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Realscreen’s Global 100 for 2011

It's that time of year once again - time to salute the 100 top worldwide non-fiction production companies operating today, as chosen by realscreen readers. Click through to see the full list.
March 29, 2012

It’s that time of year once again – time to salute the 100 top non-fiction production companies operating today, as chosen by realscreen readers.

We solicited your input via realscreen.com and our daily newsletter, and received scores of nominations from international network execs, producers and distributors. Some nominations detailed the efforts of particular companies that have shown their worth as trusted partners, while others itemized particular series or feature docs that stood out for them in 2011.

We also asked those making nominations to submit their choices for prodcos operating in various non-fiction disciplines in an effort to include specialist producers that excel in their fields.

This time around, you’ll certainly see the familiar – prodcos that are no strangers to the Global 100 thanks to the consistent quality of their work, year after year. You’ll also see some first-time additions to the list, which we have identified with an asterisk (*). In both cases, these are companies that have proven themselves to be creative, trustworthy and inspiring producers to those who matter most – their colleagues in the industry, and viewers around the world.

Barry Walsh, Editor

 

CANADA

Cineflix Productions

Toronto/www.cineflixproductions.com

In the last year alone, Cineflix Productions has seen its output increase to 400 hours, expanded its UK production office with the appointment of Camilla Lewis as MD, and opened a Los Angeles office, headed up by Lisa Levenson. Last year also saw the beginnings of Cineflix’s first scripted project, Copper, a coproduction with BBC America and Shaw Media.

Meanwhile, American Pickers continues to perform strongly for History, and Cineflix is currently at work on a third season of its Great White North version, Canadian Pickers, for History Television Canada. Other staple series received multiple season orders this year, including Bio’s William Shatner’s Weird or What?, Food Network Canada’s Dinner Party Wars, W Network Canada and HGTV U.S.’s Cash & Cari, and Property Brothers, which currently rates as one of HGTV U.S.’s top 10 shows. Kelly Anderson

Employees: 800-plus

Hours in 2011: 400

Current/recent titles: American Pickers, Canadian Pickers, Property Brothers, William Shatner’s Weird or What?, Nothing Personal

Upcoming: Food Factory, Teen Weddings, Property Brothers season three

Cream Productions

Toronto/www.creamproductions.ca

Known for its work in the history, technology and science genres, with titles such as Breathing Fire: Battle of the Somme and U-864: Hitler’s Last Deadly Secret as prime examples, Cream expanded into docusoap and reality last year. The prodco launched Sibling Rivalry, a design and lifestyle series for the W Network in Canada, and is prepping the upcoming design series Esther Extraordinaire for HGTV Canada.

“We’re proud of our continued ability to retain rights in what is a fairly tough market when it comes to IP,” says co-founder Dave Brady of Cream’s success, while of its move into docusoaps, co-founder Christopher Rowley says, “We are producing five such series for both Canadian and U.S. broadcasters, with several more in the pipeline.” KA

Employees: 22 full-time

Hours: 53.5 hours

Current: Canada’s Greatest Know-It-All (Cream/Boxing Cats coproduction), Sibling Rivalry, Breathing Fire: Battle of the Somme, House of Bats

Upcoming: Paranormal Witness season two, Wild Things with Dominic Monaghan, Treasure Trader, and Esther Extraordinaire

OTHER CANADIAN GLOBAL 100 PRODCOS (Name/titles/web)

Anaid Productions/X-Weighted: Families/www.anaid.com

Clearwater Documentary/Code Breakers/www.clearwatermedia.com

Force Four Entertainment/Cupcake Girls, Urban/Suburban/www.forcefour.com

Frantic Films/Pitchin’ In, til Debt Do Us Part/www.franticfilms.com

Handel Productions/Inside the Titanic (with Dangerous Films)/www.handelproductions.ca

Insight Productions/Battle of the Blades, Canada Sings/www.insighttv.com

National Film Board of Canada/Highrise, Life with Murder (with JS Kastner Productions)/www.nfb.ca

Omni Film/Ice Pilots NWT/www.omnifilm.com

Paperny Films/Eat St., Love Shines/www.papernyfilms.com

Pixcom/License to Drill, Trashopolis/www.pixcom.com

Proper Television/Come Dine With Me (Canada), Prank Science/www.propertelevision.com

Yap Films/March of the Dinosaurs (with Wide-Eyed Entertainment)/www.yapfilms.com

 

UK

Lime Pictures*

London/www.limepictures.co.uk

Building on its success in the world of scripted soaps with the long-running Hollyoaks, Lime Pictures has become one of the first British companies to import the ‘structured reality’ docusoap format to the United Kingdom. The company scored a huge reality hit with The Only Way Is Essex – now in its fourth season – for ITV2 and brought the Jersey Shore format to MTV in the UK and Ireland with Geordie Shore, now in its second season.

