First Look: Congress ’23 Reveals Exciting Lineup of Sessions to Reimagine Industry’s Future

September 14, 2023

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The World Congress of Science and Factual Producers (WCSFP) is excited to unveil the first look at Congress ’23, taking place November 28 to December 1 in Seattle, Washington, with host sponsor National Geographic. Congress '23 promises a dynamic lineup, featuring thought-provoking sessions with key decision-makers from around the world—creating a unique opportunity for science and factual producers, digital producers, creators, and content providers to connect and explore the latest programming trends, industry intelligence and technology impacting the factual community.

Engaging Congress delegates with a mind-bending, challenging, and enthralling keynote is Pablos Holman—a leading futurist, inventor and visionary thinker. Holman will delve deep into the superpowers of technology to solve humanity’s biggest challenges in his Spark of Inspiration: From Science Fiction to Fact keynote.

Over four days, Congress will immerse delegates in an abundance of captivating sessions that directly address the current challenges, disruptions, and changes within the science and factual industry. Among these fascinating discussions, Congress ’23 will introduce AI is Your Friend. Really?, a panel delving into the profound impact of this rapidly evolving technology on the science and factual landscape, empowering content creators to work smarter and better now—and as they shape the future. In the session AI, Neuroscience, and (Ir)responsible Storytelling, delegates will explore the responsibilities that factual and science producers carry when crafting stories around AI, biotechnology, and other areas of science and technology. These discussions will further delegates’ understanding of AI’s crucial role in the industry's evolution and will equip them with tools to navigate this emerging space effectively.

The ever-changing landscape of science and factual is further explored in the sessions The Distribution Dance, a panel assessing the evolving role of distributors in development, financing, commissioning and co-producing; and Return of the Host, in which commissioning editors and hosts reveal where the new talent is coming from, in what ways the art of hosting is evolving, and how embracing the hosted format impacts the content and business of doc-making. Providing a light-hearted yet insightful perspective during these challenging times is the session Let's Talk: Group Therapy, Congress Style, featuring representatives from across the Congress community candidly sharing their experiences and concerns, offering hope for a brighter future ahead.

The shift from linear to digital platforms and new frontiers in digital storytelling are explored in sessions such as Are Science & History on TV Dead?, a close look at the future of science and history on conventional networks and cable platforms; Bridging the Digital Divide: Creating New Content for New Audiences, an interactive discussion where delegates from diverse backgrounds share tips to unlock ground-breaking innovation that transcends boundaries and reaches untapped audiences; and Outside the Lines: Exploring Non-Linear Storytelling, charting the explosion of gaming along with technologies such as virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality and exploring how they have created more flexible narratives that are interactive, immersive and often driven by the community of users.

Congress takes a rare look back and revisits the great factual content of the past 20 years at the session Make Factual Great Again. Here, delegates will be presented with fundamental questions: Are we trying to reinvent the wheel in this brave new digital world? Or are we perhaps recycling old hits too much?

New prospects and exciting opportunities for a better future will be explored in sessions such as What's Going on in Latin America, offering insights into the current landscape of documentary and factual projects in Latin America, showcasing unique perspectives that transcend clichés and stereotypes; and 3, 2, 1… “Diversify!”, a panel that goes beyond the industry definition of "diversity" and explores new strategies to expand and rejuvenate viewership while recruiting more diverse key creatives both in front of and behind the camera.

Once again, science, nature and history take centre stage at Congress, with sessions such as It's Getting Hot In Here: Climate Content On Trial, exploring more impactful and effective ways to document the global warming crisis; The Masturbating Squirrel: Sex, Blood & Tears in Wildlife Films, a thought-provoking discussion that will delve into the intricate balance between authenticity and viewer sensibilities in natural history documentaries; Scoop or Scooped: Filming Science as it Happens, a panel that will reveal the pitfalls and rewards of capturing a breakthrough scientific discovery or a "science scoop" in real time—the Holy Grail of science filmmaking; and History Through the Looking Glass, a session on how far we can go when balancing historical accuracy with the need to program for today's viewers.

