5 Questions – The Hollywood Reporter
Aloke Devichand joined Netflix in 2018 to build the first full roster of documentary originals by streamers from the vast and culturally diverse Asia-Pacific region.
Raised in the UK by Indian parents, Devichand has been in reality television across Asia for a decade and a half, serving jobs at broadcasters including Al Jazeera, CNN and BCC, in cities cities include Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.
Netflix’s recent Asia documentaries and archives, released under his team, include K-pop movies Blackpink: Light up the sky; Naomi Osaka, about the Japanese tennis icon; real crime series Raincoat Killer: Chasing Predators in North KoreaOne; Indian Hits House of Secrets: The Burari Deaths; and Thai-American filmmaker Palin Weidel think about the moving cold technique Hope Frozen: A Quest To Live Twice, won Thailand its first international Emmy for best documentary in November.
Netflix’s Next Original Asian Documentary Release Will Be A Travel Series Midnight Asia: Eat. Jump. Dream., broadcast live on January 20. The show that explores the nightlife of six Asian megacities – Tokyo, Seoul, Mumbai, Taipei, Manila, and Bangkok – reveals hidden locations, moist secrets Realism, unique passion and a number of characters captivate everyone’s iconic capitals after dark.
The Hollywood Reporter connected with Devichand for his first interview in his Netflix role to discuss how he approached building a documentary medium to encapsulate and entertain the culturally diverse and populous region. most in the world.
So, how has your journey been since you joined Netflix three years ago to build the company’s first original documentary from Asia?
So I moved here at the end of 2018 and at that stage it was very nascent. So it’s incredibly exciting to have this white canvas – to build a medium that we feel will be vibrant, diverse and resonate deeply with our members in Asia and Global. Since then, I’ve done a lot of work to connect with Asian filmmakers to build deep relationships. I attend a lot of documentary festivals and pitch events as well as other industry events in the area. We’ve been really trying to find talented vocalists in the Asian documentary world. They come from many different backgrounds here, which is really interesting. Some of them are people who have worked in the screenplay genre, and may have moved into documentary making for the first time. Others are brand new and evolving voices who may be taking on their first feature. Some are very experienced in the world of linear reality TV, but are working for a streaming platform for the first time.
So it’s people from many different professional backgrounds – as well as different cultural, linguistic and geographical backgrounds in Asia. So it’s really exciting and exciting to be able to build an interceptor with so many partners.
As you alluded to, it’s probably fair to say that the documentary ecosystem in this part of the world isn’t quite as developed and connected as it is in Netflix’s home market of the US or a place like the UK. Brother. So what has been your biggest challenge in your role so far?
Well, I guess the ecosystem is very nascent and at the same time challenging and what makes it all so exciting. In Asia, when I first joined, there was a feeling that documentaries were of a more appropriate genre. And what’s really exciting is being able to work with filmmakers, you know, providing resources for projects that they’re really passionate about and providing a global platform for films and This series is watched around the world. It’s been incredibly exciting to begin that journey and how the documentary becomes a much bigger thing here. Because we are at the very beginning of that journey, many filmmakers in the Asian documentary space, as it gains energy and momentum, are working on projects of this scale and ambition for the first time. .
So for us, it becomes both finding great talent in the region, but then giving them the freedom to be bold, innovate and really realize the vision for projects. their judgment. We try to really set them up for success. We do that in many ways: through providing production support and creating truly hands-on creation throughout the entire process. But beyond that, I think we can also play a really powerful role in being the connector. So, you know, with the very beginning of the ecosystem, we can work to really connect talented Asian filmmakers with great creative partners and collaborators. So it could be, you know, really strong executive producers, or they could be great documentary editors – or any other kind of experienced creative partner to make. help them realize the vision of their project. So the first time is relatively for the most part very exciting, because it means we can very well collaborate and help the filmmakers.
How do sourcing projects actually tend to work? Are filmmakers with far-flung projects coming your way? Do you buy projects that already have some regional recognition and then work with the creators to enhance them so they’re Netflix-ready? Or are you reaching out to promising talent you know and asking, ‘What do you want to do in the documentary space?’ I imagine it was really running the scale?
Yes, it’s on multiple channels. I guess, for me, that’s been the core challenge, as I come from Singapore to work across this vast continent to cultivate the most exciting talent in the region. But for me, that’s what I enjoy doing the most – finding great talent that can help us energize the documentary space.
For example, we launched a project in India recently called Secret house, is a limited series of material that has really strong views and interactions among our members. And that’s an interesting case, because it was directed by a filmmaker named Leena Yadav, who remains the same filmmaker to this day. But we love her work. She has an incredible richness and complexity in the work she does, and we feel she will also have great potential in the documentary space. So we reached out and started that conversation. And it turned out there was a story she was passionate about telling. And so she crossed the documentary space with us for the first time.
But equally, I think it’s also important to make sure that we really have access to new talents and voices. And that comes from a lot of places. I really enjoy attending Asian documentary recommendation forums to connect with new talent. Tokyo Docs in Japan is a really good document, similar to Docs DMZ in Korea or Doc Edge in Calcutta.
Netflix is so data-centric, I wonder if when you’re building a documentary team in the region, you’re looking to content categories that have worked really well in other parts of the world and is known to have a particularly dedicated fan base or not? Something like real crime, for example? And are there other actual categories in Asia that you’re particularly open to – because what do you know from its travelability data?
It’s a very interesting topic, but Netflix members are so diverse and with so many tastes, what we’re trying to do is build a vehicle that blocks so many different types of documentaries. So about last year, for example, we launched our music documentary Blackpink in Korea, which really resonated in Korea and globally because of the popularity of K- pop. We debuted the sports documentary Naomi Osaka, which really resonated in Japan, but she’s clearly a character that people want to be involved with globally. We launched a series called Honey, which are six beautiful love stories of couples who have been together for decades, is a story told very well by people. So we are looking for a lot of breadth in our media.
Do you think balancing cultural specificity with international reach works differently in documentary than scripted content in any way? Of course, one of Netflix’s great discoveries proved that audiences around the world are indeed much more open to storytelling in diverse languages and cultures – whether with subtitles or dubbing. – compared to what Hollywood used to be for them. But I wonder if some of these issues work differently in a documentary, where a lot of information is often conveyed, and the audience’s prior knowledge and context might be necessary for you to adjust the story to some extent. For example, on a program with a script like Squid fishing game, there’s loads of Korean culture at play, but as long as the story and characters are clear and easy to understand, people from anywhere can gladly go along. In general, is the documentation the same or is there some meaningful difference?
That is a really interesting question. You know, I think we’re very directed towards the director, so first of all, when we have those conversations, we really support and support the director’s vision, and also encourage Encourage them to realize their personal vision of the project. Because often, it’s just what will make the movie or series the most enjoyable, rich, authentic, captivating, daring, or poetic. We’ve found that through this process, you tend to create truly exciting moments that have the best chance of going global. So the focus is always on the directors to make the choices that are best for their vision, or the most authentic choices for the territory where the company is located. And then you also try to keep an eye on universal values.
I think Hope Frozen is a great example of this. Often, projects, despite being stories that dive deep into a particular kind of cultural context, have universal themes that are truly profound to them – and that combination tends to resonate more widely and generate strong global interest and engagement. Hope Frozen is a beautifully told film about a Thai family, but at its core there are also very powerful universal themes – love, faith and the possibility of science. It’s a lot about life. As a result, we found the story was a big hit in Thailand, but it also really touched hearts around the world.