Live Action – Global Attraction?

Posted on: Friday 05 July 2013 1:02pm by Dave Hill

Really enjoyed the session. Thought it was especially interesting about how live action can reflect the reality of a child’s own world.
Emma Barnes, Freelance Writer.

The seminar explores a very interesting question. I was especially interested in what Mellie Buse brought and also that Tony Reed questioned the BBC’s policy not to use and dub European shows.
Sannette Naeye, Cinekid Festival.

So can live action be as successful in the global market as animation is? In the global market place 83% is animation, what’s so good about it? Yes it intrinsically appeals to kids and you don’t have to work so hard to interpret the emotional nuances. Of course, dubbing into various languages is much easier and it’s very rarely culturally specific, but what about Live Action and how does it compare globally with animation? Here’s some bullet points… hope they translate!

1) Children certainly enjoy both live action and animation but girls in particular grow out of animation quicker. Live action, therefore appeals to a broader age spectrum. There is something tangible about it and children like it. They respond positively to real faces and apart from anything else it’s often a bit cheaper to make.
2) If you set out to make a global hit it probably won’t be one! So it’s important to recognise when focusing on the global market begins to compromise the quality. This of course can affect co-production and you might have to find funding elsewhere.
3) Children have curiosity in another culture, so don’t side step unapologetic authenticity in making content. Examples of this are; Australian kids enjoying the success that is Horrible Histories and American audiences loving Sherlock which again is quintessentially British. In short, being especially specific to your world may indeed make a show succeed.
4) The quality of dubbing is very good nowadays, however it can cost a lot. If the story is good enough it can overcome the language barrier. Tony Reed went on to question why don’t we accept dubbed shows on the CBeebies channel? There is a remit to use home grown programs, but there’s nothing dubbed on the channel. It’s not even considered. Is it a case of English man abroad?
5) Live Action dramas from Australia sell well, often because there’s a lot of outdoors which is nice to see. US also does well because it taps into the nature of the business, (to sell dreams). The US is an aspirational and desirable culture and so the shows sell and travel well.
6) Live Action shows that have done well include Mr Maker and Lazy Town. Why have they done so well? Mr Maker is a huge character, essentially a clown which is a universal language. That together with the content of the show – art – makes it incredibly marketable. Lazy Town has sold to 172 countries and it is essentially pantomime, again a well understood language. It’s unique in that it’s basically a cartoon that has been brought to life, a fantasy world, devoid of cultural references.
7) Here’s some things to consider in creating a show that will be dubbed: The buyers are always looking to say no, which can be hard if as a producer you fall in love with your content, remember, the buyer views it differently. Things to avoid are; songs! They can often provide issues and can make the dub expensive. Cultural jokes and English text on screen are also to be avoided. If you can make something that looks better than another broadcaster would be able to afford then that’s attractive, e.g Deadly 60 taps into the NHU, BBC Bristol.
8) Skins and puppets are an easy way of overcoming the language barrier but they don’t generally do well. Why not? In short, there isn’t the market for it. Teletubbies was groundbreaking and did well but shows like Tweenies and Zingzillas didn’t succeed. Often foreign broadcasters view it as young.
9) The pre school audience can enjoy a world vastly different from their own, (e.g. Anne Wood’s Open Door) but with school age 6 -12, children often want to see their own world on screen, e.g. Tracy Beaker, The Dumping Ground, etc.
10) As with everything, story is key, authenticity and characters that act out universally held truths are central to any global success.

Katie Simmons, Freelance

Philip Cooper, CBBC
Jenny Buckland, Australian Children’s Television Foundation
Tony Reed, CBeebies
Melanie Stokes, Kindle Entertainment
Mellie Buse, Adastra (via Skype)

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Dave Hill, Writer and Content Developer – Freelance

About the author

Dave Hill

Freelance, Writer and Content Developer

Dave has worked on numerous projects across broadcast, education and publishing. Main contributions include: - Content developer and writer for 'Shusshh Listen,' 'Always Remember To...' 'Pablo and His Dogs,' CBeebies Radio & 'Together,' BBC Learning. - Production team for 'Let's Celebrate,' CBeebies & '15 Children and Counting,' Channel 4 -… Read more