S4C broadcasts a wide range of factual programming – single documentaries, factual format and observational series, magazine programmes and specialist factual series. Competition is fierce so ideas need to feel current and relevant, challenging and sometimes controversial. Our content should reflect the whole of Wales in all its social, economic and cultural diversity. Our audience wants programmes with warmth and humour, authenticity and reality but at the core of all our factual content is the need for a good story which takes us on a journey in the moment and captures the imagination of the viewer. When pitching an idea don't forget to think about where it could sit in our schedule and how returnable it might be.
Observational documentaries are popular on S4C, especially series that feature local businesses or communities e.g. Lorïau Mansel Davies, Ar y Byses. We are therefore keen to find organisations, businesses or even individuals who are willing for us feature their day to day lives and get to know their world. We are also looking for series that tell unexpected stories and lead us in to lesser known narrative territories e.g. the lives of the rich, famous, eccentric or extreme etc. Don't pitch retrospective narratives or "portraits of". We want clear narratives that evolve and play out in actuality across the programme or series. Brilliant access to characters and their worlds is essential.
In the past we have commissioned series such as Her yr Hinsawdd, Dylan ar Daith, Pethe and Natur Wyllt Iolo. Our specialist factual content broadens our horizons and tells its story in innovative and unexpected ways.
We're not looking for major arts series at the moment but are open to ideas for singles or short series particularly to coincide with birthdays or special events. Whatever the pitch, it must have a new story to tell, be it through unique archive or access, revelatory new facts or exclusive interviews.
The best history programmes are entertaining, compelling and narrative driven. We're not looking for ideas that are essentially academic essays with interviews and wallpaper pictures, but rather ones with innovative approaches to telling the story and clever formats that help the viewer explore, discover and learn new information. It is important that we can empathise with our historical figures, just as if they were alive. Historical anniversaries can work so long as the treatment feels fresh, relevant and contemporary. Presenters who are genuinely impassioned and engaged about a subject always score higher that those who are just academic experts.
We don't often feature science programmes in our schedule, but we are keen to commission programmes that say something about how our world works and how the world affects our day-to-day lives e.g. food, health, environment, architecture and engineering. The trick here is to present the content in an entertaining way and avoid the science in the title! But casting enthusiastic, passionate experts is essential.
Lifestyle and formatted factual
This is an extremely popular and competitive area. We are looking specifically for returnable formats on fashion, travel, holidays and housing. When creating the format think carefully about how authentic the idea feels and what it's true legacy might be - for those watching and taking part. Lifestyle and formatted factual content can fit pre watershed and post watershed in hour and half hour slots. We are particularly focused on finding returnable, family viewing formats for Tuesday and Thursday at 8pm
Special Access Documentaries
This area is relatively new to S4C, but it is an area we are eager to feature in the 9.30 weekday slots. We are interested in contemporary stories which feature topics that hit the headlines regularly e.g. crime and the police, parenting and family dynamics, homelessness and poverty, health and relationships. These are ambitious series and we need characters to lead on the big stories. We also need special cooperation from all parties to deal with sensitive and difficult subjects. You may want to use an element of rig to allow us to listen in on covert conversations.
We have created a new strand called Drych for our single documentaries. This is an opportunity for our best filmmakers to create hour-long programmes which reflect contemporary Wales and its people. We are looking for films that are ambitious in their themes and their content. They should contain special access that weaves the familiar alongside the unexpected, through a current story. They can be challenging, warm hearted or funny but they need to tell a story in a fresh and new way, be that through the technology that is used to film it or through the editorial content.