Realscreen’s MIPCOM Picks 2020, pt. 1

While the process of acquiring programming has changed this year due to the challenges and travel restrictions posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the amount of compelling content available for buyers around ...
October 4, 2020

While the process of acquiring programming has changed this year due to the challenges and travel restrictions posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the amount of compelling content available for buyers around the world remains consistent.

Submissions for our MIPCOM Picks this year spanned all the usual genres — natural history, science, social issues and current affairs, formats and factual entertainment among them — but, with some projects produced in the midst of the global lockdown, innovation and ingenuity needed to take center stage. So while some of the productions you’ll see in these pages wrapped filming prior to the pandemic, other projects used the limitations posed by the crisis to find a new way to explore their subject matter. And unsurprisingly, for a world in the throes of flux from various vantage points, a sizeable portion of the projects chosen reflect the pain we are experiencing together and the perseverance we are employing to get through it.

Congrats to our Best in Show, which wins a pass to the Realscreen Summit 2021 for the submitting company.

Partners: Montrose Pictures in association with Screen Scotland, BBC Scotland and El Dorado Pictures; distributed by Cargo Films and Releasing
Length: 114 minutes
Premiere: February 2020 (Glasgow Film Festival)
Rights available: All rights worldwide

Narrated by Alec Baldwin and directed by Scottish filmmaker Anthony Baxter (You’ve Been Trumped), this feature doc explores the lingering impact of the water crisis in Flint, Michigan that has extended over several years. In April of 2014, with a planned pipeline designed to provide a cheaper water source still in limbo, the city opted to take its water supply from the Flint River. By May, residents began complaining about the smell and color of the water and by August, e.coli and other bacteria was detected and water boiling advisories were issued. By September, the city issued a lead advisory, and by December, Flint’s mayor declared a state of emergency.

Filmed over five years, Flint examines the chain of events, the systemic racism that influenced them and the aftermath as citizens pursue justice for those who have suffered and died as a result.

Partners: Firecrest Films for BBC2; distributed by Banijay Rights
Length/volume: 4 x 60 minutes
Airing: October 2020 (UK)
Rights available: All rights worldwide excluding UK

From his days as part of the ground-breaking, provocative UK comedy troupe Monty Python’s Flying Circus to his more recent career in television as an unflappable globetrotter, Michael Palin has always projected a mix of insatiable curiosity and deft humor. This series sees Palin and a raft of famous fans looking back on some of his travelogues, including Around The World In 80 Days, Pole To Pole, Full Circle and Sahara, providing a glimpse into the challenges of making the programs, and the mischievous sense of adventure that made them unique television events.

Partners: LizMars for documentary Channel (Canada); distributed by MetFilm Sales
Length: 1 x 78 minutes; 1 x 90 minutes
Premiered: April 2020 (Hot Docs)
Rights available: All rights worldwide excl. Canada

As the planet faces multiple challenges regarding resources, the sustainability of the global food supply chain is no longer being taken for granted. This feature doc follows the efforts of those hoping to create a viable, synthetic alternative to meat that uses animal cells to create a food source that can be free from disease and infection, while also removing the need to breed and slaughter animals to feed the world. While it’s an industry in its infancy, and there are significant hurdles to face (a “meatball” created from the process cost $18,000 a pound in 2016), Meat the Future illuminates the progress being made towards revolutionizing how and what we eat.

Partners: PBS ‘Frontline’, Sasha Achilli; distributed by PBS International
Length: 54 minutes
Aired: May 2020 (PBS)
Rights available: All rights worldwide

As the COVID-19 pandemic first began to sweep the globe, Italy was one of the countries that was hardest hit. This documentary from the team behind the award-winning PBS current affairs strand ‘Frontline’ takes viewers behind the scenes at a hospital in Northern Italy as doctors, nurses and staff contend with the challenges posed by attempting to save patients battling the virus. Unprecedented access depicts the struggle and the heroism as it happens, and provides a remarkable window into a situation that sadly continues to unfold around the world.

Watch the trailer here.

Partners: Produced by Voltage; distributed by BBC Studios Distribution
Length/volume: 75 minutes
Premiere: October 2019, ITV
Rights available: World format rights

First airing on ITV and now being shopped by BBC Studios as a format, Our DNA Journey combines the current interest in exploring ancestry through DNA testing with the age-old “buddy movie” trope. The central theme: two celebrities (seen here: UK comedians Ant and Dec) each take a DNA test and have their genealogy extensively mapped by experts. From there, they hit the road together to wherever their genetic mapping leads them, reunite with family members they didn’t know they had and learn more about themselves, and each other.

