Adapt content to social change

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During the RSS Lite “Creating Change” panel, one overriding piece of good news shared by attendees was that there has perhaps never been a better time than now to create – and, just as importantly, find a paying outlet for – social impact content. .

“We’re in so much more demand now than we were three years ago,” said Carri Twigg, female-led cultural prodco development manager who recently expanded operations to the West Coast. “Seems like there’s a bigger meaning [among buyers] that we are at an inflection point, that this is really a time when [they’re] go to [have to] make some sort of larger-scale, lasting commitment to things that [they] should have done it 40 years ago.

Dawn Porter, Founder and Director of Trilogy Films, also testified to this renewed interest during the panel, which took place on Tuesday, February 8, with CORE Innovation Group CEO Patrick Jager as moderator.

“When I started 10 years ago, there were a few ghettoized places for these kinds of stories. That’s not the case anymore. There actually aren’t enough creators to answer all the interest that the market is bringing in. Everyone I know who has been in this space for a while is busier than they can handle and actually has to push projects back,” Porter said.

“Because there is such an appetite for this content, goalkeepers have almost no choice. [Viewers] demand content from genuine people, they don’t want strangers telling stories that don’t ring true. It is therefore more than ever a commercial imperative.

The same note came from fellow panelists David DeHaney, Creative Director of Proper Content, and Subrata De, Vice News EVP and Head of Programming and Development. De noted that today’s more decentralized media landscape also allows for greater representation in a geographic sense.

“Historically, mainstream news told stories from a certain point of view and, geographically, from certain places,” De said. [across] the regions… so I think it’s a huge opportunity and a good time, if you’re in a place where something is happening, to reach out. People will take those calls.

“That said, there’s always a feeling – and I hear that in all my conversations [with creators] — that the door is still somewhat closed, that only certain people get the projects. [And it’s also true] that some people still control the purse strings, although I hope to see a change there eventually.

As De pointed out, the reality is that money still talks, even in a field that seems to be opening up like never before. And while panelists attested that buyers are now more willing to take risks with politically sensitive content, the lens through which they view these topics can still be quite narrow.

“I still worry a lot, even though we are looking for stories of underrepresented people, [they’re being asked] tell stories through the prism of their identity exclusively, which is really frustrating,” Twigg said. “People come to these pitch meetings and they’re asked, ‘Tell us a trans story,’ ‘Tell us a black story,’ ‘Tell us a woman’s story,’ or whatever. This is marginal progress at best.

“It’s great that budgets are increasing, it’s great that more people have opportunities, but [a lot of people] are always asked to narrow the scope of their lens in a way that reflects their own identity and does not give them the creative latitude that would be given to someone else.

Another problem is that even though demand is growing, outlets can be finicky about what kind of topics interest them.

“Networks have their commissioning publishers or buyers, and they have conversations daily, if not by the minute, and no creator can keep up with that,” Porter said. “I don’t think we can spend our time trying to make predictions, but what we can do is try to understand what people are buying and what they are putting on.

“There are subtle differences between each network, streamer, or outlet, so you just have to make that work,” she continued. “I can’t tell you how many creators don’t look at the networks they go to. They’ll pitch something important to Peacock for the archive, and Peacock is like, ‘we don’t do that, do you see that anywhere [in our programming]?’”

DeHaney, based in London, agreed that determining the inclinations of potential broadcast or streaming partners was crucial, while also drawing attention to geographic variations between outlets.

“It’s easier [to do this kind of content] in the UK because we have our four terrestrial channels, all of which have a strong public service remit. When we release things internationally, however, we have to be a bit more bespoke.

“For the US market – Netflix, Amazon, whatever – it feels like you really have to get into the shoes of those platforms and figure out where your ideas can fit, because they’re not going to take a lot of time. For us we think we have to be kind of schizophrenic because we have the UK and Europe and then we have the US and global streamers so you have to figure out how to navigate that kind of content to make it fit to everybody.

One of the main ways to do this is to deliberately leave room for these potential partners to collaborate on the concepts you bring to them. “I often tell my team, don’t try to succeed [the first time out], because you’re not going to,” DeHaney said. He added that pitches need to be in good shape, but unfinished in a way that invites collaboration, so you can get to that endpoint at the right time with the right budget.

“It’s a partnership, it’s a marriage, isn’t it? Years ago when I started out, I wasn’t a good husband,” DeHaney said. “But I got better with age. When I was younger, I was so passionate about everything that it was hard to take notes and make the changes. But now I understand that I need this collaboration.

“Most people aren’t going to take a fully formed streak and put it on their real estate,” Porter agreed. “You need to work with your buyer to see what works for them and then see if it works with your vision.

“So you’re going to get a lot of no’s, but the no’s are as valuable as the yes’s. ‘Cause if you can get to a point where they say “no, because…” – listen to this “because”. That’s when you become a really valuable partner, when you say to yourself, “I think there’s about a 50% chance this will work for them, and I want them to help me get the last 50%.

Even though the creation of content for change is always affected by the whims and changing priorities of funders or outlets, what seems reasonably certain for now is that the market for this content will continue to grow, although often for unfortunate reasons. “When buyers ask me [about a pitch], ‘Is this still going to be in the news tomorrow?’ my answer is yes, because the underlying systemic issues have not been addressed,” Twigg said.

“There’s going to continue to be hate crimes against Asians, there’s going to continue to be state-sanctioned violence against black people, it’s not like the forces that marginalized these people are going away. . And so, if a buyer says, “Are we going to talk about it again?” we will, absolutely, without fail. As sad as that is.

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