Led by France Télévisions, a consortium of public broadcasters will once again join forces to help fund three blue-chip science documentaries with the winners being announced at next year's Sunny Side of the Doc in La Rochelle, France. At the session The Power of Co-Production, delegates will learn how their project can receive creative and financial support from this unique international co-production model.

Returning this year are some Congress favourites, including What’s the Buzz, a review of the year's standout factual offerings, from content for the big screen to smartphones; the Buzzies Awards, Congress’ annual awards honouring excellence in science and factual storytelling, recognizing shortform, long-form and multiplatform science, history and natural history projects, as well as awarding projects for innovation and impact; the interactive The Pitch - Live!, in which some of the world's leading development execs make instant pitches on topics decided by the audience to a panel of hard to please global decision makers; and Little Gems, a celebration of brilliant factual content—all made on modest budgets—that succeeded against the odds.

Additional sessions, social events, workshops, and special guests will be announced over the next month.

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Renowned Hacker, Inventor and Futurist Pablos Holman Joins Congress ’23 Seattle Line-Up

September 7, 2023

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The World Congress of Science and Factual Producers (WCSFP) is thrilled to announce that Pablos Holman—a leading futurist, inventor and visionary thinker—will deliver a thought-provoking and enlightening keynote address at the highly anticipated Congress ’23, taking place November 28 to December 1 in Seattle, Washington, with host sponsor National Geographic. Holman’s dynamic communication style, coupled with his passion and enthusiasm, is certain to engage and leave a lasting impact on Congress attendees. The dynamic four-day event will gather professionals, content creators, and thought leaders from around the world to exchange ideas, forge connections, and explore the evolving landscape of science and factual storytelling.

Pablos Holman's extensive career in pioneering innovation and fostering disruptive technology has earned him a reputation as one of the most revolutionary minds of our time. With an illustrious background in areas ranging from artificial intelligence to robotics and renewable energy, Holman's insights promise to inspire and challenge attendees at Congress ‘23. Holman will delve deep into the superpowers of technology to solve human’s biggest challenges in his mind-bending Spark of Inspiration: From Science Fiction to Fact keynote address to delegates.

"We are honored to have Pablos Holman as a keynote speaker for Congress ‘23," said Paul Lewis, WCSFP’s Conference Director. "Holman is a true disruptor—offering a unique perspective on the intersection of science, technology, and creativity—with a vision that aligns and resonates with the core values of our Congress. We are excited to hear him speak on the profound influence of AI on science and factual storytelling. Holman’s address promises to provide attendees with valuable insights and stimulate meaningful discussions about the future of factual content creation."

Pablos Holman, known for his captivating talks and forward-looking ideas, has been a key figure in numerous ground-breaking projects that have reshaped industries and pushed the boundaries of innovation. Some of these projects include cryptocurrency in the 1990s; AI for stock market trading; building spaceships at Blue Origin for Jeff Bezos; the world’s smallest PC and 3D printers at Makerbot. Holman also helped start the Intellectual Ventures Lab for Nathan Myhrvold to support a wide range of invention projects, including a brain surgery tool; a machine to suppress hurricanes; a nuclear reactor powered by nuclear waste; and a machine that can shoot mosquitoes out of the sky with lasers - part of an impact invention effort to eradicate malaria with Bill Gates.

He has spoken at Stanford, the United Nations, the World Economic Forum at Davos, the Microsoft CEO Summit, The FORTUNE CEO Summit, the CIA, Google Zeitgeist, The Milken Global Conference, and to many of the top tech companies and conferences in the world. His TED Talks have over 30 million views. Currently, Holman is a venture capitalist at Deep Future backing ground-breaking scientists, rogue inventors, hackers & maverick entrepreneurs who are implementing science fiction, solving big problems and helping our species become better ancestors.

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Call for Submissions: What's the Buzz 2023

August 8, 2023

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Session producers Tom Brisley and Dan Salerno want your best suggestions for this year's What's the Buzz session!

