"TV channels are now more open to international styles"
Industry Report: Market Trends
Robert Salvestrin • International Sales, Lucky You
A few days away from Sunny Side of the Doc, the head of Lucky You, the international distribution branch of Bonne Pioche, describes the trends of the market and discusses his line-up of films
Founder and head for seven years of Lucky You, the international distribution branch of French group Bonne Pioche, Robert Salvestrin has in his line-up Asie-Pacifique, La Nouvelle Poudrière, one of the projects selected for the Pitching Sessions of the 32nd Sunny Side of the Doc, the international documentary and narrative experience market (taking place online from 21 to 24 June - read the news about the selection and our interview with Mathieu Béjot, director of strategy and development for the event).
Cineuropa: What is the impact of the growth of streaming platforms on the international circulation of French documentaries?
Robert Salvestrin: The multiplication of platforms and the adoption by traditional TV channels of VoD and SVoD services which go beyond national borders, have consequences on the rights acquired by the channel that commissioned the work in the first place, and on the work of the producer. The latter now has to take into consideration all the additional rights acquired by the channel that is commissioning the work, which makes distributors’ negotiations with foreign TV channels more complicated. And so, Arte now has a traditional TV service in Germany, France, Austria, Switzerland amd Belgium, but it is also present online in Spanish, in Italian, in Polish, in German and in French, which makes sales more complicated for example in Poland. It’s an element that can negatively influence prices.
The positive side of this proliferation of platforms is that, from an editorial point of view, channels are now more open to international styles. French documentary programmes have therefore evolved, compared with their more traditional forms, and they have adapted a slightly faster rhythm. Consequently, they travel a lot more, especially documentaries on science and History, but also certain topics touching on geopolitics when they have a very international reach. And a platform can perfectly be compatible with a major national channel. But for now, in the world of documentary, there are only a few examples of French programmes acquired by American platforms.
What about formats?
In France, there still is a great tradition of 90-minute documentaries showing at prime-time, which practically does not exist outside the country. It is therefore often necessary to think about a second, 52-minute version. However, and this is very good news coming from the platforms and for directors, as Netflix has shown: as long as the story works, we can suggest any kind of runtime, and each episode within the same show can be of different lengths. For traditional channels, this remains more complicated because the programming schedules are standardised.
Are market meetings still important?
Before the pandemic, we had seen a multiplication of markets, and I have the feeling that certain "commissioning editors" were so busy that they couldn’t really handle all the contacts they had and the conversations they had to follow. The health crisis has shown that a lot could be done online and we all were very active in this way. But after a year and a half, we are forced to realise that there is a certain weariness and that we miss the chance encounters, the exchange of information between the actual pitching sessions themselves. These moments are precious and we are eager to find them again.
Lucky You is selling Asie-Pacifique, La Nouvelle Poudrière, a 52-minute film directed by Anne Loussouarn and produced by Bonne Pioche, selected for the pitching sessions of Sunny Side of the Doc, which teases the film as emblematic of a surge of interest in documentaries about geopolitics.
It’s a very well documented investigation, already in production, and which helps to decrypt key moments from the news with profound analysis. For a few years, investigation programmes were in fact among the most watched in video libraries. It makes sense, people are a bit distraught, they can see that their daily lives are affected by geopolitical ambitions, they do not feel safe and they want to understand a world which has seen in these past few years individuals become president and who we never imagined would be able to reach these positions, a rise in extreme right wing governments particularly in Eastern Europe, Putin getting increasingly aggressive, problems in the Middle East and in China, with some people even now wondering if the latter might not be responsible for the creation of Covid. Documentaries of geopolitical investigations were very popular until the fall of the Berlin Wall, then they transitioned to more universal topics such as energy, pharmacology, organ trafficking, etc. Today, there is a return to a dimension both wider and more concrete, more threatening for everybody.
What are the other major films in your line-up?
The mini-series La science des émotions (4x52mn - produced by Effervescence for Planète+) which analyses the physiology of emotions, their effects on the human body, their use in political marketing, the treatment of certain mental pathologies, their link to artificial intelligence for the creation of robots capable of empathy, etc. There is also the mini-series La science en renfort (4x52mn - produced by Bonne Pioche for Planète+) which explores how science helps professional athletes to maximise their performances with equipment, the development of the body and of the mind: we step into laboratories and workshops, but we also follow the training sessions of famous athletes. Finally, I must mention the historical series 1942 (4x52mn), an Agat Films & Ex Nihilo production for Arte, composed at 100% of archive images and which centres on this pivotal year for World War Two from the angle of the daily lives of civilians in the world.
(Translated from French)
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