Partners: Seven Studios for Seven Network; distributed by Beyond Rights
Length/volume: 8 x 60 minutes
Premiere: February 2020 (Seven, Australia)
Rights available: Worldwide excluding Australia, format rights

Dog grooming is a booming business, and this format, created by Beyond Productions’ London-based team, capitalizes on the coiffed canine craze to entertaining, family-friendly effect. First debuting in Australia with actor and fifth generation junior dog handler Rebel Wilson as host, the format sees dog groomers go head to head (and paw to paw) against each other in themed challenges designed to turn plain pooches into fabulous furry friends. A UK version is on the way via BBC1 with Sheridan Smith as host and another local version from a major broadcaster is also soon to be announced.

Watch the trailer here.

9/11 KIDS
Partners: Saloon Media, a Blue Ant Studios company, for documentary Channel (Canada); distributed by Blue Ant International
Length/volume: 1 x 90 minutes, 1 x 100 minutes
Premiere: Spring 2020 (documentary Channel, CBC Gem, CBC)
Rights available: Worldwide excluding Canada

On the morning of September 11, 2001, U.S. president George W. Bush was visiting Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida, listening as 16 children between the ages of six and seven read from the children’s book, The Pet Goat. Then, in a moment captured by the press and aired worldwide, White House chief of staff Andy Card approached the president and whispered in his ear: “A second plane has hit the second tower. America is under attack.” This documentary catches up with the class of “9/11 kids,” now in their 20s, and examines how that moment, and all that came after, impacted their lives and continues to do so now.

Partners: Toy Shop Entertainment in association with Screen Australia and Screen Queensland; distributed by Toy Shop Entertainment
Length: 90 minutes
Premiere: TBD
Rights available: Worldwide

If the past four years have taught us anything, it’s that anyone can run for office… and sometimes make it all the way. This Australian feature doc takes us to Kalgoorlie, Western Australia where Greek migrant John Katahanas, dubbed a “personality” by local press and also known as General Hercules, embarks on a campaign to change the system and run for mayor. Writer/director Brodie Poole (Where the River Runs Red) explores how the General’s bid for the mayoralty reflects the relationship between a local government and the citizens of a town undergoing change.

Partners: Bungalow Media and Entertainment for Lifetime; distributed by A+E Networks International
Length/volume: 4 x 60 minutes
Aired: August 2020 (Lifetime)
Rights available: Worldwide

Directed by Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg (Joan Rivers – A Piece of Work), this four-part limited series examines how financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein built a global network preying on young girls and women, and how he evaded justice until his second arrest in July of 2019 on charges of sex trafficking of minors in Florida and New York. Despite the death of Epstein while in custody, ruled as a suicide, more has yet to be uncovered about who may have aided and abetted the sordid affair. Like Lifetime’s previous limited series, Surviving R. Kelly, the program features interviews with survivors attempting to move ahead in their lives while fighting for justice.

Partners: Evolution Media TV; distributed by Earth Touch
Length: 1 x 50 minutes
Premiere: TBD
Rights available: All rights worldwide

On March 1, 1954, a defining moment in history occurred in the form of “Operation Castle.” The top secret endeavor of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission saw a 15-megaton hydrogen bomb explode off the Bikini atoll in the South Pacific, the biggest detonation ever set off by the U.S. government to this day and a device 1,000 times bigger than what was dropped on Hiroshima in World War II. Close to a half-century later, marines who were part of the operation while serving aboard the USS Curtiss can now speak openly about what they saw, and how it impacted them physically and emotionally. This project features declassified footage seen for the first time and witness testimony that casts more light on an operation that previously was cloaked in secrecy.

For the remainder of our MIPCOM Picks, check this October.

About The Author
Barry Walsh is editor and content director for realscreen, and has served as editor of the publication since 2009. With a career in entertainment media that spans two decades, prior to realscreen, he held the associate editor post for now defunct sister publication Boards, which focused on the advertising and commercial production industries. Before Boards, he served as editor of Canadian Music Network, a weekly music industry trade, and as music editor for As content director, he also oversees the development of content for the brand's market-leading events, the Realscreen Summit and Realscreen West, as well as new content initiatives.