The Story of My Life Being Told Globally

Gepke Nederlof, the head of global sales at Talpa, tells TV Formats about The Story of My Life, which has been landing commissions across the globe.

The Talpa format The Story of My Life puts a spin on the traditional talk show structure, taking celebrity couples and giving them a makeover that serves as a sneak peek of what they will look like in future life phases. The celebs have a chance to see older versions of themselves and their partner, pushing the fast-forward button to 25 or 50 years into the ***Image***future. After each reveal, the couples are asked profound questions that challenge them to reflect on themselves and their partner.

“We have a big format creation team, so they play around with a lot of stories constantly,” says Gepke Nederlof, the head of global sales at Talpa. “What we found is that there are a lot of talk shows out there, and the same stories are being told over and over.” So, while there is an appetite for celebrity interviews the world over, it can sometimes feel as though the same interview is being replayed over again.

The idea behind The Story of My Life was to conduct interviews that portray celebrities in a light audiences haven’t seen before. “Using the element of aging is a perfect way to get that done,” Nederlof says.

It all began in the Netherlands. “We did a pilot, which was just a test, but RTL saw it and said, ‘OK, we want to put it out there. It’s so great, ***Image***and we want to show the world.’ So we are producing a full series with them now.”

Since its launch at MIPCOM 2016, “We were able to get a staggering number of countries that have already closed a deal and are already in production, as well as a lot of countries that we are still negotiating with,” Nederlof says. The first country The Story of My Life traveled to is Germany for VOX, which is owned by RTL Group. The format has also been licensed in Bulgaria (bTV Media Group), Russia (Channel One), Latvia (Media 360), Ukraine (Inter Media Group) and Finland (MTV3). The first country to go for the format in Latin America was Brazil (SBT). “There’s a nice number of countries that are going to do it or are already in production,” she adds.

According to Nederlof, “Everyone just loves the purity and how well it resonates. Showing this different side of these people contributes to its success. It’s doing amazingly well, and that is exciting for us. It’s nice when you have an idea, but it’s good if you see that [feedback] coming from the clients as well.”

Broadcasters know that “using celebrities is a great way to get viewers,” so that is part of the format’s international appeal, Nederlof says. But The Story of My Life goes a step beyond simply putting famous faces in front of the camera. She believes that one of the most appealing elements of the show is the fact that the transformation and interview questions uncover a different side of celebrities, including tidbits or qualities most viewers didn’t know before. “We’ve seen them in so many interviews already, but now we get to see a completely new side of them talking about what their future might look like, what they will look back on in their lives and what will be their greatest successes.”

Another enticing hook is the chemistry between the couples as they interact and reflect upon their transformations. “When you see what happens there, you get so much closer to them than ever before,” Nederlof explains. The emotions that the stars, as well as the viewers at home, feel throughout the interview help the show resonate across borders.

As the format is remade around the world, there are a few key elements that Nederlof feels must remain consistent. “We want to make sure that the quality of the makeover is very high standard,” she elaborates. “We don’t want to put a gray wig on someone and say, ‘OK, now you’re old,’ because part of the magic [of the format] is that it actually feels like it’s them, that they can transform into another phase of their lives.”

Nederlof also believes that it is important to keep the filming process uniform from one version to the next. “Another element that makes The Story of My Life very strong is that we record it all in one day, so the celebrities are there for one day, completely secluded from the rest of the world,” Nederlof says. She finds that the filming schedule “gets the stars to slow down and open up. Usually they run from one interview to the next and they know exactly what they’re going to say. But the fact that [the program allows viewers to] see them so vulnerable is one of the reasons the show resonates with broadcasters around the world.”

She adds, “We’re looking at new elements to make The Story of My Life even more layered, but [seeing the celebrities] at different ages and creating the right mood are very important elements that we will keep in all countries where the show is formatted.”