Documentary Business

Peter Hamilton Consultants, Inc

PGA’s Outstanding Producer Award for APOLLO Signals Boom-time for the Documentary Genre

The 2020 PGA Awards broadcast the industry’s acceptance of the booming documentary category as a peer with even the most popular, binge-worthy scripted series.

  • There was a surprise winner in the PGA’s prestigious Outstanding Producer of Televised or Streamed Motion Pictures category
  • It was 1895 Films for Apollo: Missions to the Moon.

APOLLO’s competitors were four big time scripted projects:

Congrats to Tom Jennings and his 1895 Films team, and to Bernadette McDaid, Hamish Mykura and colleagues at Nat Geo Channels International in London.

Apollo Trailer



There are so many important Takeaways to this award, and the biggest one relates to the stature of the documentary.

Netflix & the Documentary Boom

  • The documentary is enjoying a boom in commissioning activity, investment, press and industry recognition.
  • This is driven partly by the escalating commitments from the streamers to deliver consumer-appealing, promote-able programs that are a fraction of the cost of their signature scripted series.
  • Every day we read of new players who are greenlighting documentaries or staffing up their development teams.
  • Netflix’s sudden transition from streaming dominator to vulnerable market leader encourages ever more players to slice off a piece of Netflix’s subscriber base: the documentary is an affordable carving knife.


  • Meanwhile channels like Nat Geo are looking for documentary projects that can live on their platforms, like Disney +, as well as in their 24×7 schedules.
  • APOLLO shows that the gap between ad-supported channels and SVOD services can be bridged.
  • By the way, APOLLO was budgeted at a fraction of the of cost of Super-A-Lister projects like Nat Geo’s Genius.


  • The archive-based History genre continues to produce important winners.
  • As we’ve analyzed in several Case Studies, Jennings specializes in a cinematic, presenter-less format that reveals the story like a movie.
  • Finding ‘never-seen-before’ archival sequences, both video and  audio, has been a key to his prodco’s success.
  • Jennings relies on anniversaries to lend promotional hooks to historical characters and events, and invaluable strategy at this time when there’s a flood of content coming to market.

The Disney Impact on Nat Geo

  • Disney showed off its famous promotional efficiency when the APOLLO premiere and anniversary approached.
  • Disney had barely acquired Nat Geo when their PR teams pitched the Disney-owned broadcast network ABC to promote APOLLO on its nightly primetime News.
  • ABC News’ entire coverage of the APOLLO anniversary consisted of excepts from Nat Geo’s APOLLO.
  • In 30+ years in the industry, I have never seen such cross-promotion of a documentary on a broadcast network’s News program.
  • Here is the link to the ABC News clip:

APOLLO at Sunny Side

  • Sunny Side of the Doc 2019 anticipated APOLLO’s success by inviting Bernadette McDaid and Tom Jennings to present the ‘Making of APOLLO’ to a keen audience. I was happy to moderate.
  • (Bernadette since moved to a senior exec position at Red Bull Studios. Congrats!!)
  • Here we are at Sunny Side:

Photo: © StudioOuest / Jean-François Augé 

  • Sunny Side of the Doc will focus on History and the Archive in June this year.
  • Don’t miss a great event that combines marketplace, pitch sessions and conference in a beautiful seaside city.


PGA Nominations

  • Apollo: Missions to the Moon (WINNER)
    Producers: Tom Jennings, David Tillman, Abe Scheuermann, Chris Morcom, Rob Kirk
  • American Son
    Producers: Kenny Leon, Kerry Washington, Pilar Savone, Kristin Bernstein
  • Black Mirror: Striking Vipers
    Producers: Annabel Jones, Charlie Brooker, Kate Glover
  • Deadwood: The Movie
    Producers: David Milch, Carolyn Strauss, Gregg Fienberg, Scott Stephens, Daniel Minahan, Ian McShane, Timothy Olyphant, Regina Corrado, Nichole Beattie, Mark Tobey
  • El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie
    Producers: Mark Johnson, Melissa Bernstein, Charles Newirth, Vince Gilligan, Aaron Paul, Diane Mercer

Documentary Production Roadmap