In 2012, Lime is looking to continue building its rep in the reality drama realm and is considering remakes of The Only Way Is Essex for the American, Australian, Finnish and German markets. Lime recently inked a deal to produce four more seasons of Essex, which picked up the YouTube Audience Award at this year’s BAFTAs. Kevin Ritchie

Employees: 150-plus

Hours: 500-plus

Current/recent titles: The Only Way is Essex, Geordie Shore

Lion Television

London/www.liontv.com

Lion TV proved its mettle once again this year, reappearing in the Global 100 yet again for 2011 (the prodco hasn’t missed a year since the feature began back in 2006). As with past years, the secret to its success was the diversity of its product offering. There was presenter-led history in the form of Bomber Boys, which aired in February of this year and featured Ewan McGregor and brother Colin in another Lion-produced special for the BBC following 2010′s The Battle of Britain; and The Spice Trail, again for the BBC and featuring Brit TV presenter Kate Humble. But there was also fun-filled factual entertainment, as seen in such series as Scream If You Know the Answer! (which also aired in the U.S. on Travel Channel via Lion U.S.) and the enduring Cash Cab franchise.

In the year ahead, look for Wartime Farm, an extension of the Victorian Farm/Victorian Pharmacy conceit, in which hardy individuals tend farms using the technology and tools of various historical eras. Barry Walsh

Employees: Between 120-150

Hours: 250

Current/recent titles: Bomber Boys, Horrible Histories, The Spice Trail, 15 Kids & Counting

Upcoming: Wartime Farm, Venice 24/7, World Series of Dating

Tigress

Bristol/www.tigressproductions.co.uk

“C4 to stream dead hippo feast” is not an everyday headline here at realscreen but it could be if Bristol’s Tigress Productions continues producing innovative programs such as Hippo: Nature’s Wild Feast Live, an interactive wildlife special during which viewers tuned in to UK pubcaster Channel 4′s website and watched as hyenas and crocodiles devoured a decomposing hippo carcass located in Zambia.

The Endemol-owned company also completed its first 3D production, a natural history program shot in Namibia called Beautiful Freaks. Two years in the making, the hour-long program focused on “weird” animals living in the African desert and is part of the company’s ongoing mandate to push the boundaries of new technology.

Also in 2011, Tigress hired Steve Rankin (Man vs. Wild) as a development exec. KR

Employees: 9

Hours: 32

Current/recent titles: Hippo: Nature’s Wild Feast; Live Like an Animal

Twofour Broadcast

London, Plymouth/www.twofour.co.uk

Twofour scored high-profile ratings hits with the ob doc series Educating Essex for Channel 4, the new format Alex Polizzi – The Fixer for BBC2, and the factual offering Cornwall with Caroline Quentin for ITV1. The company also produced Channel 4′s product placement program New Look Style the Nation, a live studio entertainment show that enabled viewers at home to design outfits that would appear on screen during the show. Twofour bolstered its exec team with the appointment of ex-Channel 4 commissioner Tamara Abood as head of factual. while Educating Essex director David Clews joined as head of docs and Martin Trickey joined as digital creative director to work on cross-platform projects. KR

Employees: 122

Hours: 100-plus

Current/recent titles: Educating Essex, Choccywoccydoodah

Upcoming: Be Your Own Boss, The Exclusives

Wall to Wall (part of the Shed Media Group)

