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Drama techniques starting to seep into the factual genre

MUMBAI: Drama techniques have begun seeping into the factual genre. Cliffhangers and humour make a big difference in getting people get hooked, industry experts at Mipcom said while debating on the rise of factual content in programming.

A report in Mipblog noted that Ali May of Mayhart moderated a panel featuring FremantleMedia International non-scripted director of the UK, EMEA and Asia Pacific Angela Neillis; Memesys Culture Lab CEO Anand Gandhi; Endemol Shine Group CEO of creative networks Lisa Perrin and Discovery Networks International content president Marjorie Kaplan.

“Factual has begun to have a drama-like impact. Because viewers are binge-watching dramas, they’re also watching factual in a different way,” Perrin observed.

For Kaplan, understanding drama is critical to understanding how factual has changed. Drama techniques have begun seeping into the sector: Cliffhangers and humour make a big difference in getting people get hooked. “That’s a storytelling decision. That’s part of what makes it feel special and different,” she said.

Kaplan, the Mipblog report said, also observed that locally-relevant content is becoming increasingly important. “The idea that you can build a business by having a big pipeline available to the world is not the same,” she said. Now it’s more like, “What can we find around the world that can be shows, that can move out of their regions?”

She recalled seeing ‘Undressed’ in Italy. Kaplan thought, “People like to see naked people in bed with each other around the world. Sure!” Since then it’s been sold in the UK and the Netherlands, among other territories.

“There are opportunities like that to incubate content around the world,” said Kaplan, while acknowledging that some content “really is local—and that’s okay, too.”

Hosted by British journalist Nelufar Hedayat and created with Lightbox, the ‘Traffickers’, an investigative series, plunges viewers into eight different trafficking stories—including fake pharmaceuticals, wildlife and human organs. Character personalities, travel, and the creative processes that go into black market trafficking play as big a role as facts.

“It was interesting to us because a passionate 28-year-old Afghan UK journalist is a brilliant access point,” said Neillis.

The panelists also engaged in a compelling discussion about the use of virtual reality in factual, noted the Mipblog report.

“It’s a complement to TV, which is usually watched linearly. You can take the audience there—underwater, traveling around the globe,” said Neillis.

For Perrin, VR is transforming the treatment of factual and deepening the emotional stakes around it—not unlike how dramatic storytelling has already changed the sector.

“You can see it in the use of news. You can see a presenter going into a war zone, and as a viewer, taking that journey with them. I’m not sure it will enhance every factual series, but I can see it evolving in that way,” Perrin said.

“VR is a tool. What’ll happen over time is that people will learn to use that tool differently. Now we’re thinking, ‘where can we go and show people things?’ But as creators get behind it, it will become a storytelling device. That will be very exciting,” Kaplan said.

On whether VR will disrupt the industry the same way the internet did, Gandhi replied, “Video didn’t kill the radio star, and VR isn’t likely to kill other media. As we evolve to other tools, we don’t leave behind the languages we used in the past. We don’t leave a painting behind because we invented photography.”

“New technology gives you the opportunity to unobtrusively watch things happen and let people judge their faces, their reactions for themselves. You don’t have to overlay huge amounts of voiceover to get there. People get it now,” said Perrin.