How people access content is evolving so we want What's the Buzz to evolve too. We want it to include the most eye-catching, stimulating and captivating content you've seen over the past 12 months. What was standout, made you think twice or made you wish you'd had the idea first? It can be a 10-second short or mega-long series.

We're looking for the best content from across the world from any platform–the more variety, the better–streamer, broadcaster, network, cable, digital, internet, socials. The only proviso–it's got to have a nod towards factual. Who are the YouTubers or TikTokers redefining science content, what are the rare jewels being shown on national broadcasters wherever they may be in the world, what are the stand out docs you've seen on the streamers?

We know you're stretched for time so there is no complicated form to fill in. Simply email to [email protected] and download your stream of consciousness–what you saw, where and when you think you saw it and why you think it's buzz worthy. Then, leave the rest to us to track it down and find a way of including it.

For What's the Buzz to work we need your input and we look forward to hearing what you think should be showcased.

Congress '23 Heads to Seattle, Washington, November 28 to December 1, 2023

June 19, 2023

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The World Congress of Science and Factual Producers (WCSFP) is pleased to announce that Congress '23 will be held in Seattle, Washington, with host sponsor National Geographic. The location was revealed live on June 19 at the Sunny Side Science Pitch event at Sunny Side of the Doc in La Rochelle, France. The dynamic four-day event that brings together creators of science, history and natural history content with top broadcasters, OTT platforms and digital publishers, will be held from November 28 to December 1, 2023.

A must-attend event for professionals working in science and factual media, Congress explores new frontiers in specialist factual production and distribution across all media platforms, including television, VR, online gaming, streamers, series and feature-length documentaries, and short video form. The WCSFP is committed to fostering a safe and collaborative space that celebrates individuals’ uniqueness, providing a platform to forward-thinking principles, and amplifying the voices of the marginalized, all while connecting our community and effecting positive change through stimulating knowledge sessions and events. Congress '23 in Seattle will offer members the opportunity to reconnect with colleagues around the world and meet new faces from emerging territories and markets.

"We are thrilled to bring Congress to the Emerald City, a major hub for tech, start-ups, and innovation renowned for its abundant natural beauty–from the imposing active stratovolcano Mount Rainier to the lush and biodiverse Olympic National Park–not to mention its world-famous coffee scene," said Paul Lewis, WCSFP conference director. "At a time when science and history have become so politicized, it’s fitting that our international community of factual content creators gather with their colleagues working within such a polarized climate to explore how to better tell stories of progress, innovation and resilience through a lens of inclusivity, and to find new ways to engage diverse audiences and build bridges through a greater understanding of our world. We extend our deepest appreciation to Congress ’23 host sponsor National Geographic for their continued support and for being a driving force in advancing science and factual production."

National Geographic has been igniting the explorer in all of us for 135 years through ground-breaking storytelling from the best and brightest scientists, explorers, photographers, and filmmakers in the world.

"As a long-time supporter of Congress, we are thrilled to take this opportunity to engage, energize and empower our colleagues in the science, history, and factual entertainment landscape," shared Tom McDonald, executive vice president, global factual and unscripted content, National Geographic Content. "We eagerly look forward to this world-renowned gathering–a milestone event celebrating smart content–where we will explore cutting-edge programming trends, the latest industry insights, and transformative technologies reshaping the future of our industry."

Congress '23 follows a successful, sold-out event held in Glasgow, UK, this past November, which welcomed hundreds of members from around the world to Scotland with the generous support of host BBC Studios. The WCSFP brings together more than 700 content producers, broadcasters and digital platforms, as well as subject experts, and creative and technology leaders from around the world. Over 200 representatives from international broadcasters attend each year, including key decision makers from ABC News Studios, ARTE, BBC, CBC, Curiosity Stream, France Télévisions, GBH/PBS, ITV Studios, National Geographic, NHK, Red Bull Media House GmbH/ServusTV, S4C, SBS, and ZDF Studios GmbH.

