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

September 14, 2023

Schedule sq

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.

Download Press Release