For the last six months, I’ve been working on History Channel’s new docu-drama series Jesus: His Life. To accompany the series, we’ve also made little short form films, which act either as summaries of the episodes or to draw out a really interesting fact from the episode and explore it further. It got me thinking about the prevalence of short form documentaries and whether that’s the future of factual programming…
I consume most of my short form docs on social media: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter. I love the BBC’s short form docs on Instagram, and I recently came across 60 Second Docs. I actually love the idea that I can learn something new and interesting as I’m scrolling through pics of my friend’s holidays, political polemics or blog posts.
I realise that this is very revealing of my millenial mindset. I’m a classic case: I only sit down and actually watch TV maybe once or twice a week, and then it would be something like a comedy or a drama, something to entertain me when I’m tired in the evenings. But when I’m on the bus in the mornings, or having a break at lunchtime, or waiting to meet a friend, then I relish the chance to catch up with my friends AND see lots of new content at the same time.
And there are hundreds of thousands of me, all digitally literate, all socially aware, and crying out for interesting content. I’m so pleased to see that more and more broadcasters are realising this and delivering short form content for all platforms.
That said, I think there will always be a place for long form content. Nothing quite compares to taking the time to follow a character on a real life journey of discovery that changes them forever and has a deep impact on the viewer. All the game-changing landmark documentaries have been ones that took their time, and were worth it: Making a Murderer, Blackfish, even Blue Planet.
So while I’m pleased to see the rise of short form content, I think there’s room for both short form and long form. At the end of the day, a varied diet is always the healthiest!