Documentary Business

Peter Hamilton Consultants, Inc

Princess Diana: The Archive Wave. Or Wars?

Nat Geo Channel today announced the September premiere of Diana: In Her Own Words.

It’s the latest in a series of network specials timed for the 20th anniversary of Diana’s passing.

Here is NGC’s powerful trailer:

No Narration:

  • The program is created in the “no narration /cinematic” style that is bringing the archive back into the middle of room where commissioning decisions are made.
  • This is happening after decades in which dramatic reenactments earned most of the buzz for the History genre.

Audio Drives the Story

  • Nat Geo swung for the fences by licensing the mostly unheard audio recordings of secret interviews with a miserable Diana in 1991.
  • The audio was recorded by journalist Andrew Morton for his controversial 1992 bestseller, Diana: Her True Story.
  • Diana shares intimate and often disturbing stories about her childhood, courtship, marriage, eating disorders, parenting, royal family life, and much more.
  • Diana’s own spoken words provide the backbone of the documentary.

New Paths for the Archive

  • The film was produced by Peabody Award winner Tom Jennings and his LA-based 1895 Films, whose work I have covered in Case Studies in my newsletter, for example here and here.
  • Jennings’ compelling use of Morton’s audio recordings bolsters the case for producers to discover precious sound archives, and then to use them to tell and re-tell great stories.

The Diana Wave. Or Wars?

  • Networks rely on events like anniversaries to pre-sell documentaries, specials and news segments.
  • Competing with NGC’s “Diana: In Her Own Words” are:
    • PBS’s “Diana: Her Story” in association with Channel 4 UK, and produced by Kaboom Film & TV.
    • Two Smithsonian Channel specials “Diana And The Paparazzi” from TVT Productions, and “Diana: The Day We Said Goodbye” (Finestripe Productions) in which Diana is voiced by Kate Winslet.
    • From HBO Documentaries “Diana, Our Mother: Her Life And Legacy” featuring Princes William & Harry, and produced for ITV and HBO by Oxford Film and Television.
    • A Dateline interview with her former bodyguard.
    • “Diana” from BBC1.
    • TLC goes to the dark side with “Princess Diana: Tragedy or Treason”.
    • Martin Bashir’s “The Last 100 Days of Diana” on ABC.
    • The CBS Gayle King special “Princess Diana: Her Life—Her Death—The Truth”.
    • The ABC special “The Story of Diana”, featuring an interview with Diana’s brother, Charles Spencer.
    • And I’m sure that I missed several more.

My Case Studies on the Archive

You can find them all on the Search button of


  • A Shot To Save The World: Bill Gates hosts the Smithsonian Channel special on Jonas Salk.
  • I proudly co-EP’d. (Poster below).

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