Go Back to Where You Came From, Filthy Rich and Homeless, First Contact are amongst some of SBS’ most successful documentary events and, according to Head of Documentaries Joseph Maxwell, they are the hardest to get right.
Speaking at the Australian International Documentary Conference this week, Maxwell told delegates he was on the hunt for the next big stripped event series, that centres around important ‘faultlines.’
“It’s something that SBS does really well, but they are the hardest things to do. And it needs you to production community to come to us with the idea and the approach,” he explained.
“Faultlines are something that we think will really resonate with an audience: is on the front page of the tabloids? Is it something that is getting a lot of attention anywhere? Is it something where there’s a heated debate, where there’s two sides to it? Where there’s a natural conflict, where there’s a drama?That’s what we seek often to explore.
“When we do these stripped events we play them on a Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, across a week. We get the whole of SBS behind that and SBS Radio is a fantastic resource with reach into many different language groups. With all of our marketing, all of our publicity, we really try and get the nation talking about an issue.
“That is our single biggest need. But I would say it’s the toughest one to get right. We’re constantly challenging ourselves on ‘How do we get cut-through?'”
Flagship docos may also use Reality TV tropes to bring attention to a subject, but the outcome differs from commercial broadcasters.
“Often we will use things like Reality tropes to help get an audience into the show. So sometimes they’ll be elements of a Reality show, but while a Reality show is about entertainment for us it’s about purpose.
“About being provocative with a sense of purpose.”