Briefing Notes: Unreported World
Andy Lee, series producer email@example.com
Unreported World is Channel 4’s prime time international current affairs series, broadcast at 7.30pm on a Friday night. There are two runs of six half hour films a year, one in the spring and the other in the autumn. A couple of years ago ITN/Channel 4 News took over the strand from the indie producer, Quicksilver.
Andy explained that in each run of six he tries to cover a range of stories from different parts of the world, so there will typically be at least one story from Africa, Asia, Latin America and the US.
These are narrative films with a central character. When pitching to him you should (ideally) identify the central character and which sequences could be filmed with them. The filming commitment is quite substantial as each film is shot over a 10-14 day period. A UK based presenter and shooting producer/director shoot the film in a single trip. But before filming takes place Andy will have worked with a local fixer/charity to set up the shoot and recce the main character.
He’s keen to find characters whose stories open up a bigger issues. He spoke about previous films that he had made for UW including a film on fast fashion in Ghana. The central character in that film was a local trader who was selling the used clothes that were coming to Ghana from the UK and other western countries. She was struggling because the quality of clothes being sent was so poor. Another film followed a detective in the US searching for missing indigenous women in North Dakota.
His aim is to feature stories and issues that have not been reported or are under-reported. He is not looking for new angles on running stories – so no pitches on Ukraine or Afghanistan. Occasionally, as with fast fashion, he will do an issue that has been reported but only if he feels he has a genuinely fresh angle.
The films are broadcast live on Channel 4 and then played in full on UW’s YouTube channel. Cut down versions of each film run on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. These shorter versions reach a different, younger audience who would not normally watch Channel 4 on a Friday night. Andy is happy that more people will get to hear about the issue even if they don’t watch the whole film. It’s part of Channel 4’s public service remit.
Andy was asked about pitching. He said IBT members should make contact even if they only had the germ of an idea as it might lead to a film at some point in the future. He’s keen to build relationships. But if you are pitching the key is the character and what they can film with that person. The contributor is the driving force of the film. They will want to film three sequences with that person so think about what they could film and what the narrative journey might be – is there any jeopardy? What will keep viewers watching? The next series starts in October. So if you are pitching ideas now Andy will want to film either in November/December of January/February.
The next series includes the following films:
- People trafficking of very young girls for sex in the US
- Sumo wrestling in Japan, revealing its dark side
- Teenage pregnancy in Guatemala, where the rate has skyrocketed during the pandemic
- Rising use of a drug derived from toads, used to treat depression in Mexico
- Daily life in Gaza, with some cause for optimism
- The hunger crisis in East Africa – the fight for arable land in Kenya
The Kenya film is presented by Seyi Rhodes and will be broadcast at the end of November as the last in the run.