At this time during last year’s Sunny Side of the Doc conference and market in La Rochelle, France Télévisions’ Caroline Behar, head of international coproductions and acquisitions, addressed a packed auditorium where she announced the launch of the Global Doc initiative.
In the year since, Global Doc – an editorial, creative and financial alliance of international pubcasters – has moved swiftly in its ambition to initiate and co-create a slate of internationally produced documentary projects.
The initiative, which has already launched five projects with different partners, places an emphasis on bringing added value to the editorial of an ambitious project by “building stories, investigating together, sharing access, sharing archive, sharing technology,” says Behar (pictured, top right), who was back at Sunny Side ’20 for its first-ever virtual “Connected Edition” to provide insight into the first co-creations from the initiative.
“The objective is very clear: Create a network of international broadcasters and involve indie producers in order to co-create projects together,” she adds. “All of this cooperation is really the initiative of Global Doc. There’s been strong solidarity.”
While all of the projects to stem from the global enterprise have thus far worked with different models and different mechanisms of cooperation, Behar says there are threads of commonality that can drive the success of an international coproduction.
In total there are five common links, with the first being that access to research, to exclusive archives, or to untold stories has been provided.
Step two, Behar says, is to work in the spirit of co-creation with a clear definition of each person’s role and with a complimentary approach.
The third is to work in collaboration with broadcasters while involving independent producers from each country involved, ensuring that “partners are contributing to the funding at the same level of investment,” according to Behar.
The final step, meanwhile, is to work on one international master version while also adapting localized versions if necessary.
While France Télévisions has always worked in the international coproduction space, Global Doc has pushed the network’s efforts on editorial brainstorming.
The two examples that illustrated Global Doc’s model most prominently included The Bay of Naples, a France Télévisions copro with Italy’s RAI; and Upon the Far Side of the Moon: Investigating China’s Space Program, which is a coproduction between France Télévisions, Camera Lucida and China Media Group’s CCTV-9.
The Bay of Naples, which follows scientists in the field as they attempt to understand and monitor the next Vesuvius eruption, is the first project to stem from the Global Doc initiative, and also the first copro between France Télévisions and RAI.
“For me, the model on this production is perfect,” notes Duilio Giammaria (bottom right), director for RAI’s documentary division. “We have two public broadcasters, France TV and RAI, and in the middle we have two independent producers from France and Italy who worked together to bring in added value editorially and, of course, financially.”
The film, which was produced for France 5′s popular science strand ‘Science Grand Format’, received strong financial investments from the companies involved, including the Italian and French networks which brought US$300,000 to the project.
Meanwhile, Upon the Far Side of the Moon: Investigating China’s Space Program saw Yan Shi, deputy managing director at CCTV-9, approaching Behar and France Télévisions last summer with a project that would offer exclusive access and archives into China’s efforts to capture images and other data from the far side of Earth’s moon.
“The big challenge was to create the link between this Chinese content and the international scientific investigation, to have a really strong appeal for the international audience,” says Behar.
For Valérie Grenon (bottom left), documentary producer at Camera Lucida Productions, the solution to draw in interest from the international market was to lean heavily on the scientific investigations of French physicist Christophe Galfard – whose academic advisor was Stephen Hawking and is well known throughout China as an author.
“It’s important you take time to build a mutual understanding,” states Grenon. “We met with CCTV-9 and Caroline one year ago and we exchanged a lot [of information] and it created a relationship of trust.”
The series has been in development for more than a year and will be delivered in three versions before the end of 2021.
Upon the Far Side of the Moon will be made available in a 90-minute version for France 5′s ‘Science Grand Format’ slot, as well as a 52-minute adaptation for the international market, and a three-part Chinese version with an episode run time of 50 minutes.
Peter Hamilton (top left), a consultant and founder of DocumentaryTelevision.com, served as moderator on the panel.