DC Film Industry Professionals Thrived for Years on Being Close to Discovery
The information Tuesday that Discovery Communications plans to vacate its Silver Spring headquarters in desire of recent York and Tennessee is already anticipated as turning in a blow to the Washington area’s economy, and particularly Sir Bernard Law County’s. while it’s simple to comprehend the macro effect—1,three hundred extraordinary jobs transferring out of the location and downtown Silver Spring losing its major anchor—the DC region’s documentary producers may also sense it lots more acutely.
The 1998 assertion that Discovery might circulate to Silver Spring turned into hailed as the start of Washington’s transformation into “Burbank at the Potomac,” regardless of the truth that the organization has been a DC-place product ever because it turned into founded in Landover in 1985. but to the section of the leisure industry focused on nonfiction content material, the appellation rang authentic. since its starting as a niche channel that showed nature documentaries and repurposed Soviet pronounces, Discovery has grown to a worldwide conglomerate that operates 13 channels inside the united states, and about every other 200 around the arena. naturally, it needs programming to fill all that airtime.
Like other entertainment companies of comparable size, Discovery is basically inside the enterprise of purchasing suggests from independent manufacturing agencies, starting from blue-chip shows like the BBC’s Planet Earth, on the time the most pricey documentary ever made, to low-price range fact series like TLC’s Cake Boss, which has cranked out 227 episodes of bakery intrigue for the reason that 2009. it could—and does—solicit content from all over the global. but simply as in Hollywood, wherein small manufacturers stay down the street from the massive studios, “Docuwood”—an early-aughts moniker that’s on the grounds that diminished—thrived on documentary producers having proximity to a few the most important and most prestigious distributors of unscripted content material: Discovery, countrywide Geographic Channel, and PBS.
“It’s the cachet of being in Hollywood, in preference to Fresno,” producer Walter Gottlieb, whose agency went on to produce titles like Hillbilly Handfishing and Catfishing Kings for Discovery-owned Animal Planet, informed the Washington submit in 2004.
For a while, the nickname held up somewhat. Hustling producers and editors should run into Discovery programmers and bosses the Panera Bread across the road, or Silver Spring’s other lunch spots. The enterprise turned into the unique sponsor of the AFI docs movie festival via 2012, briefly turning Silver Spring into a Sundance-fashion marketplace in which aspiring documentarians ought to pitch their projects to HBO, public broadcasters, or, much more likely, certainly one of Discovery’s many manufacturers. And despite the fact that documentary filming is carried out all over the world, the place round Discovery headquarters have become a magnet for editors, sound mixers, and other submit-production specialists.
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“It’s a relationship commercial enterprise, so the manufacturers who you can see and meet daily could have the benefit,” Jay Danner-McDonald, who’s edited indicates like modern-day Marvels and American Loggers, tells Washingtonian. “community government manufacturers could instead no longer ought to travel out of town to test in on a chain.”
cutting down on journey time has its advantages. Archie Moore, who works on the sound-layout employer smooth Cuts, says that even as the manufacturing organizations he works with may be a ways-flung, Silver Spring remains the nexus of hobby. “Discovery is a very important patron for us and many different nearby centers,” he says. “quite a few our different customers are production companies that do create content for the various Discovery network channels, so there’s plenty interdependence among the companies. a number of relationships, friendly and professional, are based totally on the proximity of the discovery headquarters. The sense i get is that every one nearby parties, which include Silver Spring-based totally Discovery staff in addition to the companies, are a piece on edge and plenty of are uncertain approximately their futures.”
however possibly members of Washington’s documentary-making scene have to’ve seen Discovery’s huge news coming, says editor and manufacturer Paige Smith Lee. “They’ve been gutting DC for a while,” she says. “In my thoughts, the takeover of the l. a. and big apple producers killed the industry a good deal more than Discovery transferring.”
Ryan Walker, an editor and manufacturer, has been hearing more from Discovery’s people on the coasts than Silver Spring lately. “As a ways proximity is worried, over the last year nearly all of my interactions with the community have been from both l. a. or NYC executives and now not the Silver Spring workplace,” he says. “perhaps that’s a sign that it doesn’t truely count number wherein I paintings from so long as I’m relied on and that other companies that paintings for Discovery will hold to achieve this in the event that they have an awesome tune record.”
other than one show for Shark Week 2015 and an episode of the 2014 research Discovery series The Vanishing women, Lee says she’s labored greater with national Geographic Channel than Discovery over the past numerous years. And at the same time as Discovery has shifted more programming manage to its operations in big apple and l. a., Lee says it’s being caught on traditional tv that’s simply mucked matters up, with streaming offerings like Amazon, Hulu, and specially Netflix taking more of humans’s viewing habits.
“As someone who makes documentaries, the philosophy of how the shows are made don’t make for right shows,” Lee says. “industrial breaks, recapping, it doesn’t transform nicely right into a digital form.”
Netflix, which affords its content without interruption, recaps, community bugs, or other interruptions, has been developing its documentary slate in conjunction with the rest of its authentic fare. In only a single region of 2017, the service debuted six authentic characteristic documentaries and original non-fiction series. It’s additionally collected seven Academy Award nominations in documentary classes for the reason that 2014, prevailing excellent Documentary (quick concern) remaining 12 months for The White Helmets.
Lee isn’t preserving out for Discovery to pivot closer to digital. She now does quite a few work with AARP, which last yr hired away Jeffrey Eagle, Discovery’s digital government manufacturer, to guide an in-house production studio. the primary series, Dinner With Don, a talk show hosted by using the past due comedian Don Rickles, debuted in September.
however even as the energy facilities of better-profile documentary work shift to the big apple, California, or the streaming services, proximity to the humans making the programming decisions is comforting to folks who work at the actual suggests. Walker even has an idea for what may want to come to be of Discovery’s building: “My hopes are that Netflix or Amazon open an office within the Silver Spring headquarters.”
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