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Amazon, Netflix & Nat Geo: Notes from the ‘Post-Schedule’ Documentary Economy

2016 August 12
by Peter Hamilton

Recent press releases from Amazon, Netflix and Nat Geo reveal trends in the “Post-Schedule Economy”.

I quickly applied several criteria to a sample of seven films, including Amazon’s 13-parter on Hugh Hefner.

  • Five of them focus on Big Names (e.g., Hefner) and/or involve A-Listers in the production team (e.g., Leo Dicaprio).
  • Four involve Crime, Violence and Injustice.
  • Sexuality is the theme or context of two projects.
  • And four involve the extensive use of the archive.
  • Most are original commissions.
  • Netflix’s “Audrie & Daisy” and “Sky Ladder” are Sundance acquisitions.
 

Big Character

Crime / Violence / Injustice

Sexuality

A-Lister on Production Team

Archive

AMAZON
American Playboy: The Hugh Hefner Story (Series) Hefner

xxx

Hugh Hefner

xxx

 

NETFLIX

Amanda Knox Knox

xxx

xxx

xxx

Into the Inferno Werner Herzog
The Ivory Game

xxx

Leo Dicaprio
The 13th

xxx

Ava DuVernay

xxx

Audrie & Daisy

xxx

xxx

Sky Ladder: The Art of Cai Guo-Qiang  

 

 

Nat Geo

My Inbox also reveals promotions for two big tentpole projects from Nat Geo Channel:

  • A Climate Change doc involves the very busy Leo Dicaprio plus Martin Scorsese, James Packer, and others.
  • And Katie Couric leads a project on the Gender Revolution.
  • Bolstered by smash hit ratings for Morgan Freeman’s The Story of God, Nat Geo is doubling down (and then some) on programming for the post-schedule economy.

Nat Geo earlier announced a trifecta of projects covering Jane Goodall as told through the Nat Geo archive, the global water crisis, and the Los Angeles Riots, another archive-based film.

All three docs feature big name filmmakers, notably the very busy Alex Gibney.

Takeaways

  • The pressers that caught my eye underline the trend to celebrity-packaged, Signature docs.
  • Channels and platforms are competing for big budget, brand-building stories.
  • Hefner and Amanda Knox demonstrate the value of pre-sold stories with name recognition that cuts through the clutter.
  • Many involve producer/director teams who have won the highest awards and enjoyed success at major festivals like Sundance, TIFF or Tribeca.
  • History channel’s recent mantra was: “Forget about the archive!” Now, all the major channels and platforms are competing for stories that involve access to unique archival footage that is associated with major personalities and events, particularly if there is an anniversary involved.
  • There’s little-to-no room here for newbie and mid-scale doc creatives, unless the film has broken through at a major festival.
  • And Sundance is a game with very long odds, as my research reveals:

sundance2

The Press Releases

You can find a lot valuable information here…

hefner

Hugh Hefner

Hef, Don, Adolf

  • And for all the highbrows among my readers, check out Andrew Sorkin’s article in The Nation that links the decorating tastes of Hefner, Trump and Hitler.

Coming soon: Beatles + Facebook + Archive

  • More on the archive. Watch out for my Case Study of the upcoming theatrical / Hulu documentary feature THE BEATLES: EIGHT DAYS A WEEK.
  • An interview about the drivers of the trend back to the Archive. Footage.net’s David Seevers spoke to myself and Tom Jennings.
  • And my detailed Case Study on Choppertown, an indie documentary project that took off on Facebook video.

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