Global 100 2010

And here we are again – time for our annual Global 100 listing of the top independent production companies.
March 1, 2011

And here we are again – time for our annual Global 100 listing of the top independent production companies. Historically, we’ve asked you, the realscreen reader, to weigh in with your input and let us know what factual programs, documentaries and factual entertainment titles thrilled you to bits in 2010. We also asked broadcasters to send along the names of the series or one-offs that rated especially well for them over the course of the year.

Also, as we did last year, we asked all respondents to submit their choices with consideration for each non-fiction genre to provide a wider encapsulation of the great work being done throughout non-fiction as a whole. This year, that consideration resulted in a spike in natural history companies in the mix, a couple of companies that have produced innovative interactive doc projects, and a wider range of nationalities represented. Australian prodcos, in particular, have more of a presence in this year’s list, with broadcasters from within Australia and outside of the country chiming in on the prowess of the prodcos in this list.

The Global 100 represents a snapshot of the companies that proved to be the most influential, inspiring and trusted production partners of the past year. Each year brings some old favorites and fresh new blood, as it should. We thank you for your input and congratulate those who made the list.

Barry Walsh, Editor




This year saw the government-funded Film Board, a consistent entrant in this list, produce several projects that upheld its standards for engrossing, quality non-fiction. They included Charles Officer’s Mighty Jerome and Force of Nature: The David Suzuki Movie, a coproduction with eOne that put the 73-year- old scientist/activist/television host front and center as he delivered what he called “a last lecture… what I want to say before I die.” The NFB’s penchant for innovation also made waves via the continued success of its online film portal,, where some 13,000 films can be streamed for free and via iPhone and iPad, and interactive documentary projects such as the award-winning Highrise. In the year ahead, look for a return to 3D documentary via The St. Judes. Barry Walsh

Employees: 433

Hours: 112 productions and copros in 2009-2010

Recent titles: Mighty Jerome, Force of Nature: The David Suzuki Movie, HIGHRISE/Out My Window

Upcoming: The Future is Now, Wiebo’s War, Payback



Headed by former BBC/Mentorn alum, Guy O’Sullivan, Proper Television has established its reputation as one of Canada’s top factual entertainment producers via such high-performing series as Canada’s Worst Driver and Canada’s Worst Handyman (both for Discovery Canada). This past year saw the company bring the hugely successful Come Dine With Me format to the Great White North for W Network, which has recently ordered a second heaping helping of the series – 80 episodes’ worth. Expect season two to premiere this summer. For the immediate future, O’Sullivan plans to bring more of the booming formats business into Canada by selling more formats internationally, with help from an output deal with ITV Studios. BW

Employees: 106

Hours: 50

Recent/current titles: Come Dine with Me Canada, Canada’s Worst Driver, Junk Raiders

Upcoming: Come Dine with Me Canada series 2, Car Off a Cliff, Dealing with Dad



For more than 20 years, Vancouver’s Force Four Entertainment has been active in the documentary and non-fiction genre, and has also made its presence felt in the fact ent arena. This past year was especially strong in that department, with its Cupcake Girls series for W Network scooping up a Canadian Gemini award for best reality series, a slot on U.S. cable net WE tv, and a second season for W, airing this April. As well, its 65_Red Roses doc from 2009, which told the story of Eva Markvoort, a young woman awaiting a double lung transplant, continued to find new audiences and win acclaim, including a Banff Rockie Award for best Canadian program. BW

