During this difficult and anxious time for many, it has never been more important to continue talking to one another and to find solutions together for supporting the Documentary industry as best as possible. And so yes, we especially need Sunny Side of the Doc this year.
Please introduce yourself and tell us briefly what you and your company does.
Today, Canal+ is one of the biggest premium channels in the world with 20.1 million subscribers – of which 8.4 million are in mainland France – in 40 different countries across three continents. The group stands out thanks to its editorial expertise and original content, but also as a key aggregator of the best channels and service apps on the market thanks to the MyCanal platform. The group owns StudioCanal which is reputed for producing and distributing films and series. With over 6,000 films, it represents the largest film catalogue in Europe.
Within the Canal+ group, I manage the documentary content department for the Canal+ Group. I’m in charge of the editorial policy, pre-buys and acquisitions of documentaries for Canal+ and the “Découverte” channels (Planète+, Planète+Crime Investigation, Planète+A&E, Seasons).
Public and private broadcasters are currently facing a period of uncertainty due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which has had an impact on production and distribution activities across the globe. What impact has it had on your work?
The health crisis which we are all currently experiencing has had an immediate impact on our work because all our productions came to a halt overnight. The borders were closed and we suddenly found ourselves in lockdown. Teleworking became our new everyday reality and we’ve had to learn how to run our channels remotely. Once we’d got through the first few weeks in which we had to implement a new set-up, we had to re-think all our programme schedules because we had zero visibility as to when filming, post-production and dubbing could resume.
We soon started working on everything we could do to prepare filming in advance. We read numerous projects, because producers continued to develop projects. We greenlighted several of them, and contracts have now been signed and they’re ready to start production.
What avenues are you exploring to maintain documentary productions as much as possible during these unprecedented times?
We decided to reschedule all our productions. Our priority was to not to put the film crews at risk. We did however stick to all our commitments, and took advantage of this time to develop new projects with producers. Fortunately, we had enough inventory in stock to maintain a quality output for our “Découverte” channels, which in fact our subscribers consumed in abundance during the lockdown period.
How have your international acquisition and/or coproduction strategies evolved as a result of the current situation?
Our strategy remains the same: find good projects delivered by partners who share the same vision.
This year’s theme at Sunny Side is History. What type of history documentary programmes should people pitch to your channel?
History is one of three main focuses of the Planète+ channel. It gives our audience the chance to learn, rediscover, understand and be amazed. We look for projects in which new technologies are used to explore our past. Films where science enables us to shed light on historical facts and whereby modern imaging techniques bring History to life on screen.
Two examples currently in production: NAVIRES DE LEGENDES produced by Le Cinquième Rêve (4×52’). This innovative series features extremely realistic 4K 3D modelling and never-before-seen archive materials, immersing the viewer in some of the most historic naval battles. Meanwhile, there is also LES MAITRES DU REICH produced by Interscoop (4×52’). Thanks to a revolutionary lip-reading technique, this series is going to add sound to silent archive footage from the Second World War and bring to light what the Reich leaders were actually saying for the very first time.
We’re also looking at ways to present history from an original or thematic point of view with a strong human element.
Two examples: TANKS, DANS L’ENFER DES COMBATS produced by Imagissime. This series revisits major conflicts of the 20th century through the technological developments in tanks and drivers’ accounts. There is also the series called WASHINGTON produced by A&E (3×90’). This great historical epic enables viewers to relive George Washington’s extraordinary journey, from the war against France to becoming president of a Young Nation: the United States of America.
How can Sunny Side of the Doc international marketplace help you come out of the crisis stronger than before?
I want to pay tribute to the incredible work the Sunny Side team has put in to ensure this edition goes ahead. Today we all fully realise the energy required to coordinate remotely numerous interlocutors. During this difficult and anxious time for many, it has never been more important to continue talking to one another and to find solutions together for supporting the Documentary industry as best as possible. And so yes, we especially need Sunny Side of the Doc this year.