Just the Fact(ual)s
Do Australians like it gritty and real? Moving and earnest? Relentless and sexy? We’re a nation with a strong identity and sense of self, although this is changing. So, how is that personality represented on television? Factual TV takes true stories, real people and actual locations and shapes them into stories that glue us to our screens.
At TV Talks this month, three Australian factual television makers, with MC Andrew Garrick, will pull apart the genre to answer: What are audiences looking for in a great story? What’s being commissioned? Where does the future lie for this style of television storytelling? And so much more…
Steve Bibb – Head of Factual, ABC
As Head of Factual at the ABC, Steve Bibb sets the vision and strategy for ABC Factual and oversees a team responsible for the development, commissioning, production, delivery and overall excellence of external and internal factual programming. Steve and his team have commissioned a raft of titles including the Logie and AACTA winning War on Waste, the Logie winning Conviction plus Stargazing Live, Anh’s Brush with Fame, Employable Me, Hawke: The Larrikin and the Leader, Ask the Doctor, Ice Wars, Keeping Australia Alive, Brian Cox: Life of a Universe, Restoration Australia, Monash and Me: Peter Greste On Australia’s Great Commander, and Housemates as well as overseeing the revamp of the science brand, Catalyst, and an upcoming multi-platform true crime strand.
Sarah Thornton – EP Factual, Network Ten
Sarah Thornton has two decades of experience in the programming industry, She is a specialist in establishing new formats and re-formatting existing shows, and has recently returned to Australia after 15 years in the UK. She is currently an Executive Producer at Network Ten, across The Project.
Based in London, Sarah spent 8 years as head of Production and Development at Discovery Networks International. Here she headed up original programme commissioning and production teams delivering factual and entertainment content in the UK, US, Europe and Asia. As factual entertainment commissioner in the UK she developed hit returning series including Say Yes to the Dress UK and pioneered a new wave of popular factual documentary strands. Prior to that, she worked as a freelance showrunner and was across formats including Pineapple Dance Studios, which was nominated for a BAFTA and won an RTS for best entertainment show. She was again nominated for a BAFTA for the BBC2 hit Undercover Dads and went on to win a Rose D’Or in the Best Entertainment category for Hider in the House, another BBC2 program she created.
Additional career highlights include producing and reformatting numerous series for the BBC, ITV, SKY and Channel4 such as Don’t Get Done Get Dom, Animals at Work, Undercover Dads and Heir Hunters; and two years in Indonesia for Star Network Asia where she worked as Creative Head of Production.
Thornton began her career in News and Current Affairs at the Nine Network and has always had a passion for the intersection between factual and entertainment/comedy content. Documentary Credits include Jodie Marsh: Bodybuilder, Katie Hopkins: My Fat Story (which outstripped Breaking Bad on iTunes), Peaches Geldof Gets God, Too Ugly for Love, Extraordinary Pregnancies, Jodie Marsh: Call Girl.
Andrew Farrell – Head of Factual, CJZ
Andrew Farrell is Head of Factual at CJZ productions. With 30 years experience in the media, he has worked as a TV news reporter & producer, magazine editor & feature writer, television field producer, writer, series producer and executive producer. In the past decade, he worked as an EP and SP at Beyond Productions with much of his output airing on US cable network Discovery Channel. Writing and producing series such as Mythbusters, Deadly Women, Behind Mansion Walls, Dark Minds & Still Alive. He also developed, directed and produced the one-hour documentary Shark Island for Discovery Channel’s Shark Week 2016.
As a writer & producer in Australia, his shows have aired on all commercial networks and the ABC. They include Beyond 2000, Recovery, Big Brother, My Restaurant Rules, The Mole, The Great Outdoors and Where Are They Now?
As Head of Factual at CJZ since 2016 he has been directly involved in the development and production of series: Court Justice, Demolition Man, The Great Australian Cookbook & upcoming true crime series The Good Cop for Foxtel, upcoming true crime series Undercurrent for the Seven Network and Marry Me, Marry My Family for SBS.
He is Executive Producer for the feature documentary Jimmy Barnes – Working Class Boy, selected for the Melbourne International Film Festival in 2018 and releasing in cinema’s nationally in August.
MC: Andrew Garrick
Andrew Garrick has spent the majority of his working life making things with the hope of moving people. He currently works with the lovely folks at Screentime across development and production, having Executive Produced Tonightly for ABC Comedy, building the craziness of a daily comedy show it from the ground up.
Beginning at MTV contributing to observational shows like MTV Sports, and talent-producing The Lair before going to work with Network Ten for 4 years across a wide variety of projects.
The last few years before working with the ABC included developing, writing, producing and directing major TV projects for various networks and production houses like Shine and Beyond, both here and abroad, as well as directing documentary films around the world from the Great Barrier Reef to Malawi.
Andrew also makes lots of ads and content, including one just last week choreographing 14 animals to do a one-take. With a long list of credits producing and directing campaigns for clients like Formula 1, Opera Australia, Target and heaps of others, it’s all about the same thing: making difficult things in a fun way.
Get this, though: he’s also the co-founder of Zedtown, a live zombie apocalypse experience for thousands at a time (yeah, it’s pretty fun) which has recently expanded from Australia into the USA. Above it all, Andrew teaches for AFTRS.
About TV Talks
TV Talks is a free networking event for the TV industry. It is an opportunity to watch, listen and laugh along with a panel of engaging industry guests with some good, old-fashioned networking afterwards. One Tuesday of each month, February through to November. RSVP is essential.