‘Un coup de foudre,’ says Anna Glogowski, Canal+ deputy director of documentaries, to describe what would compel her to pick up a finished project. The French phrase for ‘love at first sight’ translates literally into ‘a strike of lightning.’
‘We have to have programs which are gems,’ says Glogowski, which is why the channel, mostly acquisition driven at its start, now concentrates on getting in early. Hence DocStar, its documentary investment fund subsidiary, which, she says, allows them to ‘put more money in programs we can air on Canal+ and keep European rights, and therefore, be a more grown up partner in quality programs. That has been our strategy; that’s why we go to places like the Amsterdam Forum.’
Projects shown to Glogowski don’t always find a home, but can lead to future ventures – which is what happened with Game Park. In Cannes last year, Canal+ went into coproduction with London-based Double Exposure for 4 x 1 hours on a South African wildlife park.
Glogowski had been pitched House, the same u.k. prodco’s documentary about Covent Garden, which received an Emmy for its revealing look at backstage politics among theater performers. The problem was it was ‘quite local. The quality was fantastic, but it was a difficult thing to put into French for an audience like ours,’she says.
House’s British angle might have kept it from being an ideal candidate for Canal+’ French audience, but she saw potential in the producers.’These people knew how to tell a story; they had proved it with House, and they had a real desire of working on it.’
The total budget reaches £368,000, of which Canal+ put in more than half in exchange for all rights worldwide, except for South Africa, which sabc, another partner, holds, and the u.k. Currently in post-production, it has yet to be determined how the series will be programmed.
In Game Park, ‘you have wildlife, human relations, politics and relations between man and animals, all in the frame of a film which has been shot over a long time, by people who really knew what they were talking about,’ says Glogowski. ‘It’s a very good story. It’s something that’s never been seen before; a different way to talk about what’s going on in a country.’
This ‘cross of focus’ found in Game Park is key for Glogowski. ‘I think we have to try to innovate the genre, and while [Canal+ continues] doing very high-profile blue-chip natural-history programs, I think it’s important to push the limits of the genre and try and find new ways of thinking about this theme.’
Glogowski has been with the Paris-based pay-tv service since its launch in 1984. A former sociologist who worked on sound in independent documentary productions, she ‘transferred [her] hobby into [her] main occupation.’ Canal+’ doc team, headed by Catherine Lamour, consists of about five people. Each brings product to the table, and decisions are made ‘according to our needs and also the budget.’ Glogowski is involved in scheduling as well as ‘overseeing the artistic evolution of a product.’
Canal+ has approximately a hundred slots per year for documentaries, about 80% of which are coproductions or prebuys. The rights the broadcaster requires include exclusive first run on French television, which would consist of about six plays with satellite multiplexing on its other channels.
Programming, consisting mainly of cinema and sports, tends to be done on an event-policy basis, with docs directed toward the family. These include adventure, discovery, wildlife and nature, with some history, popular science and French social issues (which are generated in-house, then commissioned).
As for the coup de foudre, Glogowski can recall two recent acquisitions which hit that apogee: East Side Story and The Living Edens.