Documentary Success Stories: 50 Case Studies

By: Peter Hamilton Consultants Inc

Create a roadmap for your own documentary by learning how other successful filmmakers navigated the complex world of production, film financing and distribution.

Get inside strategies & data from 50 award-winning documentaries, unscripted & reality series projects in this 310+ page downloadable guide.
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Introducing Documentary Success Stories: 50 Case Studies by renowned media & business strategist Peter Hamilton (Discovery Channel, BBC, National Geographic, PBS, etc).

Hamilton has created a one-of-a-kind insider's guide taking you behind-the-scenes of 50 award-winning documentaries and unscripted projects including Pawn Stars, Flight of the Butterflies, Letters from Baghdad and many more... [Scroll below for full list]

Learn how projects gained successful distribution on Cable, Broadcast & Satellite Channels, plus their timelines and budgets.

What You Get:

50 Case Studies of Award-Winning Documentaries, Unscripted and Reality Series Projects

  • 310+ pages of detailed, original research with filmmakers, producers, funders and television executives

  • Insights into deals including US & International Rights

  • Contact names of key decision-makers

  • Names of specific funders (and how much they gave)

  • Budgets & breakdown costs for research, production and post-production

  • Behind-the-Scenes of History Channel's "Pawn Stars": ITV Studios to Pawn Stars Producer: “You’re Worth US$450 Million!”

  • How each project gained successful distribution on U.S. and International Cable, Broadcast and Streaming platforms

  • A window on to co-production deals with multiple international broadcasters and funders

  • Assessment of the Giant Screen Museum Market -- Case Study: "Flight of the Butterflies" on track to gross $40-million

  • And much more!

What's Inside: 50 Case Studies

By Category & Genre

(sampling of case studies inside)
  • Case Studies: Theatrical Released Documentaries

    * The Siege of Mecca (ARTE, NDR-Germany, PBS International)
    * United Skates (Tribeca audience award-winner +HBO)
    * Letters from Baghdad (Successful theatrical run + BBC)
    * The Beatles: Eight Days A Week (Ron Howard-directs a $10 Mn +/- budget. Unique access.)
    * Sweet Micky for President (Celebrity-production led by Fugees’ Pras Michel)
    * 2016 Obama’s America (Theatrical hit from the Trump-aligned right wing)
    * Flight of the Butterflies (Giant Screen release with a big budget)
    * BESA: The Promise (From veteran U.S. factual producer JWM Productions)
    * The Woman Who Loves Giraffes

  • Case Studies: Historical Documentaries

    *Bernie Blackout (VICE TV)
    *26 Days to Kill De Gaulle (Histoire TV)
    * Native America ($3-4 Mn budget Signature PBS series)
    * MLK: The Assassination Tapes (Peabody Award-winner Tom Jennings)
    * The Fidel Castro Tapes (PBS/NGC International Co-production)
    *The Archive Comes Back in the ‘Post-Schedule Documentary Economy’
    * Challenger Disaster: The Lost Tapes (Nat Geo event reaches 171 countries! From Tom Jennings)
    * Every Face Has a Name (4K archive conversion creates value for Scandi producers)
    * A Shot to Save the World (Pittsburgh non-profit creates Smithsonian / BBC hit with Bill Gates. Peter Hamilton co-EP)
    * The LOST Kennedy Home Movies (History Channel U.S. special from veteran producer)
    * An Aussie / ABBA Love Doc (A $500k Aussie production)

  • Case Studies: Co-Productions

    * Stormborn (A $1.5 Mn Wildlife copro by Love Nature, Smithsonian Channel, ARTE, BBC- & Screen- Scotland)
    * Pompeii Rising (A €1.6 Mn Copro from France’s Gedeon Productions)
    * The Cleaners (Sundance finals for a US$1.3 Mn investigative documentary from Berlin)
    * Japan from Above (NHK, Arte, Voyage + others share €1.5 Mn budget by Gedeon)
    * In Ebola’s Wake (High-risk production backed by Al Jazeera)
    * The Rise of the Killer Virus (Smithsonian, ARTE, CCTV-10 China + others)
    * Dino Stampede (ABC Australia, Smithsonian Networks)

  • Case Studies: Crowdfunding

    * An Honest Liar / Sons of Perdition
    * “Who the F*@% is Frank Zappa” ($1.1 Mn Pledged on Kickstarter)
    * Plimpton! (from New York-based indie producers)

  • Case Studies: Science Documentaries

    * Inside Wuhan (CTV Canada’s W5)
    * A Producer at Risk in Siberia (Cold + corruption threaten project)
    * Cosmic Shore (NHK’s $6.5 Mn Live kick-off from Space + Special. Adapted for PBS)

  • Case Studies: Reality & Lifestyle

    PAWN STARS (History):
    * The Rise & Rise of Pawn Stars and Leftfield Entertainment
    * The Rise & Rise of Pawn Stars and Leftfield Pictures: Concept, Talent, Sizzle Tape, Pitch, Green Light, HIT!
    * Leftfield Pictures After Pawn Stars: A Structure, Doors Open, Renewals, Pitches, Green Lights. What Next?
    * Leftfield Pictures, 2007-2014 Snapshot: Episodes, Hours, Networks Pawn Stars: Leftfield Puts Casting Under a Microscope
    * Pawn Stars: The Inside Story
    * Ten Negotiation Secrets of the Pawn Stars
    * ITV Studios to Pawn Stars Producer: “You’re Worth US$450 Million!”
    *Celebrity Ghost Stories (A+E Networks)
    * Antiques Roadshow (Long-lasting hit public television format)
    * Globe Trekker (Global public television and travel series)

  • Case Studies: Platforms

    * Australia’s Stadium Documentary project (Big brands, government agencies and a sport leagues fund a highly creative project)
    * Tasty’s “Hands & Pans” (Online formats threaten value of channels)
    * Choppertown: (LA producer navigates Facebook, Amazon’s various platforms with their changing revshares, Download-to-Own, and more)


    SEASON OF THE OSPREY (PBS): The Development, Production & Distribution of a Blue Chip, Wildlife Special

Documentary Case Studies Produced by Peter Hamilton Consultants, Inc:

Documentary Business Peter Hamilton

Peter Hamilton is renowned media strategist who develops and implements television content strategies for leading media companies, governments and non-profits. He is a former executive with CBS International, and for 30+ years has led the New York-based Peter Hamilton Consultants Inc. His network clients have included: Discovery Inc, A+E Networks, Smithsonian Networks, CBS, NBC, Nat Geo Channel, BBC, CBC Canada, ABC Australia and many others. Mr. Hamilton has worked extensively with NGO's and governments to successfully develop their factual television sectors. These clients include Carnegie Foundation, Enterprise Ireland, Singapore's IMDA, South Africa's dti and Screen Australia. Peter is an executive producer and development executive, including on projects for BBC and Smithsonian with Bill Gates, for BBC with David Attenborough, and PBS's Nature strand. Peter recently executive produced “Season of the Osprey,” a PBS Nature coproduction now reaching audiences in 30 countries.
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Analysis of 50 award-winning documentary and unscripted projects from development to distribution.

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