A few minutes of airtime...
I approached Channel 4 News a few weeks ago to see if they wanted to do a report on climate change and military tensions to coincide with a big NATO exercise in the Arctic. It's not the documentary I want to make but it might raise the issue. I'd also found out that the UK Secretary of State for Defence was to visit Norway's border with Russia which would be an interesting peg for a news desk.
So I put together a schedule for 10 days in Scandinavia that would deliver a 10 minute extended report on the issues of Arctic security, especially following the Ukraine invasion and Russia's new military adventurism. I managed to get interviews agreed with key players such as the Finnish Foreign Minister (formerly neutral Finland is now planning to join NATO); the Head of the Swedish Navy (Sweden also debating to abandon neutrality and join NATO); one of the Norwegian Defence Ministry's top analysts on Arctic security and climate change; and the Norwegian Defence Minister. I also set up facilities to film with the US Marines, the Norwegian Air Force, and the Royal Marines.
It's the sort of report I can put together on my own. But C4N had other ideas. Rather than a 10 minute report with in-depth analysis, they wanted a 4 minute news piece to feature the visit of Ben Wallace to the Russian Border. And they sent a reporter with me so I lost both editorial and logistical control. My 10 days was cut down to three shooting days, mainly focussed on Wallace. Out went my plans to interview the Finnish Foreign Minister, the analyst, and the head of the Swedish Navy. And because C4N refused to let me organise my own travel, my camera was lost in transit so our three shoot days became two. And in the end the piece was edited back in London while I was still travelling home.
So not a great success, but I did get Wallace and his Norwegian counterpart to talk about the impact of climate change on Arctic security and they both gave strong answers which made it into the news piece. Those interviews are now in my archive and I used trip to keep up the on-going goodwill with various agencies/governments should I ever get the real documentary commissioned.
The pitch is currently with a large French production company who will be taking it to some French broadcasters. France has retained its commitment to current affairs documentaries, while the UK has drifted into reality TV masquerading as documentary. So fingers crossed as ever...
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