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Case Study: An Immigrant’s Guide to…

Immigration is a hot-button issue around the world these days but in the all3media International format An Immigrant’s Guide to… the topic is given a lighthearted yet provocative twist.

The series, originally produced in the U.K., takes a comedic look at a country through the eyes of outsiders. The show comes from the British indie Rumpus Media, which developed the concept “as an antidote to all of the anti-immigration rhetoric they had observed,” says Nick Smith, the senior VP of international format production at all3media International. “Immigrants were all painted as exploiting the resources and benefits of the countries they were settling in, without anyone asking what they were contributing and whether they actually liked being here. They set out to create something subversive, that asked interesting questions ***Image***about us and that would allow us the opportunity to hear the views of recent immigrants as to how they view their new home and the people in it.”

An Immigrant’s Guide to Britain launched on Channel 4, with German comedian Henning Wehn and his gang of first-generation immigrants exploring various locales and cultural traditions. “Channel 4 really liked the fresh approach to such a controversial and divisive subject,” says Smith. “They were especially interested in the hybrid of factual and unscripted comedy.”

Formatting the show for local markets was a natural evolution, Smith says. “Never has a format about immigration been timelier; so many countries are having debates about immigration and there are very few formats that tackle this subject and I’d argue none that do so in such a lighthearted and entertaining way. Every country has customs, traditions or food that seem perfectly normal to inhabitants but very strange to foreigners, and it’s fascinating to see this pointed out.”

A German version has been done for SWR. “Their cast includes a Syrian refugee who had already become popular on YouTube from his lighthearted videos about Germans; a man from Mozambique who was helping to renovate the home of a senior producer, who was struck by how funny he was; and a South Korean woman who was an actor and model in Korea before she moved to Germany, where she was met by researchers at an integration class,” Smith explains. “We’re confident about being able to announce some other deals in the near future as we’re close in a number of territories, including the U.S., where all3media America is developing the format.”

Smith points out that the format has a great amount of flexibility. “As it is a mix of scripted sketches, fun reports and hidden-camera stunts, the usage of these can be tailored to meet each country’s tastes,” he says. “Both the German and U.K. versions use a well-known immigrant comedian as the main host, but it’s key to have unknown (although they may have performance experience) immigrants as part of the cast. It’s fascinating and hilarious to hear their take on traditions that maybe wouldn’t come across as strange to the average resident. A highlight for me in the U.K. series saw a Ghanaian immigrant going on a typical British vacation and trying to get his head around why Brits think spending a week in a tin box on wheels (a caravan) is a ‘holiday.’ Similarly, in the German version the cast struggles to eat the traditional German dish of Saumagen (pig’s stomach), but also with more subtle differences such as the unique way that German toilets flush and the tendency to wait for a red light to cross the road regardless of whether there are any vehicles.”

He continues, “You can easily imagine what could be investigated in other territories—e.g. in Spain, you could cover running of the bulls through the street and La Tomatina (festival of throwing tomatoes/food fight).”

The format is inherently cost-effective as well, Smith points out, “without the need for it to be scaled down.” He adds, “It doesn’t require celebrities or expensive stunts; some of the best items see the cast of immigrants interacting (or at least trying to) with the general public. As long as there is a smart production team that can identify the unique customs in a country and find a funny cast, then Immigrant’s Guide can be successfully produced.”

The show lends itself to covering lots of different subjects within the same style and formatting, Smith notes. “Rumpus has already made A Granny’s Guide to the Modern World, which sees senior citizens trying to get their heads around modern-day customs. We see a 94-year-old man taken to a beauty salon to get a wax and pedicure by a young man who attends it regularly, and a clip of grannies taking a trip to Amsterdam to smoke marijuana has gone viral with over 9 million Facebook views so far.”

He adds, “This MIPCOM we’ll be using a new tagline: ‘Make Immigrants Mates Again.’ Thanks, Donald!”

About Kristin Brzoznowski

Kristin Brzoznowski is the executive editor of World Screen. She can be reached at



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