Three of the decision-makers who created the topical docuseries NAKED – Generation Gender shared their inside stories at MIPCOM 2022 in Cannes.
This German-Canadian copro takes a daring look at the biological factors and cultural forces that impact our expression of gender at every stage of our lives.
On my Unscripted International Coproduction Case Study panel were co-producer Kay Siering (SPIEGEL TV), distributor Ralf Ruckauer (ZDF Studios), and executive producer Michael McMahon (Primitive Entertainment).
Watch the MIPCOM / NAKED Panel Video Here (30’)
- A SPIEGEL TV (Germany) / Primitive Entertainment (Canada) Co-Production in association with Crave / Bell Media (Canada), ZDF (Germany), arte (Germany/France) and ZDF Studios (Germany).
- Format: 6×50’ or 1×90’
Ralf Ruckauer, Kay Siering, and Michael McMahon (Photo courtesy of MIPCOM)
SUMMARY OF PANEL DISCUSSION
The Genesis of NAKED
- Michael [06:00]: “It really began with a conversation about the #MeToo movement. The idea evolved during a series of meetings at MIP and at the Berlin Film Festival. Then, SPIEGEL TV really took on the development process, and brought it to the point where we pursued a six-part series.”
- Kay [07:14]: “Right from the beginning we knew this was something different. This was a topic that we weren’t just working on as journalists. Because we immediately knew that this topic had something to do with us as human beings. So, we argued from minute one. We raised questions that were very controversial.”
- Ralf [09:15]: “Normally we have a strategy of focusing on wildlife science and history programming… still, we were fascinated by this topic.”
Funding a German-Canadian Coproduction
- Michael [10:32]: “NAKED is a treaty coproduction. Canada has a number of treaties with countries around the world, and the benefit of that, in short, is it allows domestic broadcasters to consider it 100 percent Canadian content. And that opens up a number of funding opportunities.
In this particular case, we actually didn’t get a lot of money from subsidies or grant systems. We have a domestic broadcaster CRAVE, which is a subscription SVOD service. We earn a decent license fee and beyond that, we have tax credits which are refundable labor-based credits. We also brought in the Rogers Cable Network Fund, which is a private equity fund.
It was roughly a 50-50 split with SPIEGEL TV being the majority partner in this case. The rest of the budget was made up of the license fee and private equity.”
- Ralf [13:40]: “From our perspective (at ZDF Studios), it was a quite comfortable financial situation. Arte came with Kay and Michael and CRAVE already, so we didn’t have to look for further coproduction partners to make it happen.”
Challenges of Producing a Docuseries on a Delicate Topic
- Kay [14:20]: “We wanted to talk about teenagers having their first sex, we wanted to talk about old women in Japan, about their menopause.
It was very intense and very emotional. To get access to these protagonists and their stories, that was the challenge.
So, we had a very diverse team. We had men, women, LGBT+, and that was absolutely necessary. Because we wanted to really get into depth with the protagonists. And we wanted them to open themselves up, open their hearts. That took a while.”
Formatting a Series for Multiple Platforms
- Ralf [24:10]: “It’s always quite good as a distributor to have different versions because we might approach cable channels or VOD platforms that need to have a higher volume and are interested in a multi-episode series format. Then there might be some streamers, for example, who would like to have a 90-minute version. The demand for the 90-minute feature doc is absolutely coming back.”
Photo courtesy of MIPCOM
- Ralf [28:00]: “If you’re a distributor and you’re doing a coproduction with partners, it’s always a matter of trust and you’ve got to be patient. I’m not a very patient person and I had to wait for three years here.”
- Kay [28:30]: “Trust is the most important thing. If you have partners that you have already produced with in the international market, try to keep the team together and find a new topic for a new coproduction…
The second big takeaway is: the more overlap you have in terms of versions, the better.
This time, we have a 1 x 90’ on the Canadian side and 6 x 50’ on the German side. That makes it a little more complicated. Try to keep as few versions as possible.”
- Michael [29:23]: “I’m reminded what a privilege it is to have partners where we can continue to make premium factual documentary content. I’m always astounded. To be able to participate in a series like this, for us, is why we’re in business!”
Another MIPCOM Copro Case Study
- Don’t miss the many takeaways learned from my deep dive into STAR CHASERS OF SENEGAL: Indie producer’s Terra Mater Studios / NOVA copro.
- Many thx to MIPCOM conference program exec Tania Dugaro for the invitation and coordination.
- And to Myriam Laville, Djene Kaba and other team members for planning, production and follow up.