DOC/FEST: Sam Branson’s rebranded prodco Sundog Pictures is working on a feature-length doc on international drug policy, featuring Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.
Johnny Webb, former MD of Virgin Media TV and Living TV Group in the UK, resurfaced as Sundog Pictures’ MD in March and is now helping Branson spearhead a drive towards engaging younger audiences in social campaign docs.
The prodco, formerly known as Current Sponge, is working on Breaking the Taboo, a feature-length doc about the international war on drugs and drug policies around the world.
The film is narrated by actor John Hurt and will feature contributions from a range of international political figures including former US presidents Clinton and Carter and Mexico’s current president Felipe Calderón.
Branson, son of airline and media mogul Sir Richard, told C21: “One lucky thing I have in my position is to have met a lot of these people through the background I’ve got. A lot of these people want a medium for them to have a voice and talk to people engaged in these issues.
“There will be social action at the heart of a lot of our content and we want to engage our audience to actively participate in the subject. Therefore, we’re focusing heavily on second-screen and multiplatform content.
“With access to information, a younger audience will massively engage in social issues and things going on in the world. It’s just production companies and other people who aren’t stepping up to the mark. I don’t think anybody has cracked the model for producing this sort of content on screen and online.”
Current Sponge was founded by Branson in 2009 and produced bodyshock doc Turtle Boy for Channel 4 in the UK, among other shows. Branson recently rebranded and relaunched the company as Sundog Pictures with Webb onboard and a mission to produce social action, factual content.
Webb told C21: “What we want to do is take fresh talent and look at fresh ways of presenting information. We’re interested in how we can shake up visual storytelling and bring in a different audience.
“There is a lot of talk in television about how the under-40s don’t watch documentaries and aren’t interested but it’s absolute nonsense, they’re really well-informed. I don’t think [the industry is] rising to the challenge and moving the genre on. We want to take on the challenge of making serious documentaries really entertaining.”
Webb added the company is also keen to explore opportunities in branded entertainment. “It frustrates the hell out of me that with all the wit in television and all the wit in advertising, we cannot produce something that is commercial and entertaining. It has to be possible. We’re really keen to do some great reputational films, public service announcements or internet shorts for brands.”