C4 is to shut its Independent Film and Video Department, responsible for many of the channel’s most creative docs since its inception in 1982.
C4 head of docs Peter Dale says the decision comes with the departure of IFV head Jess Search, who is leaving at the end of the year to juggle a number of projects, including exec producing docs intended for the big screen. ‘It’s probably time to admit the world has moved on and there are other ways of addressing issues of films which would not normally be commissioned in mainstream slots on Channel 4,’ says Dale.
TV should no longer be the ‘be all and end all’ for doc-makers, says Dale: ‘I’m not that fussed about films that clearly don’t fit with television needs – why should it take responsibility for them? This perceived wisdom that television is the sole benefactor of documentary is diminishing.’
Dale will continue to foster new talent. Although details have yet to be revealed, he will work with Search to provide funding to help emerging doc-makers flex their creative muscles away from the constraints of the small screen.
The choice to close IFV is a blow to many in the U.K. doc community who see it as integral to the channel’s innovation mission. ‘IFV has always been the heart of Channel 4, embodying the spirit, innovation and troublemaking that created what would now be called the Channel 4 brand,’ says indie producer Robin Gutch, who helmed the IFV in the late 1990s. ‘Despite Jess Search’s valiant efforts, it has been dying the death of a thousand cuts over the last few years. How ironic that, in the year of the global triumph of Fahrenheit 9/11, the department that gave Michael Moore his first crucial break has been killed off.’ (In the late 1980s, IFV supported the then-unknown filmmaker’s doc, Roger and Me.)
Dale, however, disagrees: ‘A £2million (US$3.65 million) turnover can never be the lifeblood of a channel that is committed to experimental programming. The next Michael Moore will still be commissioned.’
Responsibility for new talent initiatives will be devolved to individual CEs across genres. The IFV’s ‘Alt-TV’ strand has not yet been recommissioned, but Dale maintains that he is working on ways to continue it.