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C21 DIGITAL SCREENINGS

Ruptly - Documentary Collection

Programming Profile

Ruptly expands into doc distribution with factual slate

18-05-2020
Olivia Cole, development manager at Germany’s Ruptly, talks us through the new documentaries the company is offering the global market, as part of its C21 Digital Screenings playlist.

 

Berlin-based news agency Ruptly recently launched a documentary distribution division called Ruptly Documentary Collection. The division houses a catalogue of over 170 documentaries focused on human interest stories from around the world, 12 of which have been selected for the company’s C21 Digital Screenings playlist.

 

Having launched in the middle of a pandemic, when broadcasters and platforms are being hit by production shutdowns, Ruptly is granting clients the non-exclusive rights to one original doc each for free, with a 30-day broadcast window or 30 days online.

 

Ruptly Documentary Collection’s development manager Olivia Cole told C21 the decision to launch a doc distribution division was a natural step for the company, as it had received interest from clients for longer-form pieces of content. But she admitted that launching amid a global crisis has forced it to alter its strategy slightly.

 

Cole
Olivia Cole,
Ruptly Documentary Collection

“We’ve been working on the concept of a documentary division for some time, definitely a good few months. Essentially, we already operate in the area of digital video and we saw there was demand for longer formats, which we had the opportunity to fill. So for us, it felt like a very obvious transition,” Cole says.

 

“Obviously, this launch is not how we would have envisioned it at the beginning of the year. This was a new opportunity to redevelop how we wanted to reach out to clients and how we wanted to provide our service, but in light of coronavirus, we have ended up going far more digital than we originally planned.

 

“We were planning to be at a lot of events and festivals this year, which, of course, had to be changed. But it has been a really interesting and exciting opportunity for us to adapt; it’s fortunate that we operate in such a digital business now, in terms of the fact that it’s easy to continue conversations with clients no matter where they are and to get content over to them.”

 

With respect to its C21 Screenings playlist, Ruptly has selected 12 finished docs from its existing catalogue, which had already been developed before the pandemic hit and which, Cole explains, provide a diverse range of global stories.

 

“Our priorities now and always are to have a big array of stories. What we really wanted to focus on was making sure we had a very global reach of stories; we didn’t want to just focus on one continent or one territory and we also wanted to hone in on human interest stories. So a lot of the content you find in our catalogue focuses on one individual or one community that otherwise might not have had representation through storytelling or documentaries, and has diversity in terms of the individuals, communities and locations we’re focusing on.

 

The Coca Trap
The Coca Trap

“We had our key slate already agreed before the pandemic really kicked off and it is essentially the work we are most proud of and we think the clients will be most interested in. In the future, there are some documentaries we are looking to acquire which are more focused on, let’s say, coronavirus and the effects of it globally. But those won’t be in our catalogue until a little bit later.”

 

Kicking off Ruptly’s playlist is The Coca Trap, which follows rural Colombians whose livelihoods rest upon growing coca leaves but who are under constant threat from predatory drug traffickers.

 

Dying Alone
Dying Alone

Dying Alone is an exploration of the Japanese phenomenon of kodokushi, or ‘lonely deaths,’ now so prominent that there is an entire industry built on cleaning the apartments of the recently deceased who passed away with no-one to care for them.

 

When an Elephant Smiles tells the story of a woman who turned her family farm in the heart of Zimbabwe into a wildlife sanctuary, while Syrian Tango sheds light on the dancers, artists and musicians who formed an art collective in the middle of the Syrian war.

 

When an Elephant Smiles
When an Elephant Smiles

Also in the line-up is The Congo Dandies, which explores the world of Les Sapeurs – ordinary Congolese working men who dress up in bright and luxurious brands and on the weekend head to meet-ups where they sartorially compete with fellow members of the Society of Ambience-makers and Elegant People (SAPE).

 

To Be a Cosmonaut, meanwhile, follows three young people who dream of working in space, on their journey through the cutthroat cosmonaut selection process, while Where Childhood Died takes a deep look at the emotional toll paid by children in rebel-held areas during the Syrian conflict.

 

The Congo Dandies
The Congo Dandies

Addiction takes an honest look at the murky drug trading world in the US, where buying illicit drugs can sometimes be as easy as drinking in a local bar, and Baikal Babushka: Songs of Life follows a 78-year-old woman who lives alone on the shore of Siberia’s Lake Baikal, choosing to live out her later years in isolation, ice-skating on the frozen lake instead of living with her children in modernity.

 

Elsewhere in the slate are Come Drift With Me, which explores the motivations of drift racers in Russia and Japan, and Going With the Floe, which follows a month-long expedition to revive the drifting polar missions set up in the 1930s on the 80th parallel, close to the northernmost point in the world, which had to be abandoned when rising temperatures starting causing the ice caps to melt.

Where Childhood Died
Where Childhood Died

 

Finally, Mexican Boom Town explores the Mexican ‘pyrotechnics capital’ of Tultepec, where life revolves around a thriving fireworks industry.

 

According to Cole, Ruptly is targeting its slate at a range of broadcasters and platforms, aiming to provide content that is flexible in where it can air.

 

“Pandemic or no pandemic, the business we’re in is constantly changing and we are flexible in the type of platforms we work with. It could be different from year to year depending on public demand, but we’re very open and are looking at traditional broadcasters, online platforms, streamers who have been around for a while and new break-out streamers as well. Essentially, where the interest is and where the demand is, we’re looking to provide content which fills that interest and that demand,” Cole says.

Come Drift With Me
Come Drift With Me

 

“Part of what we do at Ruptly is make sure we have a whole catalogue available to any client who’s interested.”

 

In the current climate, many broadcasters and platforms are expressing interest in light-hearted and escapist content to help their audiences escape from the difficult situation they are currently living in. Despite this, Cole is confident the deeper and more serious issues addressed in Ruptly’s docs are increasingly relevant in the current environment, given that they remind viewers of a world outside coronavirus.

Going With the Floe
Going With the Floe

 

“The content we have walks a line between difficult situations and the people who make the most of them,” Cole says. “We have a really deep focus on human interest stories; we think it’s right to look at content which is complicated and has multiple layers, but one of our highlights is that we really look to focus on individuals who are still pushing through, who are finding ways to adapt to their situations, to evolve with their situations, to make the most of what is happening around them and not give up on what they still think is important and think is right. And that, in any context, is always going to connect to an audience, especially in this climate more than ever.

 

Mexican Boom Town
Mexican Boom Town

“It’s important that we’re still showing that the world is complicated, things will always be complicated, but there will always be individuals making the most of what is a very different world to what most of us experience and are still living their lives regardless of what’s happening around them. The world doesn’t stop and neither do the people who live in it. It’s always going to connect with audiences to see the stories of people making the most of their lives and doing something special with their lives despite the situation that they’re in.”

 

Going forward, Cole says Ruptly is open to a wide range of documentary programming, which doesn’t necessarily have to be hard-hitting, but must still have a valuable and important message.

 

“The door is fully open at the moment,” she says. “We’ve already had a fair amount of interest coming in from producers of documentaries and are interested in a huge array of content. I don’t think it necessarily needs to be heavy, hard-hitting stuff. It needs to be stuff that connects to an audience, and that’s always going to be our priority – finding material that connects to audiences, has longevity and is valuable and important.

 

“That can be anything from something that is more hard-hitting and more emotionally profound, to something that makes for lighter, happier watching but is still pretty important. As long as it’s made well, we’re always going to be interested and audiences are always going to be interested too.”