Employees: 52

Hours: 40+

Recent/current titles: Cupcake Girls, 65_Red Roses, Village on a Diet

Upcoming: Cupcake Girls series 2, Urban Suburban, Murder She Solved series 2


Anaid Productions/ X-Weighted, Family Restaurant/

Cineflix Productions/ American Pickers /

Cream Productions / I Could Do That/

EyeSteelFilm / Last Train Home /

Frantic Films / Princess; Pitchin’ In /

Insight Productions / Battle of the Blades /

Kensington Communications / Museum Secrets, City Sonic /

OmniFilm Productions / Ice Pilots NWT /

PTV Productions / Inside Disaster /




The feature documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop was KEO’s big international success story for 2010. Directed by the mysterious and reclusive graffiti artist Banksy, the film rode a wave of blog chatter and critical praise to sleeper success status with a US$5.2 million worldwide box office take and an Oscar nomination. On the home front, KEO created an innovative interactive campaign around the three-part Hugh’s Fish Fight food series to attract viewers and foster an online community around its conservationist cause. Other TV highlights from ’10 included the three-part observational series Welcome to Lagos, about life in the Nigerian capital, and a series based on the Amish tradition of rumspringa – a rite of passage when Amish teens are allowed to let loose in the outside world. Kevin Ritchie

Employees: 50

Hours: 28

Recent/current titles: Welcome To Lagos; Exit Through the Gift Shop; Hugh’s Fish Fight; Amish: The World’s Squarest Teenagers

Upcoming: Planning Outlaws, The Pawn King



Frequent collaborators of British icon David Attenborough, Atlantic made strides in the 3D realm with Flying Monsters in 3D, the blue chip dinosaur doc narrated by the British icon for nascent network Sky 3D. Another Attenborough 3D nature doc about a family of penguins is also on the way. In 2010, Atlantic’s IMAX feature doc about Everest climber George Mallory, The Wildest Dream (produced with Altitude Films), was lauded by critics in the U.S. and Europe for its breathtaking cinematography and the prodco continued to prove adept at finding new angles on natural history by following 2008′s Egypt: Unwrapped with another epic Nat Geo special, Rome: Unwrapped. KR

Employees: 70 staff, up to 100 freelancers

Hours: 42

Recent/current titles: Flying Monsters 3D; Rome: Unwrapped; Iceland Volcano: The Next Eruption; David Attenborough’s First Life

Upcoming: Penguin Island 3D (w/t), Dino X, Engineering the Impossible


London – LA

Studio Lambert was boss in 2010 thanks to its U.S. version of Undercover Boss, which snuck CEOs into low-ranking roles within their own companies. The London- and LA-based production company, headed up by chief executive Stephen Lambert, made a serious splash with the U.S. version of Boss on CBS (it had already debuted in the UK on Channel 4 in 2009) with the Super Bowl as its lead-in. The series is still going strong (at press time, CBS had reported its most recent episode had 10.6 million viewers) with second seasons of both UK and U.S. versions. In the UK, the prodco took a gamble on Seven Days, a unique interactive docusoap for Channel 4 which followed 18 people living in Notting Hill. The project invited viewers to provide advice to the characters in the docusoap via social networking, and all episodes were transmitted the same week they were filmed. Unfortunately the gamble didn’t pay off in ratings, with the series cancelled after a debut of one million viewers. Kelly Anderson

Employees: 27 in-house staff, 150-300 freelancers in the UK and US

Hours: 90

Upcoming: Undercover Boss (U.S.) season two, Undercover Boss (UK) season three, Three in a Bed season two, Four in a Bed season two, Fairy Jobmother (pictured) season two and Love Thy Neighbour


London – Chevy Chase, MD

While it has been little more than a year since Nutopia brought its first production, the big-budget History series America: The Story Of Us, to MIPTV, the factual production company has quickly made its mark, producing a string of memorable programs and unveiling a headline-grabbing partnership with fellow transatlantic prodco Studio Lambert. Nutopia, set up by former BBC2 and Discovery Channel topper Jane Root, followed up its ambitious history special with two productions for the UK’s Channel 4, and is currently working on Rogues, an hour-long nature special for Discovery’s ‘Shark Week.’ Meanwhile, the production partnership with Studio Lambert will see the Stephen Lambert-helmed firm adapting Nutopia’s formats, such as The House That Made Me, for U.S. networks. Adam Benzine

Employees: 12

Hours: 18

2010 titles: America: The Story of Us; 9/11 State of Emergency; The House that Made Me

Upcoming: Rogues



In 2010, London-based Raw Television made a reality series on gold-mining in Alaska must-watch television on Discovery Channel. Gold Rush: Alaska combined the allure of Alaska and the “dirty jobs” genre to create a ratings goldmine for Discovery. The series follows six miners facing the difficult terrain of Alaska in hopes of striking it rich and has delivered 4.55 million viewers for its finale this year. From gold to smuggled drugs, Raw Television has also made its mark with the National Geographic Channel documentary series Locked Up Abroad (aka Banged Up Abroad on Five in the UK). The series tells the stories of people who travelled abroad and ran up against the law, often for drug smuggling. KA

Employees: 12 full time, 41 other staff in the office, plus freelance crew and editors etc.

