Mip Doc: AMC’s Mob’ Impresses, Craig Promises to Scale Up Discovery Networks Intl.

‘Zero Gravity,’ ‘David Attenborough’s Great Barrier Reef’ among most-watched shows

CANNES – AMC event series “The Making of the Mob: New York,” ZDF-backed “Zero Gravity: A Mission in Space,” and “David Attenborough’s Great Barrier Reef,” sold like “Mob” by Entertainment One, were three highlights of this weekend’s 2015’s Mip Doc mart.

Another highlight: a keynote speech by Discovery Networks’ Intl.’s new chief creative officer Phil Craig, who, underscoring the ambitions of factual TV’s biggest players, said that his brief when he came in was “scale.” That takes in “expanding tramlines, becoming more of a full service provider of content across way more genres than before.”

In another keynote, Tim Pastore, prexy of original programming & production, National Geographic Channel U.S., confirmed that Nat Geo would “delve into a couple” of scripted history-based projects a year.

A two-day mart that wrapped Sunday evening, Mip Doc also saw spirited presentations of the impact of the digital domain and technology in general on the non-scripted sector.

Market premiering at Mip Doc, the latest from producer-writer Stephen David, described by the market as the Godfather of factual drama, “The Making of the Mob” weighs in as an origins story, David observed, very much like his “The Men Who Built America” and “The World Wars,” tracing the rise of ambitious teen gangsters Charles “Lucky” Luciano, Meyer Lansky and Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, who organized crime, with Luciano running his operation like an American corporation.

Produced by Stephen David Entertainment, a powerhouse in factual entertainment which is now driving much of the high-end docudrama sector, “Mob” was shot like an epic movie – with thundering orchestral score, a character-based narrative with its big figures presented in title credits like movie stars, extended re-creation of dramatic scenes and murders — and then edited like a documentary, adding talking heads and archive footage, David said at an on-stage interview, calling “Mob” a “dude soap-opera.” eOne initiates “Mob’s” sales at Mip Doc.

Directed by Martha Holmes, producer of “The Blue Planet,” and marking Discovery Network Intl.’s return to natural history, the five one-hour “Life of Dogs,” a DNI flagship, bears some comparison with “Mob.”

“I think a problem with natural history is that it is often beautiful but the story element is missing. Here, we have a really great story about the “evolution” of the relationship between dogs and us,” said Craig. He added: “This is to put a stake in the ground, to say I want to establish a unit in DNI to rival BBC Bristol in natural history.” Craig also confirmed that DNI’s high-end shows would often now be even higher-end.

“The Men Who Built America” emloyed 350 visual effects, David said. Technology and event fiction drama are indeed impacting many high-end docus as they pump up their entertainment heft. Tracking two astronauts as they train for a space mission, Jurgen Hansen’s “Zero Gravity,” which received a Mip Doc World Premiere TV Screening, includes footage shot by the astronauts in the space station.

“It’s been nearly 60 years since I first came to the Great Barrier Reef,” says David Attenborough in a sizzle reel presentation of his high-end docu. New technology now allows the 2,300 km. reef to be seen in all its glory, he adds. This includes 4K camerawork, macro lenses and a manned submersible taking Attenborough down 300 meters.

Symptomatically, at a Sunday Mip Doc Producers’ Showcase, “What’s Hot, What’s New, What’s Next?,” the first two speakers, Brit producer Sam Barcroft and Elizabeth North, presented respectively Barcroft TV, a YouTube channel commanding 100 million views a month, and Curiosity Project, a just-launched U.S. SVOD docu service backed by Discovery founder John Hendricks.

Barcroft’s shows include user-generated “Chaos,” made for DNI, where people digital video disasters as they happen around them: tsunami, air crashes and hurricanes. For Barcroft, “’Chaos’ is about taking Internet content, films which are incredibly powerful and visceral, and adding TV story telling, graphics” to create “amazing compelling TV. It’s about authenticity and technology coming together.

“Authenticity” was, in fact, a buzzword at Mip Doc. “Reality TV has become too unreal,” said Craig. “Gravity” and “David Attenborough’s Great Barrier Reef,” the latter from Atlantic Productions, featured among the top-five most watched shows at Mip Doc’s video library, per organizer Reed Midem. Also in the mix was ZDF’s “Big Pacific,” a sweeping natural history series with topnotch production values; France Televisions Distribution’s “Human, the Movie,” the latest docu from Yann Arthus-Bertrand, whose 2009 ecodoc “Home” gave pubcaster France Televisions an excellent 33% share and 8.3 million viewers; and “Freedom,” from TFI-owned Ushuaia TV, France 3 and Switzerland’s RTS — the kind of natural history story that France does so well. “Freedom” turns on one man’s attempts to teach a caged Fisher Eagle, one of the last in the Alps, to fly and return to the wild.

History & Civilization was the most watched category at the Mip Doc library, a reflection perhaps of the impact of full fiction drama on viewing interests. Attendance at Mip Doc and Mip Formats, also unspooling this weekend and sharing the same accreditation, was up 8% at 1,831.

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