In late August, realscreen will present its Global Pitch Guide, featuring valuable intelligence from commissioning editors and factual programmers around the world. In this preview, Claudia Schreiner, head of programming, history, culture and science for Germany’s ARD/MDR, explains how she commissions and what docs work for her.
How she programs: Currently, MDR commissions roughly 30 hours of original documentary programming a year. Schreiner’s department focuses specifically on historical and cultural docs, with an emphasis on author-driven films and high-end docudramas. She’s mainly looking for one-offs as opposed to series and there is room for 45-minute docs in primetime and docs running up to 90 minutes during late night programming.
What she’s looking for: The target audience for MDR’s documentaries skews older and female. Mostly targeting women over 50, Schreiner says she prefers docs that incorporate emotional story telling and while history docs are a big part of MDR’s mandate, she’s not looking for encyclopedic history docs. One program that worked well on the channel recently, according to Schreiner, was the Oscar-nominated doc short Rabbit a la Berlin about wild rabbits that lived in the ‘death zone’ encircled by the Berlin Wall. While the channel does run docu-series from time to time, Schreiner says most series are produced in-house.
How to pitch: Schreiner prefers a brief outline of the project accompanied by a link to some video and a profile of the filmmaker. Schreiner also regularly attends events such as Sunny Side, MIP Doc, IDFA, Sheffield Doc/Fest and Hot Docs, so if you’re planning to pitch her in person, or send a package via snail mail, she wants to see tape.
For more on what ARD/MDR and other channels are looking for in factual entertainment and documentary programming, keep an eye out for the realscreen Global Pitch Guide, coming later this summer.