Hours: Around 40

Upcoming: Theatrical-release feature doc The Imposter (for A&E Indie Films/Film 4); another series of Gold Rush Alaska (Discovery); more Locked Up Abroad (Nat Geo); assorted series for BBC One, BBC Three, Syfy; a two-hour special for Nat Geo; and a TV and online series for Channel 4 Education.



Founded in 2006 by Alan Hayling, John Rowlands and Alex Cooke, Renegade Pictures has struck gold in the wedding genre with Don’t Tell the Bride, created for BBC Three. The series, in which the planning for a couple’s big day is left entirely up to the groom-to-be, often with hilarious if not dangerous results, has sold into scads of territories and the format is doing well internationally. The company has proven to be equally adept at home reno series (Beeny’s Restoration Nightmare), food stuff (Heston’s Mission Impossible), wildlife (The Lion Ranger) and yes, even 3D, as seen in late 2009′s The Queen in 3D, for Channel 4. BW

Employees: 14

Hours: 45

Recent/current titles: Don’t Tell the Bride, Beeny’s Restoration Nightmare

Upcoming: Marathon Boy, Don’t Tell the Bride Live, Royal Wedding of a Lifetime



In 2010 alone, London-based indie Love Productions managed to place Members of Parliament with families on social housing (Tower Block of Commons), upend WAGs from their pampered lifestyles to live in impoverished South African neighborhoods (WAGS, Kids and World Cup Dreams) and brought four UK celebrities to the unemployment line (Famous, Rich & Jobless). Each show proved that if handled carefully, a prodco could combine factual entertainment, serious social issues and high profile politicians and celebrities. In a prior interview with realscreen, Love’s creative director Richard McKerrow said of Tower Block of Commons, “We were really interested in making a series that takes two worlds and crashes them together.” Love Productions is continuing its unique recipe for upcoming projects, including Famous, Rich and Slumming It, while in the U.S. viewers can see Love’s work on OWN, with Kidnapped by the Kids. KA

Employees: 30 staff and about 35 freelancers

Hours: 30

Upcoming: The Great British Bake Off 2; Royal Wedding Cake (Bake Off Special); Breaking into Britain; Home is Where The Heart Is; Famous, Rich and Slumming It; Kidnapped By The Kids



While it had become apparent to most critics in the UK that Firecracker Films’ Big Fat Gypsy Weddings was becoming something of a phenomenon with Channel 4 viewers, it wasn’t until the series went head-to-head with The BRIT Awards’ telecast in February this year that the scale of that phenomenon became apparent. Gypsy Weddings‘ 6.5 million viewers easily thrashed the UK’s biggest annual music awards ceremony, prompting gasping headlines in the UK press. Reports now suggest that music mogul Simon Cowell is looking to champion a U.S. version of the series – a move which could work well with Firecracker having opened a Santa Monica office in 2009. AB

Employees: 40

Hours: 28

Recent/current titles: Big Fat Gypsy Weddings, Babies Behind Bars

Upcoming: Dad’s Having A Baby, Demon Hunter, Blonde Vs Bear

OTHER UK GLOBAL 100 PRODCOS (Name/ Titles / Website)