Registration for Congress '23 will open in August. Early registration for the four-day event is encouraged for what is anticipated to be a sold-out event. A full list of sessions, social events, workshops, and special guests will be announced in the fall.

Congress '22 in Glasgow Comes to a Close

December 2, 2022

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Congress '22, presented by the World Congress of Science and Factual Producers (WCSFP), has wrapped its sold-out 30th edition. The world’s most prominent international creators of science, history and natural history content gathered in person for the first time in three years to celebrate community, exchange fresh ideas, and find a way forward together in an enormously changed industry. Congress ’22 was held November 28 - December 1 in Glasgow at the SEC Centre. The dynamic four-day event welcomed 684 members from 27 countries, 37% of whom were first-time attendees. Congress ’22 was made possible with the generous support of host sponsor BBC Studios Productions and signature partner Screen Scotland.

Congress '22 featured an exciting lineup of distinguished speakers, presenters, and session participants– all cutting-edge pioneers in their field–including: space scientist, author, and BAFTA-nominated TV presenter Dr. Maggie Aderin-Pocock MBE; science, wildlife and natural history presenter Liz Bonnin; TV presenter and journalist Mobeen Azhar; explorer, palaeoanthropologist, evolutionary biologist and stand-up comic Ella Al-Shamahi; emergency medicine doctor and TV presenter Dr. Ronx Ikharia; award-winning wildlife cameraman, presenter and public speaker Gordon Buchanan MBE; Emmy-nominated host, television winning producer; podcaster Trace Dominguez, and many more.

Over four days, world-renowned scientists, factual and science producers, and top decisionmakers from leading global broadcasters participated in 29 sessions covering a wide scope of themes, including: recent achievements in space exploration, diversity and inclusion in the science and factual production industry, the future of war documentaries, the 100th anniversary of the BBC–the world’s first public broadcaster, the hottest new trends and most buzzworthy content of the year, advances in deep ocean archeology, the evolution of virtual reality, solutions to the climate crisis, and new technologies impacting wildlife content production. Twelve Close Encounters of the Funding Kind sessions made available online offered direct industry intelligence from broadcasters, platforms, and funders who either commission science and history programs from independent producers or who provide significant funding or support. Participating decisionmakers included those from ARTE France, BBC, CBC, Curiosity Stream, France Télévisions, GBH/PBS, ITV Studios, National Geographic, NHK, Red Bull Media House GmbH/ServusTV, S4C, and ZDF Studios GmbH. Congress' popular Speed Dating program arranged 277 meetings at which 277 projects were pitched to 58 decision makers.

The Buzzies Awards, celebrating excellence in science and factual storytelling, were awarded today at Congress' Awards Presentation and 30th Anniversary Celebration. The full list of winners can be found in the second release of this press kit. Chosen from 170 submissions, 78 projects were shortlisted and 10 Buzzies were given to top science, history and natural history projects in short and long formats and to the best multiplatform project and best host/presenter, as well as for innovation and green impact. Four individual achievement Buzzies were awarded for Diversity Leadership, Mentor of the Year, Lifetime Achievement and Emerging Producer of the Year.

The Emerging Producers Bursary program, which supports rising talent in the industry, funded the participation of 11 emerging producers from eight countries, including Australia, Canada, Chile, France, Japan, South Africa, UK, and USA.

Winners of International Science Documentary Call for Projects by World's Top Broadcasters Revealed at Congress '22

December 1, 2022


At Congress '22, funding for three blue chip science documentaries was announced at the United We Stand session. This initiative and call for proposals were introduced at Sunny Side of the Doc 2022 and is backed by nine public broadcasters (France Télévisions, ZDF [Germany], Channel 4 [UK], CBC [Canada], SVT [Sweden], ORF [Austria], ABC Australia, NHK [Japan], and RAI [Italy]), who have joined creative and financial forces.

Producers from across the globe were invited to submit proposals for documentary films that fit into either of these two categories.

