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Re: Seven Rules for Making a Science Documentary

On Sun, 19 Feb 2006 07:33:53 -0800 "Kent A. Stevens"
<kent@cs.uoregon.edu> writes:
> The Calculus of Science Documentaries
> Regarding the production of science documentaries, it's all about  
> making money, remember.  Producers decide on matters of content  
> (e.g., dinosaurs) and delivery vehicle (e.g., Nigel Marvin) as  
> business/marketing issues.
> Specifically:
> Science documentary producers try to maximize profit (ROI, or Return 
> on Investment) derived from some carefully-targeted set V of viewer. 
> It takes financial investment to create a program.  Producers do not 
> merely try to maximize |V| i.e., the size of set V.  They also tune  
> their product (the documentary) to target  a particular demographic. 
> They seek an audience that is both large AND willing to spend their  
> money on the products of their sponsors.

Ergo, the thesis that viewer-sponsored television (aka,
"demographic-specific sponsorship") (aka, PBS) provides a better, more
sophisticated product than does the programming designed for
commercial-advertised networks.  NOVA programs would never "have feet" on
any of the 4 big commercial networks (it wouldn't even be considered).

> I have found that most (but not all) producers
> are open and  explicit that their game is to
> maximize ROI.  While the sound guy  
> threads the lapel microphone inside my
> shirt, I've been reminded to  
> keep it simple, not use big words, and always look excited and  
> dramatic.  "Give the viewer no reason to go to the refrigerator" was  
> a recent admonishment.

Check out:

for some insight into the mind of NOVA executive producer Paula Apsell. 
BTW, it will be a sad day when her mark on that sci-documentary series is
lost.  NOVA will undoubtedly change after she leaves, and I fear that the
only direction that change will take will be downward.

My $0.02,