It’s that time of year again, to look back at the past 12 months, assess the highs and the lows, and maybe make a quip or two while doing so. Look for more from our annual year-end survey here at Realscreen.com and in our upcoming January/February issue. We continue our look at the year that was with Ludo Dufour, senior vice president of co-productions and sales at Blue Ant International.
My favorite factual program/series (or feature documentary) of 2019 was:
Love on the Spectrum is important television, combating misconceptions and approaching the topic of love and intimacy for people on the autistic spectrum in an entertaining and sensitive way. Produced by Northern Pictures for ABC Australia, directed by Cian O’Clery (The Matrix Reloaded, Employable Me) and executive produced by Karina Holden (Blue, Magical Land of Oz).
I never thought they’d make a program about:
Homosexuality in the animal kingdom. But My Gay Dog and Other Animals, produced by Arrow Pictures for Channel 4, did just that and provided a frank look at animal sexuality, exploring why homosexual behavior is found throughout the animal kingdom. From dogs and sheep to bonobos and lions, My Gay Dog and Other Animals reveals which animals display this behavior, in homes and in the wild. With input from experts in evolutionary anthropology, sexuality, sex-differences, and gender-differences, this film is the perfect scientific answer to anyone who would still claim that homosexuality is “unnatural”.
The program/series/doc people will be talking about in five years is:
The Game Changers is a perfect example of the successful intersection of two trends: The first is the non-fiction industry’s trend of attaching on-screen and off-screen talent to elevate projects in order to attract and convince a global audience who would otherwise not choose to watch a film on that particular topic. On-screen talent includes Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lewis Hamilton and off-screen, the film was directed by Louie Psihoyos and executive produced by James Cameron, Jackie Chan, Pamela Anderson and Novac Djokovic. And the second trend is an overall societal movement towards a more plant-based diet. As the threat of climate change continues to increase and people’s health continues to deteriorate, we will be talking about this film five years from now as one of the first communications tools that had a global impact and helped convince some in society to transition to a more plant-based diet.
In 18 months, no one will be talking about:
Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. While the show generated a lot of buzz at launch, with its sleek production value and very endearing Japanese-speaking host, it is hard to see it sparking joy for generations to come, if it remains loyal to its original drawer-tidying format.
The best factual content I’ve seen online this year was:
Vox’s Earworm series, hosted by Estelle Caswell, who takes the audience on a musical journey to discover the stories and sounds behind the viewer’s favorite songs. From the music industry’s obsession with Falsetto to the influence of Disco on House music, the series studies, details and helps visualize through amazing research and animated infographics, the fascinating and usually exclusively acoustic world of music.
The most positive development in the non-fiction/unscripted content industry this past year was:
The legacy media brands launching their own OTT services and the multitude of niche VOD platforms launching alongside these giants.
The most troubling development in the non-fiction/unscripted content industry this past year was:
The growing trend towards ad-supported VOD platforms to pay for neither license nor material, differing all the risk to producers and distributors.
The idea I wish I thought of was:
You Can’t Ask That, an in-house ABC Australia original series/format, first released in 2016, in which interviewees seated on a barstool in an empty studio are handed cards on which controversial questions from the public are written. The interviewees are all from a minority population, including people of short stature, Muslims, sex workers, transgender people and more. It is a very simple concept, can be produced affordably, and yet it manages to take viewers on an emotional journey from tears to laughter while also raising awareness of the challenges these individuals face, as well as educating audiences about how they perceive the world around them and wish to be treated and considered.
The idea I’m happiest to have had this year was:
Though I can’t take credit for it, Canada’s Drag Race produced by Saloon Media, a Blue Ant Studios company.
If 2019 taught me one thing it was:
The OTT transition has well and truly taken place and the network to streamers ratio of revenue is starting to shift with the OTT share growing from one month to another, plus despite the established new entrants coming in for a piece of the OTT pie, Netflix is here to stay and continues to set the trend for all others to follow.
The buzzword I don’t want to hear in 2020 is:
Consolidation. Although we will continue to see it happening within the production community as we have seen recently with Banijay acquiring Endemol Shine or with the latest reports of a potential upcoming sale of Red Arrow Studios to All3Media, many of us would welcome a stabilization of the situation after all the mergers and acquisitions of the past 5 years,.
My New Year’s resolution for 2020 is:
To continue partnering on and investing in premium content.