London/www.walltowall.co.uk

Global 100 veterans Wall to Wall cornered the genealogy genre in 2011 with ITV’s Long Lost Family and the eighth season of celebrity family tree show Who Do You Think You Are?. Returning factual series included BBC hit Turn Back Time and the second season of Drugs, Inc. for National Geographic. In 2012, the company is moving into the singing competition realm with a British version of The Voice for the BBC. Entertainment formats will be a big focus of the year ahead. New hires in 2011 included former BBC editor of format entertainment Moira Ross, who took on the newly created role of head of entertainment. KR

Employees: 50

Hours: 130

Current/recent titles: Who Do You Think You Are?, Long Lost Family

Upcoming: The Voice UK

Windfall Films

London/www.windfallfilms.com

History and science-centric prodco Windfall continued to specialize in gloriously elaborate engineering feats. Its engineering-centric slate included the third season of Big, Bigger, Biggest, and the fifth of Monster Moves, both for National Geographic. On the natural history side, Windfall will build on the success of Inside Nature’s Giants (Channel 4/PBS) with an ambitious multi-platform natural history event and several “hands-on” history projects. Other gems from last year include the two-hour doc The Return of the Dambusters, a copro with Omni Film about a 1943 bombing raid on Germany, and the heartstring tugger Alex: A Life Fast Forward, about a 21-year-old terminal cancer patient who falls in love. KR

Employees: 20

Hours: 35

Current/recent titles: Alex: A Life Fast Forward; Dambusters; Inside Nature’s Giants

Upcoming: Massive Moves, Escape from Colditz

OTHER UK GLOBAL 100 PRODCOS (Name/titles/web):

Atlantic Productions/Bachelor King 3D/www.atlanticproductions.co.uk

Blink Films/Mummifying Alan/www.blinkfilmsuk.com

Darlow Smithson (an Endemol company)/How Hard Can It Be?/www.darlowsmithson.com

Dragonfly (a Shine Group company)/One Born Every Minute, Bear’s Wild Weekend/www.dragonfly.tv

Firecracker Films/My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding/www.firecrackerfilms.com

FremantleMedia/Got Talent/www.fremantlemedia.com

The Garden/24 Hours in A&E/www.thegardenproductions.tv

Icon Films/River Monsters/www.iconfilms.co.uk

Impossible Pictures/The Last War Heroes/www.impossiblepictures.co.uk

Keo Films/Terry Pratchett: Choosing to Die/www.keofilms.com

Love Productions/Great British Bake Off/www.loveproductions.com

Minnow Films/Scenes from a Teenage Killing/www.minnowfilms.co.uk

Nutopia/Targeting Bin Laden, Rogue Sharks/www.nutopia.com

Optomen/Mary Queen of Frocks/www.optomen.com

Oxford Scientific Films/Fatal Attractions, Meerkats 3D/www.oxfordscientificfilms.tv

Parthenon Entertainment/Mystery Files/www.parthenonentertainment.com

Pioneer Productions/Curiosity, How Drugs Work/www.pioneertv.com

Raw TV/Gold Rush Alaska/www.rawtelevision.com

RDF Television/Secret Millionaire/www.rdftelevision.com

Renegade Pictures/Concrete Jungle, Don’t Tell the Bride/www.renegadepictures.co.uk

Shine TV (A News Corp company)/MasterChef/www.shine.tv

Studio Lambert/Undercover Boss/www.studiolambert.com

Talkback Thames (A FremantleMedia company)/Four Rooms/www.talkbackthames.com

True Vision/Poor Kids/www.truevisiontv.com

Twenty Twenty (a Shed Media company)/The Choir: Military Wives/www.twentytwenty.tv

Wide-Eyed Entertainment/March of the Dinosaurs (with Yap Films), Redemption Inc./www.wide-eyedentertainment.co.uk

Zig Zag/Freddie Flintoff Versus the World, Transgender Kids/www.zigzak.uk.com

 

U.S.

Collins Avenue (a Content Media Corp company)*

Los Angeles/www.collinsave.com

With Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance owning the dance competition genre, Collins Avenue took a different approach to hitting the dance floor, creating a franchise focusing on the moms behind precocious dancers with the docuseries Dance Moms for Lifetime. Since then, the series has spawned a second season, a Miami-based version and a figure skating iteration (Ice Moms), all for Lifetime.

