#StorytellingMatters Interview with... Noriko Aratani, Executive Producer, Global Content Development Division at NHK

Sunny Side of the Doc 2021 aims at helping bring to light talents and stories which question, engage and impact.Through a series of #StorytellingMatters interviews, discover the vision of our most influential partners in the international documentary ecosystem.

Be together! Please introduce yourself and tell us briefly what your company’s main objective at Sunny Side of the Doc.

I started my career as a director of news programs. I later worked in international broadcasting and at NHK Enterprises as a sales representative. Those experiences led me to my present role, in which I facilitate and strengthen creative partnerships between NHK and overseas media professionals. Asa public media organization that’s funded by fees paid by the viewing public, grappling with the challenges of a new era and making contributions to society are important missions. At Sunny Side, we hope to exchange the latest know-how with the world’s industry professionals, build partnerships, and evolve NHK’s content so it becomes more diverse and challenging.

Be positive! What has been your greatest professional accomplishment over the last 12 months ? What lead to this success, despite the pandemic?

We have spent the past year figuring out how best to keep audience informed on issues such as the latest situation of coronavirus infections, the strains being placed on the healthcare system, and efforts to prevent discrimination and prejudice against patients and medical staff. We’ve been figuring out the best suitable platform and format to deliver the information. One highlight of our programming is the documentary “COVID-19: Fighting a Pandemic”, which we aired in March last year.
As the virus was spreading rapidly, and information on effective ways to prevent infections was swirling about, program production had stopped in countries around the world because of lockdowns. Even in these circumstances, we quickly supplied our program to 15 countries. The documentary shows how respiratory droplets spread in the air. To help contain the spread of the virus around the world, we posted  clips of that part of the documentary on NHK World-Japan’s social media pages. The clips were viewed over 30 million times around the world. 

Be inventive! What new strategies are you looking to develop in order to attract international partners as well as provide engaging content in 2021/2022?  

Prolonged lockdowns and resulting economic hardship suddenly pushed people into social isolation, and mental and physical stresses have led to more and more cases of abuse and suicide around the world. For about the past 30 years in Japan, there has been awareness of social recluses (known in Japanese as “hikikomori”) who become increasingly isolated after finding themselves unable to deal with a competitive society and human relationships.

NHK has been following hikikomori issues for many years. We hope to apply this experience to the shared global challenges presented by the pandemic, and we would like to create opportunities to consider them with partners around the world as an international coproduction project. We will talk more about this in the NHK Showcase on June 24.    

Be aware! To that extent, what will make a good documentary pitch/encounter for your organisation this June ? What’s the best way to reach out and start co-creating?

Because of COVID-19 travel restrictions, we’re looking for ambitious projects that cover areas, people, and situations that we at NHK can’t cover on our own. Three slots dedicated to international acquisitions have become increasingly important as they serve as a window on the world.
  • For “World Documentary”, we’re  looking for current affairs and investigative reports as our target audience is people with global interests.
  • For “Dramatic Planet”, the target audience is families. We’re looking for topics on natural history with new findings and for factuals with children as protagonists.
  • For “Welcome to the Wonderful World of Documentaries”, heartwarming human documentaries with strong storylines involving social injustices (e.g., social injustices related to gender or sexuality) work well. Please contact our acquisition team at NHK Enterprises for details.

Be inspired! Who would you want to put on the spotlight at Sunny Side of the Doc 2021, for some well-earned recognition? And why ?

Shin Yasuda, Senior Producer at Program Production Dept. has spent most of his career making factual programs. He has also been involved with many international coproduction projects as a producer. His recent standout project includes the International Emmy-nominated “Jake and Charice” which documents how the world-famous female singer Charice came out as a transgender man and sought his true voice. It attracted a lot of attention in Asia, where LGBTQ issues are still hard to discuss.

With the “Hikikomori” project to be introduced at Sunny Side of the Doc, Shin leads an effort to globally expand a movement that aims for an inclusive society.
This spring, Shin organized and moderated an international conference on diversity and inclusion as part of the NHK-hosted Japan Prize international contest for educational content. In recent years, the Japan Prize competition has recognized outstanding programs on themes such as diversity, environmental issues, and the SDGs. The Japan Prize is currently inviting entries : https://www.nhk.or.jp/jp-prize/english/     

#SSD21  |  Storytelling Matters  |  Sunny side of the Doc 2021



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