Tom Neff, founder of the U.S. The Documentary Channel (DOC), has left the channel to move back to the production side with his new branded documentary production company Tom Neff Productions (TNP).
With 20 years of experience working on branded documentaries, Neff tells realscreen he intends to act as an executive producer within TNP, working as a liaison between independent doc filmmakers and corporations or organizations that would find doc-oriented projects beneficial.
‘I think the vision is to create partnerships with these corporations and organizations [and] create important documentaries and signature series,’ says Neff. He hopes to make ‘films that make a difference in the world and make a difference to people,’ as well as to give independent documentary filmmakers new opportunities for work and to push the notion of what a documentary can be.
One of the first projects for TNP will be a film on Clara Barton, founder of the Red Cross. Neff is currently looking for organizations to sponsor this project as well as partnerships for two new series: American Visions, which showcases visionary American companies and their founders, and Voices which will focus on documentary filmmakers of color.
Neff has spent the past 10 years building DOC into the U.S.’s first 24/7 channel dedicated to the documentary genre. Neff says now that DOC is a well-oiled machine, reaching 25 million viewers through Dish Network and DirecTV, he feels it’s time to move back to the creative side of documentaries. He has won more than 25 awards for his previous documentary work, and in the ’90s headed up doc production company Wild Wolf Productions, under which he created Beatrice Wood: Mama of Dada and America’s Music: The Roots of Country.
‘I think it’s a new area with a lot of potential,’ says Neff of the branded documentary arena. ‘I think there’s a need and opportunity to marry a brand message with the content. Docs really lend themselves to that, and it can be done with integrity. These are not corporate films; they are documentaries with a beginning, middle and an end and the filmmaker has final cut. The corporation or organization obviously has input but to me it’s a delicate dance and that’s really what I’m good at.’