WIFT Around the World: Postcard from Realscreen Summit

By Panayiota Pagoulatos

Realscreen Summit (RSS or Realscreen, for short) is an annual global market and conference dedicated to the business of unscripted and non-fiction entertainment in film and television. Three and a half days are filled with high-level keynotes, topical industry panels, networking events, pitch competitions, awards, and programming briefs from top buyers. This year’s summit ran from January 23 – 26, held at the JW Marriott in Austin, and featured 1,350 delegates from North America and some global territories such as South Korea, India, UK, and France, among others. 

Realscreen Summit 2023: Women in Leadership Luncheon (Photo Credit: RGP)


My experience attending Realscreen goes back many years and though it’s been a while (first time since before COVID—last time I will ever say this!), it certainly felt and looked different. Walking through the halls of the JW seeing new faces and meeting passionate producers with unique, diverse stories to tell was really inspiring. Because of this, the tone felt very positive and welcoming. 

The conversations on stage were different as well, a reflection of the time we’re in now following a global pandemic, political unrest, and escalating police violence against communities of color. 


Realscreen Summit 2023: After George Floyd: The Power of Black Content in Unscripted: Aneka Hylton- Donelson, Donny Jackson, Dane Joseph, Valerie Idehen, Angel Rye (Photo Credit: RGP)


One example of this was a panel titled “After George Floyd: The Power of Black Content in Unscripted” on progress in the industry after 2020’s racial reckoning here in the U.S. Conference organizers typically shy away from hard-hitting conversations, so this was a refreshing change of pace. Moderated by Angela Rye, the dialogue was frank while also offering very practical takeaways for executives in positions of power to take note and effect real change. The panel featured Aneka Hylton-Donelson (National Geographic Partners), Valerie Idehen (Hot Snakes Media), Donny Jackson (This Machine Filmworks), and Dane Joseph (Hulu). I encourage you to read Justin Anderson’s lengthy recap of the discussion on Realscreen’s website. 


Realscreen Summit 2023: Women in Leadership Luncheon (Photo Credit: RGP)


Something else I really appreciated was when RSS organizers acknowledged the event was taking place in Texas, a state that effectively banned abortion once Roe v. Wade was overturned. There is a revolving conversation about whether companies should move productions and events from states with these draconian laws on the books. It’s a complicated topic, but I appreciated the effort made to recognize the issue.

Getting back to the content, kicking off the summit was a dynamic conversation between Kathleen Finch (Chairman & Chief Content Officer of Warner Bros. Discovery’s US Networks Group) and Peter White of Deadline. Acknowledging the tumultuous year, she brought the focus back to what’s coming up, including the recently announced TLC show MILF Manor (now don’t go confusing it with that other show). She also emphasized that producers/production companies should continue to pitch them projects as each of their brands “needs 700, 800 hours a year of fresh content.” More on this in a minute. 


Realscreen Summit 2023: Keynote Conversation: Kathleen Finch, Peter White (Photo Credit: RGP)


And finally, I was able to attend Realscreen’s Women in Leadership Luncheon where I had a chance to catch up with Sunita Uchil (Chief Business Officer, International Co-Productions) from Zee Plus, a division of India’s ZEE Entertainment Enterprises Ltd., one of the largest media & entertainment companies in the world. Although she is a seasoned executive (once named by The Hollywood Reporter as one of the Most Powerful Women in Global Television), this was her first time attending RSS and I wanted her take.

Below is a brief transcript of my conversation with Sunita Uchil, (edited for clarity):


Sunita Uchil, Chief Business Officer, International Co-Productions of Zee Plus


What kind of projects are you working on at Zee and who were you looking to meet at RSS?

My division focuses on co-productions and we are constantly seeking to develop our network of producers, creators & distributors. We are genre-agnostic and welcome ideas from science to history and wildlife as long as the concept has a connection/relevance to India. In an advanced stage of development we have a historical docu-drama, based on unsung warrior queens of India and a thriller anthology. We also have our soon-to-be released series The Spice Trails, a 12-part travel/lifestyle/food series spanning eight countries in South America, and Lions’ Last Roar, a premium doc analyzing the concept of hunting as a means of conservation.


As we move into a post-COVID world, how are you finding the mood in the global industry? Is it back to business as usual, in terms of international cooperation?

