Docs

The complexity of coproduction

With Darlow Smithson Productions (DSP) and Cream's joint project, Convoy, one can only imagine the piles of paperwork involved in the coproduction, which spans multiple territories. Julian Ware, head of special projects at DSP and Mark Carter, director of operations at Cream Productions spoke to realscreen about this complex copro and how they kept all the partners happy.
August 27, 2009

With Darlow Smithson Productions (DSP) and Cream’s joint project, Convoy, one can only imagine the piles of paperwork involved in the coproduction, which spans multiple territories. Julian Ware, head of special projects at DSP and Mark Carter, director of operations at Cream Productions spoke to realscreen about this complex copro and how they kept all the partners happy.

When DSP and Cream announced its latest copro project, a four-part documentary about the largest naval campaign during the Second World War, the news came with a sizable list of coproducing network partners. Behold: the project, which was a year in production, was made for History Television Canada, Channel 4 in the UK, Smithsonian Channel in the U.S. and National Geographic Channels International, while also partnering with the Canadian Navy. Needless to say, the project required a lot of organization.

Cream and DSP are no strangers to coproductions. Carter says that Toronto-based Cream is creating 34 hours of broadcast this year and of those hours 17 of them are coproductions. Ware says roughly 70% of London-based DSP’s projects in a year are copros.

‘The biggest thing about doing coproductions is that, from the outset, both companies [must] understand exactly what it is they’re going to do both creatively and [with] production,’ says Carter. ‘Before you get to doing anything you really have to outline what it is that’s expected from each company.’

Like most copros, in the case of Convoy, each partner wanted the four hours to focus on its region as much as possible, says Ware. For instance, NGCI wanted to make sure the doc, which looks at how convoys of merchant ships helped the British win the war, included the contributions of the merchants who weren’t British and their effect on the war. This meant a lot of time spent in post-production, reversioning for each channel. ‘From a post-production aspect it’s monumental,’ says Carter. ‘We were all working with a lot of different masters on this.’

One of those masters wasn’t a channel. The Canadian Navy got involved with the project as part of their outreach program in celebration of its centennial in 2010. Its goal was to help bring Canada’s military history to the masses. According to Ware, it was important to bring the Canadian Navy on board for this project because many Canadians felt their contribution to the convoy, and the Battle of the Atlantic, had never been fully recognized. ‘The Canadian story is extraordinary because at the beginning of the war they went from having three operational war ships, to the end of the war when they had the third biggest Navy in the world,’ says Ware.

Convoy airs on C4 Sunday, August 30 and will come to History Television in November for its Remembrance Week programming.

About The Author
Daniele Alcinii is a news reporter at realscreen, the leading international publisher of non-fiction film and television industry news and content. He joins the rs team with journalism experience following a stint out west with Sun Media in Edmonton's Capital Region, and communications work in Melbourne, Australia and Toronto. You can follow him on Twitter at @danielealcinii.

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