netflixIt is THE rogue tinder director Felicity Morris said the documentary market was set to contract and warned filmmakers against “chasing the next viral story that everyone is talking about”.
Speaking to the Berlinale Series MarketMorris and other European documentarians wondered if the golden age of premium documentaries was coming to an end as buyers – especially streamers – became increasingly risk averse.
“We hear things are going to contract although there is always an appetite for the best stories told in the best way,” added Morris, who also produced Netflix. Don’t fuck with cats: Hunt an Internet Killer and works on the same streamer All American nightmares.
“Hopefully creativity will prevail and maybe there will be a bit more risk in commissioned stories, but of course there will still be a plethora of shows to watch,” she added.
Benji Bergmann, who directs Netflix’s Oscar nominee Confidential Camp Producer Babka Productions, said the lack of sales at the recent Sundance is proof that “we’re in a bit of a tricky time”, adding, “There’s a tight feeling in the market but the sky isn’t falling. .”
As the market shrinks, Bergmann pointed out that buyers are looking for “big names that have marketing value,” which they’re happy to “throw a little more cash.”
With this in mind, Georg Tschurtschenthaler, the CCO of Gebrueder Beetz Filmproduktion, has criticized the likes of Netflix’s Prince Harry and Meghan Markle doc Harry and Meghan for lack of objectivity.
“I have a problem with Harry and Meghan because it’s about them, but of course you can see they have editorial control,” he added. “It’s tricky because we have to be credible and keep our journalistic distance. It’s a line that shouldn’t be crossed.”
Bergmann said shows like Harry and Meghan and Disney Welcome to Wrexham by Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney are “almost a different genre”.
“It’s hard to compare them to what we would traditionally see as a doc, but there’s definitely a place for them in the market and we can enjoy watching them,” Bergmann added.
Streamers are ordering less but public broadcasters are still strong in the game, panelists agreed. Where are you going DocuSeries? sign.
Morris said the BBC and Channel 4 had “big ambitions to deliver projects that appeal to large audiences as well as quieter viewing pieces”, while praising Sky’s impact in the documentary game.
With Harry and Meghan, The Tinder scammer is one of Netflix’s most-watched documentaries of all time, but Morris pointed out that when the team uncovered the story of women who were left short of thousands by con artist Simon Leviev , they hadn’t realized it would be such a commercial success.
“The film was told from the perspective of three women who did not speak English as their first language and we did not interview the perpetrator,” she added. “In that sense, we feel encouraged that you can find these lesser-known stories and break through to a global audience.
With that in mind, Morris warned filmmakers not to rush into making shows about the next viral story.
“I try to avoid anything that appears in my newsletters because the intellectual property is probably already gone,” she added. “I think it’s about being a bit more creative rather than chasing the viral story that’s been in the headlines and everyone’s talking about.”
Tschurtschenthaler said the plethora of material on stories such as the 1972 Munich Massacre broadcast “everyone is looking for something known”.
“There are a limited number of IPs you can use,” he added, before pointing out the current penchant of doc makers for turning unscripted ideas into scripted projects.