AGB Films/ The Wild Places of Essex/

Available Light / Shooting the War /

Back2Back / Responsible Business /

Blast! Films / Coppers /

Darlow Smithson (an Endemol company) / Atlas 4D, Stephen Hawking’s Universe /

Dragonfly (a Shine Group company) / One Born Every Minute, Blood of the Rose /

Fresh One / Jamie’s Food Revolution /

Icon Films / River Monsters /

Impossible Pictures / Blitz Street /

IWC Media (A Zodiak Media Group company)/ Genius of Britain /

Lion TV / Edwardian Farm, First Light /

Maverick Television / Embarrassing Illnesses /

Mentorn Media / An Idiot Abroad/

Monkey Kingdom / Young, Dumb and Living Off Mum /

Optomen (An All3Media company) / Heston’s Feast, Kitchen Nightmares/

Oxford Scientific Films/ Britain’s Witch Children/

Parthenon Entertainment / Mystery Files/

Pioneer Productions / Buried Alive: The Chile Mine Rescue /

Pulse Films/ Pineapple Dance Studios/

RDF Television (Zodiak Media Group)/ Secret Millionaire/

Shine TV / MasterChef, Got To Dance/

Talkback Thames (A FremantleMedia company)/ The Apprentice, X Factor/

Twenty Twenty (A Shed Media company)/ World’s Strictest Parents, Gareth Malone’s Extraordinary School for Boys/

Wall to Wall (A Shed Media company)/ Genius of Design, Who Do You Think You Are?/

Windfall Films/ Inside Nature’s Giants /



New York

Leftfield Pictures brought the unlikely subject of pawn shops to the forefront of reality TV with History’s smash hit, Pawn Stars. Pulling in six million viewers for recent episodes, the series featuring the Harrison family brings history alive through their dealings at the family-run Gold & Silver Pawn Shop outside of Las Vegas.

Interestingly, the series stemmed from the aftermath of a Las Vegas bachelor party. Leftfield principles Brent Montgomery and Colby Gaines were in Las Vegas and decided that there had to be stories to tell from the pawn shops they were driving past. The success of Pawn Stars has led to the launching of the “hidden treasures” genre, including other programs such as Leftfield’s own Pawn Stars spin-off American Restoration, also on History, truTV’s Hardcore Pawn and History’s American Pickers. KA

Employees: 100 current staff, 40 freelancers

Hours: 50

Upcoming: Pawn Stars 4, What the Sell?! for TLC, Setup Squad for Logo, Oddities for Science Channel, a new season of American Restoration for History, and as-yet-unannounced series for Bravo, A&E, HGTV and Science



The ultra-tanned cast of Jersey Shore, 495′s breakout reality series, now on its third season, proved that you can take the kids out of Jersey, but you can’t take Jersey out of the kids. Despite the second season move to Miami, viewers kept coming back for more from Angelina (now replaced by Deena), Ronnie, Sammi, Mike ‘the Situation,’ Snooki, Pauly D, Jenni ‘Jwoww’ and Vinny. In an earlier interview with realscreen, 495 Productions’ president SallyAnn Salsano summed up the prodco’s success: “Our shows are always really honest and we always play everything completely straight. In playing it straight, I think the humor naturally comes out.” The series has returned to Seaside Heights in New Jersey for season three, which is currently ranking number one in its target demo of 12-34 and is MTV’s top draw. Next up, the cast heads to Italy for its fourth season. KA

Employees: Fluctuates between 200-400

Hours: Close to 70

Upcoming: Jersey Shore 4 for MTV, Love Handles for Lifetime, Repo Games for Spike, Wedding Wars for VH1


New York

The Garden State turned out to be a reality gold mine (or gold digger) that kept on giving last year for first-time Global 100 prodco Sirens Media. The New Jersey edition of Bravo’s The Real Housewives of… continued to score some of the highest ratings in the franchise’s history and will return for a third run in 2011. In April, the five-year-old company inked a global distribution deal with Endemol Worldwide for a trio of investigative programs for Discovery’s ID Network: Who the (Bleep) Did I Marry?, I Was Murdered and Murder on Main Street. Programming with a dark undercurrent or revelation was also at the heart of Discovery Health’s I’m Pregnant and…, a grittier entry in the pregnancy genre, and Strange Sex, a one-hour special on extreme sexual disorders for TLC. KR

Employees: 100

Hours: 90

Recent/current titles: Real Housewives of New Jersey, Strange Sex, Who the (Bleep) Did I Marry?, I’m Pregnant And…, Prison Wives