While the pandemic gripped us with fear, it taught us to let nature heal itself and not take it for granted. Be grateful for life. It also reinforced the fact that people are the central force of everything worth talking about.  Our very first collaboration with Televisa Univision is a testament to this sentiment. The Spice Trails was under production through the pandemic period and it has turned out to be amongst our most spectacular heart-warming series ever!


What are some trends in unscripted entertainment that you wish would come back?

The landscape of unscripted entertainment is changing continuously. We have a variety of shows and formats, including studio game shows, talent shows, and social experiments, and this is set to grow even more. What I’d love to see in unscripted shows is to promote more family engagement. 


On that note, it seems that despite the many changes in the industry, broadcasters of all forms and across the globe are looking for fresh stories. If you’re a producer or content creator, getting your ideas in front of the right people can be a huge roadblock (especially for us non-nepo babies). Events like Realscreen Summit put you in the same room with decision makers, a great opportunity to meet a ton of likeminded industry execs and learn a tremendous amount (a very underrated activity). Luckily, there are tons of conferences, markets, and festivals that take place year-round to choose from and maybe (I hope) I’ll see some of you there. For now, adios Austin. 


Panayiota Pagoulatos

Panayiota Pagoulatos With over 15 years in the global entertainment industry, Panayiota developed a unique perspective and expertise in international marketing, sales, and production for top brands and content companies. In 2017, Panayiota founded Pink Orchid International and now advises global Film & TV content companies as well as collaborating with MJ Global Communications advising major Asian entertainment brands including China's CITVC (CCTV's international distribution arm), South Korea's Something Special, and the Mongolian National Film Council.

View all posts by Panayiota Pagoulatos

Comments are closed

Related Posts

Postcard from Park City 2024: Sundance Film Festival Recap

From Tammy Reese: I had the incredible opportunity to cover the 40th edition of the Sundance Film Festival, and it was an absolute blast. From capturing the excitement on the red carpets to immersing myself in the world of independent cinema, every moment was filled with energy and anticipation. Let me take you on a recap of some of the unforgettable film premieres I had the privilege to cover. The red carpets were a spectacle in themselves, as A-list celebrities and emerging talents and filmmakers graced them with their presence. It was a surreal experience witnessing their arrivals and hearing their insights about their latest projects.


Meet the New NYWIFT Member: Tatiana Trebisacci

Tatiana Trebisacci, a vibrant new media artist and recent alumna of NYU's Interactive Telecommunications Program, has garnered industry recognition. Her expertise lies in 3D design and web coding, contributing to a BAFTA-nominated team in the groundbreaking Immersive category of 2023. In an exclusive interview, Tatiana delves into her artistic path, sharing insights into her education and the invaluable advice she received, notably stressing the significance of regarding each technology as a distinctive artistic canvas.


Meet the New NYWIFT Member: Gabrielle Fox

Welcome to NYWIFT Gabrielle Fox! Gabrielle Fox was born into show business as the daughter of an actress and a businessman, immersing herself in rehearsals with her mother and learning business skills from her father. She delved into producing shows, and leveraging her networking and marketing expertise, culminating in the creation of her own website. Gabrielle's life journey advocates embracing dreams whenever they arise and relentlessly pursuing them. She believes that time is going to pass whether you take a risk, or create the project or not. Let that time pass by being creative. Create, create, create and then do it again. Read more about Gabrielle’s amazing stories from the set and upcoming adventures here!


Meet the New NYWIFT Member: Hyon Jung “Helen” Lee

In this edition of our Meet the New NYWIFT member segment, we have the pleasure of introducing Hyon Jung Lee, affectionately known as Helen. Helen is not only the executive producer but also the talented writer behind the thought-provoking short film, Bible Camp. This captivating film delves into the lives of young immigrants at a backwater camp who face daily microaggressions from the locals. Through her writing, she sheds light on the challenges faced by young immigrants and encourages dialogue surrounding issues of discrimination and prejudice. We are thrilled to have Helen as a member of our beloved NYWIFT community. Her unique perspective and creative talent contribute greatly to our mission of supporting and empowering women in the entertainment industry. Here is our exclusive interview with Helen, where she shares insights into her creative process, challenges faced during production, and her hopes for the impact Bible Camp will have on its viewers.