President John Quincy Adams once noted that ‘the influence of each human being on others in this life is a kind of immortality.’ To put it in other words, we achieve something greater by being inspiring, by providing leadership, or by influencing others to think differently.
That’s what we want to celebrate with realscreen‘s first-ever listing of the 100 top production companies in the world. Beyond just being a list of companies with the best reputation in non-fiction, the ones that demonstrate leadership and innovation (both in the art and the business), and the ones that maintain a strong global presence by virtue of the success of their productions, it is also a chance to acknowledge brilliant work. It wasn’t an easy list to assemble, and we turned to many decision-makers in the community to flesh out the insights gleaned by our own research. (By the time we stopped asking for recommendations, we had a list of over 300 international companies.)
What follows is a list of what we and the industry consider to be the 100 most influential production companies making non-fiction film and TV programs today. Regardless of their size or country of origin, these are the companies people say they look to for inspiration.
Of course, everyone finds inspiration in their own way, so this list could have gone in many different directions. It could have easily become a litany of builders, such as D. A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus, Albert Maysles, Ken Burns, Errol Morris, Barbara Kopple, Henry Hampton, Michael Apted (at least for his non-fiction work) and Allan King; it could have been a list of capital-D documentary filmmakers; or, it could have been entirely comprised of factual producers.
Instead, we chose to include representatives from all facets of the non-fiction industry, with the only stipulation being that the company is run as an independent production entity, or at least maintains an arms-length relation to its parent. For example, we included Fremantle-Media affiliate Talkback Thames in the G100, but didn’t include National Geographic Film & Television.
(In fact, we didn’t include the production arm of any broadcaster unless we felt it was sufficiently independent, and it produced for other outlets or mediums.)
We begin our listing with the top seven companies – the ones that received the most votes and are hailed internationally as inspirational and trend-setting. From there, we break things down by region, highlighting some of the notable companies in each. The rest we list in table form.
Debates over descriptors – non-fiction, documentary, factual, reality – will never end, but the medium will continue to evolve thanks to the influence of the companies on the pages that follow. It will be fascinating to watch as their influence shapes the filmmakers who come after them. It’s a given that the Mark Burnetts and Michael Moores, the John Smithsons or Peter Bazalgettes will shape the non-fiction community in the same way the Maysles and Pennebakers did a generation before them.