Sheffield DocFest Factual Entertainnment commissioning panel heard from Liam Humphreys, Channel 4, Alison Kirkham, BBC, Andrew O’Connell, ITV and Sarah Thornton for Discovery.

The trends across the panel were for formats with the format taken out and real lives reflected and respected. There was a universal welcome for light touch mediation: presenters, including celebrities, are only interesting if they are immersed in the show. Gogglebox is still the show on everyone’s lips.

ITV commissioning editor Andrew O’Connell showed clips from new shows Trip Advisers and Big Box Little Box where Gogglebox meets Watchdog. He said that ITV had more shows in the pipeline featuring ordinary punters, "real people with everyday stuff." He confirmed that ITV was doing Flockstars – celebrity One Man and his Dog.

Discovery/ TLC – vp lifestyle and entertainment Discovery Networks International Sarah Thornton showed clips from shows that were more traditional documentary than some of the docs on Sheffields docs commissioning panel. A turn-around from the Jodie Marsh body building clip that she showed last year. One commission – a self-shot film about miscarriages, came out of an approach made by a producer after the Sheffield session last year which was nade on the back of Thornton committing to spending more on female factual. Another show, Too Ugly for Love from Betty, is set for a second series. She didn’t get grilled on her Katie Hopkins chat show, perhaps the wrong sensibility for a Sheffield audience. What she wants is shows that producers can see on TLC, she’s open minded.

Channel 4 head of entertainment and factual entertainment Liam Humphreys said that the commissioning team at the channel had looked at other ways of morphing Gogglebox but decided against it. Instead, they’ve hatched Hunted from the same Shine team as The Island and they revealed that they are in the second of a five week shoot for a Michel Roux Junior format where the chef teaches catering skills to groups of disabled students. More evidence of the talent at the heart of the idea, rather than presenting. Asked about Bear Grylls’ role in The Island, Humphreys said, "I don’t think it would work if he was on the island. What he brings is credibility and context."

BBC – Alison Kirkham, head of BBC formats, features and events, who is currently acting controller of factual  for the corporation, had a food theme to her showreel. Eat Well for Less and Back in Time for Dinner are recent hits and she showed a clip from upcoming two-parter on spending with Anne Robinson, where an ‘immersed’ Robinson, dressed in designer black puffa jacket, shares a stew made from bin salvage with eco hippy Jedi in his reclaim camp in Berkshire woodland. "One legacy of Gogglebox is that people seem to like their lives reflected back to them, if told in an unpatronising way," she says. While Eat Well for Less is a format, Kirkham pointed out that it’s only lightly mediated. She’s looking for shows that borrow heavily from another genre and has just commissioned a couple of shows that she described as quite enty. Ideally characters in a BBC fact ent show will go on a transformative journey.

Pippa Considine

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