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An unusual proposition - some advice wanted, please!

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Dylan Hargreaves
An unusual proposition - some advice wanted, please!
on Jul 23, 2014 at 1:24:43 pm

Hi all,

An unusual situation has presented itself and hopefully some of you guys can offer some advice.

I work mainly making short online promos, commercials and corporates, but over the years have produced and directed three full length web-docs, (30-60mins), as well as having a background in journalism.

I've been approached by an agency who have a multi-national client in a fairly controversial industry – palm oil – who are looking to produce a documentary about what they do in a developing part of the world. However, they don't want to produce an 'expensive' corporate film that no one will watch – they want to get it broadcast on TV, preferably globally.

Normally, it wouldn't be my job to tell them how to do this, but this time it is. And unfortunately, I don't really have any experience on that side of it. I just make em!

Obviously there are a few ethics and transparency issues here. There probably aren't too many mainstream broadcasters who'd be eager to snap up what is effectively corporate propaganda and put it on their channel. I've had conversations with the agency about this, and have told them of the need for honesty and transparency and independent voices within the field to fend off allegations of corporate shilling or astroturfing.

So I guess the questions I have are:

Are corporate sponsored films a complete non-starter for broadcast? Let's assume I make an honest, transparent doc, that although in 'association with GloboCorp', doesn't shy away from asking and answering the tough questions to paint an honest picture of their operations, would broadcasters be open to acquiring it?

Would a broadcaster pay for it, or would 'GloboCorp' have to pay? (Presumably this ratchets up the whole ethics issue if the company were to pay to have it shown!)

What would be the best way to approach broadcasters, pre-production with a treatment or post-production with the completed film?

I apologise if this gets anyone's back up. I'm sure some people might not be too comfortable with the idea of discussing corporate propaganda. That said, I wouldn't touch this project if I was being asked to produce a film about how they don't go tearing down the rainforest if they're tearing down acres of rainforest.

As I've had it pitched to me, there are a lot of misconceptions on the subject and a lot of untold stories, and the company is (I'm told) looking to present their work in a way that let's people make up their own minds.

Ok, so I've probably gone on long enough. Over to you guys and thanks in advance for any advice!


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Mark Spano
Re: An unusual proposition - some advice wanted, please!
on Jul 24, 2014 at 6:50:29 pm

I don't know anything about it, but it sounds like you'd have to buy infomercial time. I don't see how it gets broadcast any other way, and even then, not sure if it would need to have any qualifications to be broadcast in infomercial time.



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Andrew Rendell
Re: An unusual proposition - some advice wanted, please!
on Jul 26, 2014 at 6:14:20 pm

Not really my area either but I do spend a lot of time around a big broadcaster so I've heard the odd thing... Sponsorship itself isn't necessarily a problem (there's a fair amount of it around already), but editorial independence is, so you need to get hold of the guidelines/code of practice for the broadcasters you want to sell to and read them carefully.

Around the places I usually work, it would be best to approach broadcasters before principle shooting. One off documentaries are hard to sell, but probably easier if a broadcaster has a stake in it from early on.

TBH, I think I'd look at whether a dozen half hour episodes of observational stuff was a possibility, rather than a single doc.


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