Category 1: dealing with ancient civilizations, archaeology, paleontology, geology, or space exploration Category 2: exploring how cutting-edge science can provide solutions to save the planet. An international jury composed of representatives from each broadcaster selected three ambitious projects from 55 projects from 13 countries, with two winning projects in Category 1 and one in Category 2.

“We were all extremely impressed with the variety of subjects submitted–how very unusual and intriguing many of the subjects were–and with the depth of research that went into them,” said Caroline Behar, Head of International Coproductions and Acquisitions at France Télévisions. “The valued partners who so generously joined France Télévisions in this initiative all showed great commitment, and I found the quality of our discussions hugely enriching.”

The three winners of the International Science Documentary Funding Competition present epic scientific adventures with an international scope, a strong narrative with a clear resolution, wide audience appeal, factual clarity combined with an engaging and emotional approach, spectacular visuals, and feature cutting-edge scientific techniques and equipment:

CATEGORY 1: Ancient civilizations, archaeology, paleontology, geology, space exploration

THE LOST WONDERS OF THE WORLD: IN SEARCH OF THE HANGING BABYLON, Lion TV DESTINATION MOON, ZED Honourable mention by the jury goes to Pompei Secret Underworld (Blink Films)

  CATEGORY 2: Exploring how cutting-edge science can provide solutions to save the planet

THE FOREST, Windfall Films Honourable mention by the jury goes to Resurrection Planet (Media Stockage / Zed) 

John Lynch to Step Down as Board Chairperson; Autentic's Dr. Patrick Hörl Appointed New WCSFP Ltd. Chair

December 1, 2022


The World Congress of Science and Factual Producers (WCSFP) announced today the appointment of Dr. Patrick Hörl as the new WCSFP Ltd. chairperson. John Lynch, chairperson since 2016 and instrumental in the development of the organization, will step down at the close of Congress ’22 and will remain on the board of directors to lead the transition.

"I am honoured to take on the role of chairperson of the board at such an exciting time for our industry, with smarter and more extraordinary content than ever before. Under my management, and with the help of our dedicated board of directors and editorial committee, World Congress will continue to provide leadership, inspiration and guidance to science and factual content creators from across the world in a rapidly changing landscape, as we keep exploring new horizons and opportunities," said Patrick Hörl, WCSFP Chairperson. "The WCSFP board of directors thanks John for his steadfast leadership as chairperson during the last 16 years and for his unwavering support of our organization. John’s contributions to World Congress are vast, and we are very glad that he will remain on the board for the foreseeable future."

During his tenure as chairperson of the board of directors, John Lynch has been instrumental in growing the WCSFP to become the preeminent, and most popular, international specialist factual industry event. John is a leading industry figure in the production of specialist factual film and television, with a substantial track record in creative innovation, editorial judgment and international partnership. In a distinguished media career, including the editorship of Horizon and culminating in a decade as the creative and business leader of the renowned BBC Science Unit, he has long been committed to reaching the widest possible audience with knowledge that matters to their lives. As an award-winning executive producer, writer and director, with three BAFTAs, two Emmys, two RTSs and a Prix Italia, he was responsible for the global smash-hit Walking with Dinosaurs, and produced the acclaimed Horizon documentary Fermat’s Last Theorem. In 2011 he was honoured with an OBE for services to broadcasting. Following his departure from the BBC he has been active on a variety of advisory boards that focus on the communication of knowledge.

Dr. Patrick Hörl is the founder and managing director of the factual entertainment label Autentic. The company produces and distributes high-quality factual shows and series for audiences around the world. Furthermore, he is the MD of the two factual pay-tv channels Spiegel Geschichte and Spiegel TV Wissen, a joint venture between Autentic and Spiegel TV. Patrick is one of the founders of Documentary Campus and serves as chairperson of the board of Campus, a Pan-European advanced training program for young aspiring filmmakers in the fields of documentary film and factual entertainment. Additionally, Patrick is a member of the board of directors of the factual section of Produzentenallianz and has been a board member of WCSFP since 2017.