Upcoming: The Theriot Family: The Riot in the Bayou; Stolen Voices, Buried Secrets; Nightmare Next Door

ORIGINAL PRODUCTIONS (A FremantleMedia company]


The company behind Discovery’s Deadliest Catch and History’s Ice Road Truckers continued to expand its roster of popular blue collar docusoaps, with Storage Wars becoming a fixture on A&E’s Wednesday night. Seven of its series were renewed, including NGC’s Wild Justice, truTV’s Black Gold and History’s Ax Men. This year the company will venture into coal mining with Spike’s Coal. Perhaps the biggest test of Original’s storytelling mettle was the death of Catch star Captain Phil Harris, who passed on following a stroke. The event was woven into the final episode of the season, “Redemption Day,” which drew 8.5 million viewers. “We were in unchartered territory but it was handled beautifully with the cooperation of the network,” says CEO/EP Thom Beers. KR

Employees: 250-300

Hours: 185

Recent/current titles: Ice Road Truckers, Deadliest Catch, Storage Wars, Wild Justice

Upcoming: Coal, Whisker Wars


North Hollywood

Craig Piligian, founder of Pilgrim Films & Television, is in the business of making big, bold reality TV and in 2010 the hits kept comin’. Consider the story of Only In America with Larry the Cable Guy, in which the blue collar comedian travels across America in search of the, shall we say, out-of-the-ornery. It’s a fair bet that U.S. cable net History thought Larry’s built-in audience would flock to their Cable Guy on cable, and sure enough they did – the premiere episode delivered 4.1 million viewers. Also for History, the second season of Top Shot performed well, and the return of American Chopper to Discovery via a new series, Senior vs. Junior, will see a second season this spring. BW

Employees: Approx. 676

Hours: 300

Recent titles: Top Shot, Only in America with Larry the Cable Guy, My Fair Wedding; Dirty Jobs; Out of the Wild; Swamp Logging; Ultimate Fighter; Ghost Hunters; Miracle Detectives

Upcoming: Mad About the House


Washington, DC

In 2010, Creative Differences continued its fruitful relationship with Werner Herzog, producing the intrepid auteur’s 3D cave art opus Cave of Forgotten Dreams. The company’s third consecutive doc with the director – produced for ID and Channel 4 – is due in the fall, a film president Erik Nelson describes “Werner Herzog’s exploration of the darkness at the edge of death row – a la Bruce Springsteen.” The company was behind high-profile projects for Discovery, including Into The Shark Bite and Blood Dolphins, a spin-off of Oscar-winning doc The Cove. It’s also in the midst of producing Discovery’s fully-CGI animated blockbuster mini-series Reign of the Dinosaurs, due this year. KR

Employees: 50

Hours: 20

Recent/current titles: Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Blood Dolphins, Into the Shark Bite Upcoming: Untitled Herzog death row doc, Penn and Teller’s Secrets of the Universe, True Crime with Aphrodite Jones, Engineering Evil and Kubrick’s Napoleon


New York

Perhaps Charles Ferguson isn’t your typical film director. Getting his PhD in political science from M.I.T., he had a stint as a consultant for the White House and U.S. defense department, on issues concerning the intersection between technology, globalization and policy. From there, he founded a software company, Vermeer Technologies, which he then sold to Microsoft for US$133 million. But throughout his life, he had an avid interest in film – an interest he began pursuing concretely in 2005 by forming Representational Pictures.

His first film, No End in Sight (2005), set its focus on the occupation of Iraq and 2010′s Inside Job (pictured) was equally unflinching in its examination of the relationship between years of financial deregulation in the U.S. and the global economic meltdown of 2008. The film deservedly grabbed the Oscar for best documentary feature, and Ferguson, thanks to his combination of book smarts and hard-nosed journalism, has earned his reputation as one of the most fearless docmakers working today. BW

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

@radicalmedia / Iconoclasts/

40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks / If God is Willing and Da Creek Don’t Rise/

