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
Andrew Tracy joined Realscreen as associate editor in 2021, following 17 years as managing editor of the award-winning international film magazine Cinema Scope. From 2010 to 2020 he also held the position of senior editor at the Toronto International Film Festival, where he oversaw the flagship publication for the organization’s year-round Cinematheque programming and edited its first original monograph in a decade, Steve Gravestock’s A History of Icelandic Film. He was a scriptwriter and consultant on the first season of the Vice TV series The Vice Guide to Film, and his writing and reporting have been featured in such outlets as Cinema Scope, Reverse Shot, Sight & Sound, Cineaste, Film Comment, MUBI Notebook, POV, and Montage.