From Stephen Fry on manic depression to producer/director Paul Watson on alcoholism and Betty TV’s anatomy of a marriage collapse, Breaking Up with the Joneses, miserable subjects were rated highly.
IWC’s Stephen Fry: the Secret Life of the Manic Depressive was the pick of the bunch, earning 17 points by making every major UK awards shortlist. Presented by Fry, the two-parter’s success was due to its very accessible, informative approach to a much misunderstood disease.
Mental illness is generally a subject guaranteed to turn viewers off, but director Ross Wilson won them over with warmth and humour. A roster of -bipolar stars such as Carrie Fisher, Richard Dreyfuss, Robbie Williams and Rick Stein can’t have done any harm, either.
Meanwhile, Wilson’s latest Stephen Fry film, Stephen Fry: HIV and Me, aired recently on BBC2, attracting 2.5 million. “Stephen has a talent for making difficult subjects accessible to audiences,” says Wilson.
Outpointed by Fry with 11 points was a film from Darlow Smithson, The Falling Man, produced by Henry Singer and exec produced by John Smithson, Sue Bourne and Julian Ware. Shortlisted for an International Emmy, Broadcast, Bafta and RTS award, Singer managed a completely original take on the much-documented 9/11 attacks.
His film explored the taboo subject of the hundreds who jumped to their deaths from the World Trade Centre and the way they were airbrushed out of the official version of 9/11.
Equal third with 10 points came Paul Watson’s unflinching take on alcoholism Rain in My Heart, made by the BBC’s documentary department for BBC2. A grim and unsettling film about four alcoholics, two of whom died during the making of the film, it tied with the Bafta-winning Evicted from True Vision.
While Rain in My Heart’s social ills were self-inflicted, Evicted turned the spotlight on the shortcomings of council housing departments in what was regarded by many critics as the doc of the year. “Angry and compassionate” and “impossible to watch without a growing sense of outrage”, was one reviewer’s verdict.
Top single documentaries
|Programm, producer, channel||Points|
|1||Stephen Fry: the Secret Life of the Manic Depressive IWC Media for BBC2||17|
|2||The Falling Man Darlow Smithson Productions for C4||11|
|3=||Rain in My Heart BBC Documentaries for BBC2||10|
|3=||Evicted True Vision for BBC1||10|
|5||True Stories: Sisters in Law Vixen Films for More4||9|
|6||A World Without Water True Vision Productions for C4||8|
|7=||Breaking Up with the Joneses Betty for C4||7|
|7=||Iraq: Legacy of Hate - The Death Squads Quicksilver Media for C4||7|
|9=||9/11: Out of the Blue Silver River for Five||5|
|9=||Giving Up the Weed Maroon Productions for C4||5|
|9=||Panorama: Exposed: The Bail Hostel Scandal BBC Current Affairs for BBC1||5|
|9=||The Root of All Evil? IWC Media for C4||5|
|13=||How Vietnam Was Lost (Two Days In October) Robert Kenner Films for BBC1||4|
|13=||Animals in the Womb Pioneer Film and Television for C4||4|
|13=||Galapagos: Born of Fire BBC Documentaries for BBC2||4|
|13=||How to Plan a Revolution BBC Documentaries for BBC2||4|
|13=||Storyville: Darwin's Nightmare Saga Film for BBC4 4||4|
|18=||The Trouble With Old People - Diverse Productions for C4||3|
|18=||Dispatches: Iraq's Missing Billions - Guardian Films for C4||3|
|18=||This World: Killer's Paradise - BBC Current Affairs for BBC2||3|
|18=||Dispatches: The Drug Trial That Went Wrong - In Focus Productions for C4||3|
|18=||Tonight with Trevor McDonald: Prescription for Danger - ITV Productions for ITV1||3|
|18=||Nuremberg: Nazis On Trial BBC History for BBC2||3|
|18=||The War Of The World - Blakeway Productions for C4||3|
|18=||Cult Of The Suicide Bomber II - Many Rivers Films for C4||3|
|18=||Horizon: Bye Bye Planet Pluto - BBC Natural History for BBC2||3|
|18=||How William Shatner Changed The World - Mentorn for five||3|
|18=||Meltdown and the big climate change experiment - BBC for BBC Four||3|
|29=||Frontline: The Age of AIDS - Silverbridge Productions for C4||2|
|29=||Baghdad - a doctor's story, Guardian Films for BBC2||2|
|29=||Extraordinary People: The Woman with Half a Body - Tigress Productions for five||2|
|29=||Women on the Edge: The Truth About Styal Prison - BBC Documentaries for BBC2||2|
|29=||The Dead Body Squad - North One Television for C4||2|
|29=||The General's War - October Films for BBC2||2|
|29=||Tony's Tight Spot - BBC Current Affairs for BBC2||2|
Tory! Tory! Tory! Mentorn, BBC4
|38||The Tube - Under Attack, Mosaic Films for ITV1||1|
Channels and producers
No surprises when it comes to the most creative channels in single documentary. Channel 4 and BBC2 come out tops, with the commercial station amassing 69 points, while BBC2 managed 52.
The Falling Man, A World Without Water (True Vision), Breaking Up with the Joneses (Betty) and Animals in the Womb (Pioneer) were all strong contenders for C4. BBC2’s Stephen Fry: The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive and Rain in My Heart were backed up with a strong showing from natural history films such as Galapagos: Born of Fire.
BBC1 was a distant third with 19, thanks to Evicted which was screened as part of a season on homelessness. There was little evidence that ITV1 was getting back into single docs - it scraped together a miserable four points.
IWC Media takes pole position as the most creative single documentary producer with 22 points, thanks to two heavy hitters, Stephen Fry’s film on manic depression and The Root of All Evil, a two-part C4 series in which Professor Richard Dawkins examined the 21st century -phenomenon of the growth of religious faith.
True Vision comes a strong second with 18 points, while widely shortlisted The Falling Man from Darlow Smithson earns the indie behind hits such as Touching the Void 11 points. Despite its recent turmoil, the BBC’s in-house documentary department put up a strong showing in 2006 with 39 points.
Top single doc channels and producers
1 BBC 39
2 ITV 3
|2||True Vision Productions||18|
|3||Darlow Smithson Productions||11|
|11=||Pioneer Film and Television||4|
|11=||Robert Kenner Films||4|
|14=||In Focus Productions||3|
|14=||Many Rivers Films||3|
|19=||North One Television||2|
Indie True Vision has been one of the strongest creative forces in docs in recent years. Rated fifth most creative producer in last year’s poll for The Real Sex Traffic, this year it has leapfrogged into second place with Evicted and A World Without Water, a film which shows how the world is running out of one of life’s essentials.
Set up in 1996 by director Brian Woods and his producer wife, Deborah Shipley, True Vision specialises in human rights-related films. Best known for its award-winning 1998 C4 documentary The Dying Rooms, about the horrors of Chinese orphanages, this is an indie with high-minded ideals. “We don't make ‘chewing gum for the eyes’ - instead we hope that every film we produce makes the world a very slightly better place,” says the company’s mission statement.
Both Evicted and A World Without Water were directed by Woods and produced by Shipley with camerawork by Jeremy Wales. When the programme was screened last year, Woods said the film was timed to coincide with the 40th anniversary of homelessness charity Shelter.
“I knew it was the right time to do something,” said Woods. “I would like Evicted to appeal to those people who work with the homeless, and focus their minds on the problem of homeless children.
In each case, you can’t blame any individual, but there is always a whole bunch of officials who could have done something.”
The creative report is sponsored by Autodesk