“Last year we sold two shows from sizzle reels straight to series,” says Collins head Jeff Collins. “Dance Moms became an instant hit and changed the profile of our company in a meaningful way. Although we’re not really a little ’boutique’ shop anymore, we still operate like one because we’re not over-burdened by layers of corporate red tape. At the end of the day, it’s my name on the door and my business partners trust me to make my own decisions.” KA

Employees: Fluctuates between 100-300

Hours: 100

Recent titles: Dance Moms, Dance Moms Miami, Outrageous Kids Parties, Fly Girls, Ice Moms

Upcoming: Tunnel Men, Hockey Parents, Football Parents, American Car Haulers

Gurney Productions*

Los Angeles/www.gurneyproductions.com

If you’re an American guy with a pulse, you’ve likely been hooked by Gurney Productions’ series Auction Hunters (Spike TV’s biggest hit on its air), American Guns for Discovery and Haunted Collector for Syfy. Established in 2005 by Deirdre and Scott Gurney, the prodco also produces assorted Discovery Channel specials that run during ‘Shark Week.’ Gurney is continuing to grow with seven series and various specials currently in production.

“We have built our business around three basic principles – being positive, being solution-minded, and forward thinking,” says Scott Gurney. “We empower our employees and allow them to think outside the box.” KA

Employees: 150-200

Hours: 90

Current/recent titles: Auction Hunters, American Guns, Haunted Collector, Ragin’ Cajuns

Upcoming: Duck Dynasty, Monster Man, American Digger, Luggage Wars

Half Yard Productions

Bethesda, New York/www.halfyardproductions.com

Abby Greensfelder and partner Sean Gallagher left their network jobs in 2006 to strike out on their own, and have since nurtured an enduring franchise in the form of TLC’s Say Yes to the Dress (pictured). Half Yard has also made a splash on Animal Planet with the debut of Hillbilly Handfishin’, the series that introduced the world to the art of catching catfish, also known as noodling.

As for a secret to the company’s success, Greensfelder and Gallagher say: “The Half Yard Productions team seeks out ordinary people who are doing extraordinary things and chronicles their lives, business, families or passions in a way that viewers can relate to. Whether it’s noodling, digging, preparing for the end days or getting married, every story is a very personal and emotional journey.” KA

Employees: 150

Hours: 100

Current/recent titles: Say Yes to the Dress, Randy to the Rescue, Doomsday Bunkers, Diggers, Modern Marvels, Hillbilly Handfishin’, Gun It, Jersey Couture

Upcoming: Yet-to-be-announced pilots for Spike, TLC, Bravo and History

Magilla Entertainment*

New York/www.magilla.tv

Magilla brewed up a hit by looking into the illicit – and illegal – underground liquor industry in America with Discovery Channel’s Moonshiners and also found success with taking the “hunting” out of the paranormal genre and giving it a new face from Long Island in the form of medium Theresa Caputo, aka TLC’s Long Island Medium. That series pulled in an average of 1.3 million P2+ viewers, and Bayou Billionaires on CMT emerged as one of the network’s highest-rated series. Magilla principals Brian Flanagan, Matthew Ostrom and Laura Palumbo Johnson obviously have a knack for finding great characters within interesting worlds, as all three series are heading into second seasons.

“We are just getting started and take pride in surrounding ourselves with extremely talented people. TV is a team sport and we look forward to new collaborations and continued success,” says Flanagan. KA

Employees: 75

Hours: 35

Current/recent titles: Moonshiners, Long Island Medium, Bayou Billionaires

Upcoming: Bayou Billionaires two, Long Island Medium two, Celebrities At Home with Nancy O’Dell

Pilgrim Studios

North Hollywood/www.pilgrimstudios.com

Headed up by CEO Craig Piligian, the prodco formerly known as Pilgrim Films & Television has seemingly gone from strength to strength, with established series such as Top Shot for History and American Chopper: Junior vs. Senior for Discovery pulling in great numbers. A high point for the latter series came in the form of a live “build off” special (pictured) which nabbed 4.8 million total viewers. Another Pilgrim franchise, The Ultimate Fighter, moved from Spike after 14 seasons to Fox’s FX, and premiered in March.

