Congress '23 Wraps: Producer, Advisor and Former NHK Executive Sayumi Horie Receives Lifetime Achievement Award
December 1, 2023
Concluding its 31st edition, Congress '23, hosted by the World Congress of Science and Factual Producers (WCSFP), brought together the world's foremost international creators of science, history, and natural history content. Against the backdrop of an industry undergoing major transformation and facing substantial challenges, participants from 22 countries gathered in person from November 28 to December 1 at the Hyatt Regency Seattle. Notably, 37% of attendees were first-time participants, fostering a vibrant exchange of new ideas that lit the way forward in an ever-evolving landscape. Congress '23 was supported by host sponsor National Geographic.
The Buzzies Awards, dedicated to honouring excellence in science and factual storytelling, were presented today during the Congress’ Awards Presentation. Producer, advisor and former NHK executive Sayumi Horie received the Lifetime Achievement Award. Horie is the former head of NHK’s international coproduction department, where she emerged as a resounding advocate within NHK for producers and broadcast partners from around the world. Her unwavering commitment to collaboration resulted in the development of some of NHK’s most ambitious and widely acclaimed documentary coproductions. Chosen from 189 submissions, 50 projects were nominated and nine Buzzies were awarded to extraordinary science, history and natural history projects in short and long formats and to the best multiplatform project and best host/presenter. Five individual achievement Buzzies were awarded for Emerging Producer of the Year, Diversity Leadership, Mentor of the Year, Green Impact of the Year and Lifetime Achievement. For a comprehensive list of winners, please refer to the second release of the press kit.
Congress ’23 showcased an exciting roster of notable speakers and presenters—each a trailblazer in their field—including notorious hacker, inventor, entrepreneur and technology futurist, Pablos Holman, and key faces of National Geographic: Trafficked host and journalist Mariana van Zeller, National Geographic Explorer and host of Lost Cities, Albert Lin, and renowned climber Alex Honnold from Free Solo and the upcoming Arctic Ascent. Additional noteworthy session participants included ABC News correspondent and host of PBS and NOVA digital series, Alok Patel; creator and host of the popular science YouTube channel Veritasium, Dr. Derek Muller; host and producer of the Getty Museum’s digital show Becoming Artsy, Jessie Hendricks; and host of CBC’s The Nature of Things, Sarika Cullis-Suzuki.
Over four days, world-renowned scientists, factual and science producers, and top decisionmakers from leading global media platforms participated in 29 sessions exploring a diverse range of compelling themes, delving into the profound impact of AI on the industry, the evolving role of distributors, the transformative shift from linear to digital platforms, and the exploration of new frontiers in digital storytelling. Congress ’23 also addressed the explosive growth of gaming and virtual reality, provided valuable insights into the current landscape of documentary and factual content creation in Latin America, highlighted the importance of diversifying talent both in front of and behind the camera, presented new and effective approaches to documenting global warming, and examined the delicate balance between authenticity and viewer sensibilities in the realm of natural history documentaries.
Six Close Encounters of the Funding Kind sessions provided valuable industry insights directly from broadcasters, content platforms, digital producers and funders who either commission science and history programs from independent producers or who provide significant funding or support. Noteworthy participants included decisionmakers from CBC, ITV Studios, National Geographic, NHK, PBS NOVA GBH, and ZDF Studios GmbH. Congress’ highly regarded Speed Dating program facilitated 210 meetings at which 70 projects were pitched to 33 influential decisionmakers, fostering connections and potential collaborations.
The Emerging Producers Bursary program, dedicated to nurturing emerging talent within the industry, sponsored the participation of nine promising producers hailing from six countries, including Australia, Canada, India, Malaysia, North Wales, and USA. The program is supported in part by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.