3Ball Productions (an Eyeworks company)/ Biggest Loser (with Reveill and 25/7) /

Atlas Media Corp / Dr. G Medical Examiner/

Authentic Entertainment (An Endemol company) / Ace of Cakes, Toddlers & Tiaras/

Bunim-Murray Productions (A Banijay company)/ The Real World, Project Runway /

Figure 8 Films / Sister Wives, Kate Plus 8 /

Flight 33 Productions / The Universe: Seven Wonders of the Solar System /

Florentine Films (Ken Burns) / The Tenth Inning /

FremantleMedia North America / American Idol /

Go Go Luckey/ Brad Meltzer’s Decoded, Paranormal State/

GRB Entertainment/ Intervention/

Half Yard Productions/ Say Yes to the Dress, Real Housewives of DC/

High Noon Entertainment/ Cake Boss/

Hoff Productions/ I, Detective; Extreme Forensics/

Hybrid Films/ Dog the Bounty Hunter/

Indigo Films/ I (Almost) Got Away With It/

Jigsaw Productions (Alex Gibney)/ Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer/

Lizard Trading Company/ Whale Wars (with RIVR Media)/

Magical Elves/ Top Chef, Work of Art/

Mark Burnett Productions/ Survivor, Sarah Palin’s Alaska, The Apprentice/ No web

Original Media (An Endemol Company)/ Be Good Johnny Weir, The Rachel Zoe Project/

Participant Media/ Waiting for “Superman”/

Rain Media/ The Spill/

RelativityReal/ Police Women of Broward County/

Reveille (A Shine Group company)/ Biggest Loser, MasterChef U.S./ No web

Really Interesting Picture Company/ Nature’s Greatest Defender/

Screaming Flea Productions/ Hoarders, Sell This House/

Shed Media US/ Bettheny’s Getting Married?, Who Do You Think You Are US/

True Entertainment/ The A-List New York/

World of Wonder/ Fabulous Beekman Boys/



Prahran, Victoria

In 2010, Renegade Factual produced for SBS the two-part series Immigrant Nation: The Secret History of Us. It was the Australian pubcaster’s most important landmark history series since First Australians, and also the biggest cross-platform project in its history, incorporating TV, online video and radio.

The series attracted an average of 430,000 viewers, and the online component, featuring an interactive doc about how migrants shaped modern Australia, also received kudos. Other highlights of the past year’s productions included Inside the Firestorm (a realscreen MIPTV Pick in 2009, pictured) and House of Food Obsessives. BW

Employees: 14

Hours: 12

Recent/current titles: Immigrant Nation, Inside the Firestorm

Upcoming: Utopia Girls, A History of the Future, Brainfood


Beyond Productions / MythBusters /

Blackfella Films / Lani’s Story /

Cordell Jigsaw / Three Boys Dreaming, Living the End /

December Films / Out of the Ashes, Immortal /

Electric Pictures / Skin Deep /

Radio Pictures / Cane Toads: The Conquest /



Amsterdam, New York

This company has popped up in the Global 100 before, mainly on the strength of its natural history/wildlife programming, but this year a series for History in the U.S., Stan Lee’s Superhumans, gave the transcontinental prodco a boost as well. The series features real-life human beings with genetic capabilities that the X-Men have to hire teams of CG artists to achieve, and features comic book legend Lee as an MC of sorts. Other notable titles from the year included Slave Ship Mutiny, for ARTE and WNET Thirteen, and Shark Night for Animal Planet, France Télévisions and High Fidelity HDTV in Canada. BW

Employees: 65

Hours: 30

Recent/current titles: Stan Lee’s Superhumans, Slave Ship Mutiny

Upcoming: Mega Factories, Monkey Thieves season 3


Context TV (Berlin) / Two Rembrandts in the Garden /

Cloud South Films (Hawkes Bay, NZ) / This Way of Life /

Endemol (Netherlands) / Wipeout /

Explora Films (Madrid) / India: Pilgrims of the Ganges /

Gédéon Programmes (Paris) / The Blue Lotus /

Gruppe 5 Filmproduktion (Cologne) / Universe of the Oceans /

NHNZ (A Fox company, Dunedin, NZ) / Life Force /

Upian (Paris) / Prison Valley /

Yami 2 (Paris) / The Game of Death /



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