for Sapiens Odyssey, the follow-up program to Species Odyssey. ‘For France 3, the real challenge is to have something on primetime that is very original and strong,’ says Fougea. France 3 is the lead broadcaster for Sapiens Odyssey, though it will not finance the program exclusively.

Boutinard-Rouelle is also open to experimenting with other styles, including reality formats and docusoaps – anything that will bring new energy to the form. As she told RealScreen earlier this year, ‘We are at the start of a revolution. Documentary will become more and more popular, if we make the effort.’

About The Author
Meagan Kashty is an associate editor of realscreen, an international print and online magazine that covers the non-fiction film and television industries. Meagan is an award-winning business journalist. Prior to joining the realscreen team, Meagan was online editor of Canadian Grocer, named Magazine of the Year at the 2015 Canadian Business Media Awards. She can be reached at, and you can follow her on Twitter @MegKashty