10 Factuals need emotion at their core to succeed, according to 10’s Head of Popular Factual Sarah Thornton.
Speaking last week at AIDC 2021, she said: “The number one priority is to make people feel with our factual content, whether that’s to feel humour, whether that’s to feel emotion, uplifted, challenged.
“We do want to ask questions about as a society, how do we treat old people? How are we relating to people with drug addiction? Ambulance really provides a lens for those questions. I honestly think the reason Ambulance initially did so well is that it’s enabled us to tell the story of old people in Australia in a way that is still warm and heroic. They’re being helped by these heroic individuals who have the most extraordinary job in my opinion,” she said.
“That enables us to tell stories that otherwise could be quite dark and challenging, with ultimately, heroism at the core.”
Thornton has overseen The Project, Ambulance Australia, The Living Room, Todd Sampson’s Body Hack One Born Every Minute and acquired titles such as Lindy Chamberlain: The True Story and Adam Goodes: The Final Quarter.
Her advice for producers looking to pitch was for ‘precinct’ or character based observational documentaries.
“I’d say Bondi Rescue is the most successful precinct based ob doc series on Channel 10. Ambulance also fits into that. I’d say the number one thing, if you’re going to bring us one of these is: think about what makes it Channel 10?,” she asks.
“In the case of Bondi Rescue, it’s an incredibly iconic location, with a surprising amount of humour.
“The characters who have endured in that show our characters who are naturally funny. I think that that is the thing that makes it particularly Channel 10. Ambulance is slightly different… we’re telling the unexpected stories of paramedics in Australia. But there is no description of process. So we do not tell the medical story. None of it is about the medical,” Thornton explained.
“We also don’t really tell the patient’s story. It’s the story of how as a paramedic, you deal with life and death, from the minute you arrive at work, to the minute you go home. And sometimes that’s with dark humour. Sometimes that’s by really philosophising. Sometimes it’s through dedication, sometimes it’s actually through just clarity of thought.
“But that really is the number one ambition of that format and the reason why I think it really speaks to Channel 10’s viewers.”
Encouragingly, she added, “My number one with all our actual shows is dignity. Everyone should come out of that with a sense of dignity, the people involved in the story and the viewers.”