Pitch Guide Preview: Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Alan Erson

The realscreen Global Pitch Guide is coming soon, and as a taster, here's a look at the doc programming needs of the ABC's brand new head of documentaries, Alan Erson.
August 23, 2010

Alan Erson (pictured) was appointed as head of documentaries at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation last week, replacing Stuart Menzies, who is now controller of ABC2. As part of realscreen‘s upcoming Global Pitch Guide, Erson, most recently commissioning editor at ABC for science, history and natural history docs, took the time out to let us know what he’ll be looking for when he hits the markets in the months ahead.

What he’s looking for: Erson took over the head of documentaries position at ABC in mid-August and says ABC is ‘keen to connect with a wide, primetime audience.’ He says ABC1, in particular, looks for series with family appeal, citing transformational journeys and ‘subjects that really hit the Australian zeitgeist.’ Among the homegrown titles that have scored on ABC1 are Dick Smith’s Population Puzzle, The Making of Modern Australia, and Voyage to the Planets. For free-to-air digital channel ABC2, the audience skews more towards younger males. The ratio between acquired and original documentary production is roughly 25% original and 75% acquired, with documentary encompassing contemporary, history, natural history, science, indigenous and religion and ethics genres.

ABC coproduces regularly with an assortment of international partners. ‘Our full pre-sales need to go to an Australian production company and those companies make deals with international producers, broadcasters and others,’ Erson explains. Genres that lend themselves to coproduction include history, natural history and science, but the recent copro with RTE, Addicted to Money, ‘shows that it can be done with a contemporary presenter-lead project too.’

How to pitch: Erson says the best method is to send ABC’s development producer, Edwina Waddy (

For acquisitions, producers should contact new acquisitions manager Alison Baker ( ) or acquisitions coordinator Naz Mantoo (

Where to find him: Erson attends AIDC (Australian International Documentary Conference), WCSFP and Wildscreen/Jackson Hole. Other members of the team attend other international markets.

About The Author
Senior staff writer Frederick Blichert comes to realscreen with a background as a journalist and freelance film critic. He has previously written for VICE, Paste Magazine, Senses of Cinema, Xtra, Canadian Cinematographer and elsewhere. He holds a Master of Arts in film studies from Carleton University and a Master of Journalism from the University of British Columbia.