Series making their debuts later in 2011 included Big Shrimpin’ for History and docusoap Welcome to Sweetie Pie’s for Oprah Winfrey Network, with the latter already renewed for a second season. Pilgrim also made a move into scripted via the Lifetime project Amanda Knox: Murder on Trail in Italy. So far in 2012, Pilgrim is adding to its testosterone-friendly fare with such series as Full Metal Jousting for History and a fishing foray for National Geographic Channel, the upcoming Wicked Tuna. BW

Employees: 600-plus

Hours: 300-plus

Current/recent titles: Welcome to Sweetie Pie’s, Ultimate Fighter, Top Shot

Upcoming: Wicked Tuna

Scott Free*

Los Angeles (U.S. office)/ www.rsafilms.com/page/scottfree

While Scott Free, a sister company to Ridley Scott’s commercial prodco RSA Films, has made its mark in feature films (its London office was behind the doc collaboration with YouTube, Life in a Day), its non-fiction TV department, overseen by Mary Lisio, made significant strides in 2011 via such projects as the Emmy-winning Gettysburg for History and Prophets of Science Fiction for Science.

The company has also shown forward thinking in the branded content sphere, via innovative projects such as Re:Generation, a music doc helmed by The Tillman Story’s Amir Bar-Lev and supported by Hyundai. “Our company’s ability to work so closely with RSA Films and their roster of incredible directors in the branded entertainment space has also allowed our growth into the theatrical documentary and online distribution areas,” says Lisio. “We are looking to raise the bar on non-fiction programming again this year.” BW

Employees: 50-plus (in London and LA)

Hours: 10

Current/recent titles: Gettysburg, Prophets of Science Fiction

Upcoming: Killing Lincoln

World of Wonder

Hollywood/www.worldofwonder.net

World of Wonder continues to remain a favorite producer for networks looking to tap into pop culture and raise an eyebrow or two while doing so, with series such as RuPaul’s Drag Race on Logo and Million Dollar Listing on Bravo several seasons deep. The company, headed up by Randy Barbato and Fenton Bailey, has also had success in the feature doc realm over the years, with 2011′s Becoming Chaz, a candid look at Bono’s gender reassignment from female to male, premiering at Sundance, airing as part of Oprah Winfrey Network’s Documentary Club, garnering an Emmy nomination and spawning a sequel (Being Chaz). The team also supports and promotes its projects through its blog, appropriately titled The Wow Report.

“Whether it’s the crazy Bounce scene breaking out of New Orleans, two gay dads who’ve adopted 10 kids in Michigan, or Travis Wall’s dance troupe launching in Hollywood, telling the stories of rule breakers making a difference really inspires us,” says Bailey. “There really isn’t a more exciting time to be working in unscripted.” BW

Employees: Approximately 100

Hours: 130

Current/recent titles: Becoming Chaz, Being Chaz, RuPaul’s Drag Race, Million Dollar Listing

Upcoming: All the Right Moves

OTHER U.S. GLOBAL 100 PRODCOS (Name/titles/web):

3 Ball Productions (an Eyeworks company)/The Biggest Loser/www.3ballproductions.com

495 Productions/Jersey Shore, Repo Games/www.495productions.com

Asylum Entertainment/Four of a Kind/www.asylument.com

Atlas Media Corp./Dr. G Medical Examiner, Big Sexy/www.atlasmediacorp.com

Authentic Entertainment (an Endemol company)/Toddlers & Tiaras, The Best Thing I Ever Ate/www.authentictv.com

Base Productions (a Tinopolis company)/Police POV, Sports Science/www.baseproductions.com

Big Fish Productions/DC Cupcakes, Bomb Patrol Afghanistan/www.bigfishusa.com

Bunim/Murray Productions (a Banijay company)/The Real World, Project Runway/www.bunim-murray.com

Embassy Row* (A Sony Pictures Television company)/The Glee Project/www.embassyrow.com

Evolution Media/The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills/www.evolutionusa.com

