Royal Family Provides Rich Material for Doc Projects Coming to Mipcom

With their glittering lifestyles and scandalous love lives, Britain’s royals have always been a honey pot for TV and feature film producers.

Netflix’s “The Crown” and the upcoming feature film “Spencer,” starring Kristen Stewart as Princess Diana, are the latest in a long line of fictionalized accounts of the Windsors. But recently the royal tribe has drawn the attention of documentary makers, as well.

“The British royals have always been popular,” says Nick Tanner, director of sales and co-production, Passion Distribution. “Not least because of the queen’s impressive longevity. But there’s also great interest in what the young royals are doing — especially Harry and Meghan. Their story is compelling because despite their wealth and privileges, Harry and Meghan are real people trying to make sense of the modern world, as we all are.”

The four-part “Meet the Royals” is one of the titles Passion Distribution will feature at Mipcom and includes an episode titled “Harry & Meghan Vs. the Monarchy.” Additional titles coming to market this year are “The Wedding of the Century,” produced by Touchdown Films for BritBox, to mark the 40th anniversary of Prince Charles and Diana Spencer’s marriage, and “Princess Margaret: The Queen of Mustique,” made by ITN Productions focusing on Elizabeth II’s hedonistic younger sister.

In the U.K. the ViacomCBS-owned Channel 5 is responsible for taking such projects as “Harry and Meghan: Two Troubled Years” to a new level of profligacy. The broadcaster has built its peak, Saturday night schedule around a spate of royal docs that promise fresh royal revelations.

“They’ve been phenomenally popular during lockdown,” says Ian Rumsey, managing director, TV, ITN Productions, of such docs. “As we could still do the interviews and cut the films remotely, we could guarantee we could keep the supply going during the pandemic. Also, they are eminently repeatable so provide fantastic value for money.”

In the past 18 months, ITN Productions made more than 70 of these low-budget but compelling and popular docs, from “Princess Anne: The 7 Loves of Her Life” to “Fergie & Andrew: The Duke & Duchess of Disaster.”

Remarkably, at most they take a mere two months to complete — and some are turned around in only three weeks. “Princess Anne: The 7 Loves of Her Life” and “Harry and Meghan Vs. the Monarchy” are believed to have each taken around six to eight weeks to complete.

The backbone of these docs is ITN’s extensive royal archive that goes back 65 years to an age of kingship and royal stiff upper lips. Rumsey insists that while many of these docs feature scandalous storylines such as Charles’ adulterous relationship with Camilla Parker Bowles or Princess Margaret’s rumored rock star lover, they avoid sensationalism.

“When we make these documentaries, we want them to be credible programs featuring credible, well-informed interviewees,” he explains. “They have to be told in a way that is balanced and isn’t prurient. I think this helps their popularity because audiences don’t feel guilty about watching them.”

Like all the best soap operas, the stories continue to unspool — and certainly show no signs of slowing down any time soon.

“No one wants the queen’s reign to end but when it does it’s easy to imagine what stories will interest people,” Rumsey says. “What type of king will Charles be? How will we slim down the monarchy? Will Harry return to the fold? What roles will the more junior royals have?”

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