An inside look at ‘The View From Here’

Jane Jankovic, commissioning editor of TVO's POV strand 'The View From Here', details the state of the Canadian public broadcaster and what type of docs she's looking for. Jankovic is also supervising producer for the international documentary strand 'Human Edge' and the arts strand, 'Masterworks.'
March 18, 2009

Jane Jankovic, commissioning editor of TVO’s POV strand ‘The View From Here’, details the state of the Canadian public broadcaster and what type of docs she’s looking for. Jankovic is also supervising producer for the international documentary strand ‘Human Edge’ and the arts strand, ‘Masterworks.’

What challenges does TVO face right now?
I think all broadcasters who want to make original Canadian documentaries are really feeling the crunch in that there just aren’t enough dollars out there. If the budgets keep going up we have to make hard decisions about how many projects we can take on, if we can take on any at all. We can’t support all the good ideas that are out there so we have to get even more particular about the kinds of projects that we’re willing to take on, especially if our investment has to get bigger in each project because there isn’t enough funding to help the broadcasters fill out their budgets.

What is the commissioning strategy for ‘The View From Here’ strand?
We’re looking for contemporary Canadian social issues that we can examine though a point of view perspective. We’re looking at intimate stories that exemplify a larger issue. We are especially interested in an issue that is unfolding, rather than a historical context.

And for the other two strands?
For ‘Human Edge’ we are again looking for POV documentaries that explore big issues through small examples, whether it’s [about] a small village or a family, a particular election or protest. It’s the human stories that make those situations happen for better or for worse. In our art strand ‘Master Works,’ we’re looking for stories that look at art as social history, so we’re looking at either artists or a body of work that help us understand who we are.

What’s the balance of commissions and acquisitions?
For ‘Human Edge’ and ‘Master Works,’ they’re predominantly acquisitions – probably 65-35 – more than pre-buys. We do have some acquisitions on ‘The View From Here’ ­­- docs that were not shown anywhere else on any other broadcaster – and the rest of them would be commissions. If they’re commissions we go for North American rights. If they’re acquisitions, we can sometimes do just Canadian rights.

How many pitches do you receive in a year and how many do you go forward with?
We probably get hundreds of pitches a year and we probably put forward about 15.

What’s your advice to producers pitching to you for the first time?
Be clear on what you want to say with this story. Have a sense of how you’d like to tell it. It gives me an idea of what kind of a storyteller you are by giving an example of a treatment. I love stories that take you on this ride and you don’t know what its going be at the end, but it has this beginning, middle and end. If you can convey that kind of storytelling skill, then I’ve got a lot of time and patience for you.

How can American and international producers get involved with TVO’s doc strands?
For ‘Human Edge’ and ‘Master Works,’ they can send us a final for an acquisition or a rough cut in which we might go as a pre-buy or an acquisition. If it’s in the very early stages, they can send us a proposal with some sort of demo and a finance plan and we’ll take a look to see if it’s for us. My colleague Naomi Boxer would be the person who would be taking that on.

What can we look forward to from ‘The View From Here’?
I’m hoping that we’ll be able to provide some edgy programming, documentaries that you’re not going to see on other broadcasters and an expansion to new media in a way that we’re really excited about. We’re looking forward to when we can start documentary storytelling online as well as on air. I don’t mean just DVD extras; I mean actual documentaries that really test the new platforms and present new ways in which we can tell stories.

Should producers be thinking about new media?
Yes; anytime we get a documentary proposal, we ask how that story can translate in a multiplatform broadcasting. We don’t see ourselves as a television station anymore, we see ourselves as a multi-platform deliverer of stories.

About The Author
Jonathan Paul is a Toronto-based writer into creativity, content, advertising, tech, comics, video games, film, TV, time and space travel.