Figure 8 Films/Sister Wives /www.figure8films.tv

Flight 33 Productions/Rocket City Rednecks/www.flight33.tv

Florentine Films/Prohibition/www.florentinefilms.com

Gay Rosenthal Productions/Little People, Big World/No website

GRB Entertainment/Intervention/www.grbtv.com

High Noon Entertainment/Cake Boss, Disaster House/www.highnoonentertainment.com

Hybrid Films/Dog The Bounty Hunter, Parking Wars/www.hybridfilms.tv

Intuitive Entertainment/Pit Boss, Millionaire Matchmaker/www.intuitivellc.com

Karga Seven/Spy Wars/www.karga7.com

Kartemquin Films/The Interrupters/www.kartemquin.com

Left/Right/Mob Wives, Russian Dolls/www.leftright.tv

Leftfield Pictures/Pawn Stars, American Restoration/www.leftfieldpictures.com

Magical Elves/Top Chef, Braxton Family Values/www.magicalelves.com

Mark Burnett Productions/Survivor, The Voice/No website

Megalomedia/Shipping Wars/www.megalomedia.com

North South Productions/Say Yes to the Dress Atlanta/www.northsouth.tv

Original Media (an Endemol company)/NY Ink/www.originalmedia.com

Original Productions/Storage Wars, Deadliest Catch/www.originalprods.com

Part 2 Pictures/Hard Time, Our America with Lisa Ling/www.part2pictures.com

Ping Pong Productions/Finding Bigfoot, Destination Truth/www.ppongproductions.com

Relativity REAL/Coming Home, Police Women/www.relativitymediallc.com

Screaming Flea Productions/Hoarders/www.sfpseattle.com

Sharp Entertainment/Extreme Couponing, Man v. Food/www.sharpentertainment.com

Shed Media US (A Shed Media company)/All-American Muslim/www.shedmediaus.com

Sirens Media/Real Housewives of New Jersey; Stolen Voices, Buried Secrets/www.sirensmedia.com

A. Smith & Co. (a Tinopolis company)/Kitchen Nightmares/www.asmithco.com

Spitfire Pictures (an Exclusive Media Group company)/Undefeated, George Harrison: Living in the Material World/www.spitfirepictures.com

 

INTERNATIONAL

Cordell Jigsaw

Woolloomooloo, Australia/www.cordelljigsaw.com

Already a giant on the Australian factual production scene, Cordell Jigsaw Productions, headed up by Michael Cordell and Nick Murray, had a banner year in 2011 with the success of its controversial social experiment series for SBS, Go Back to Where You Came From (see our MIPTV Picks feature). The past year also saw Cordell Jigsaw expand via two joint ventures – a specialist science prodco, Genepool, with Sonya Pemberton, and factual prodco Ronde with Bondi Rescue‘s Ben Davies.

But a bigger expansion came in the early months of this year, with the announcement that Cordell Jigsaw was merging with Andrew Denton’s Zapruder’s Other Films, which makes the new entity, Cordell Jigsaw Zapruder, the biggest indie prodco in Australia. This year, priority projects include a series for Australia’s A&E, MegaTruckers, and another season of Go Back. BW

Employees: 30-40

Hours: 40-plus

Current/recent titles: Go Back to Where You Came From, MegaTruckers, Bondi Rescue

Upcoming: Great Southern Land, Two in the Great Divide

OTHER INTERNATIONAL GLOBAL 100 PRODCOS (Name/titles/head office/web):

Beyond Productions/Mythbusters, Taboo/Sydney/www.beyond.com.au

Clarke, Costelle & Co/Apocalypse: Hitler/Paris/www.cccprod.com

Endemol/Wipeout, Big Brother/Amsterdam/www.endemol.com

Essential Media & Entertainment/Seduction in the City/Sydney/www.essential-media.com

Gruppe 5 Filmproduktion/Holy War, Walking the Great Wall/Cologne/www.gruppe5film.de

Heymann Brothers Films/Life in Stills/Tel Aviv/www.heymannfilms.com

NHNZ (A Fox company)/I Survived: Beyond and Back; China Revealed/Dunedin/www.nhnz.tv

Off the Fence/Twins of the Twin Towers/Amsterdam/new.offthefence.com

About The Author
Managing editor with realscreen publication, an international print and online magazine that covers the non-fiction film and television industries. Darah is an award-winning journalist who has spent over two decades covering a wide range of issues from real estate and urban development to immigration, politics and human rights, primarily with The Vancouver Sun. Prior to joining realscreen, she was editor of Stream Daily, realscreen's sister publication covering the dynamic global digital video industry. She also served a stint as a war reporter in Afghanistan for television and print, and was a national business blogger with Yahoo Canada.

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