A Passion for Factual Storytelling

Jimmy Humphrey, the head of acquisitions at Passion Distribution, talks to TV Real about the London-based company, which was acquired by the Tinopolis Group in 2012.

It has been five years since Passion Distribution became part of the Tinopolis Group, merging with Mentorn International and bolstering the catalog with brands such as Robot Wars and Paradise Hotel. While Passion does distribute content from all the Tinopolis Group companies—among them A. Smith & Co. Productions, Daybreak Pictures, Firecracker, Mentorn Media, Magical Elves and Pioneer Productions—the outfit has successfully positioned itself as a reliable partner for independent producers big and small from around the world.

***Image***In the U.K., its producing partners include BBC Studios, AMOS Pictures, Voltage TV, Popkorn TV and Reef Television, to name a few. Passion also represents content from a number of North American partners such as World of Wonder, Paperny Entertainment and The Weather Channel.

“I’d like to put out a call to arms to producers that we’re not already working with to say, We are open for business both for returnable factual but also for compelling single films,” Jimmy Humphrey, Passion’s head of acquisitions, tells TV Real.

He stresses that nurturing relationships with third-party producers “is a really key part of our business. We’ve always had a great reputation in the marketplace with third-party producers. We embrace working with new partners, and we’d love to broaden that scope.”

Humphrey adds that, in particular, the company is keen to pick up some more single documentaries. “I think that is a [type of program] that a lot of producers put on the back burner and don’t necessarily see the commercial value in. But, there is a place in the market for strong factual storytelling and when you can package them with other great docs, we do really good business with those. We’d love to represent more documentaries with internationally relevant stories, and we have a great track record with attaching the right partners around the world through presales and co-productions.”

Another genre that Passion is looking to stock up on is blue-chip factual. Humphrey points to history, science, engineering and space as areas of ***Image***interest. “We are incredibly well-placed to secure presales and often provide critical funding at the earliest stage of a project’s life,” he says.

The company has recently found strong interest for programming in the medical space. “Dr Christian Will See You Now is doing very well in the U.K. and has had a fantastic response from international buyers,” says Humphrey. “When Dr Christian came along, it was great to have a new medical series because we hadn’t had one for a little while and there’s always a market for that type of programming—especially one as engaging as this series, where the approach to dealing with medical issues is much more holistic.”

Responding to this demand for health and well-being content, Passion also added to its portfolio Don’t Tell the Doctor, which is about young people self-diagnosing their ailments using the internet, and Am I Perfect?, following a woman who is trying different dietary fads to see if she can achieve a Hollywood standard of beauty.

While character-driven factual was all the rage for a while, Humphrey says the current trend may have “broadened out from the abundance of male-skewing, unusual-jobs series into a space where access into unique worlds, brands and experiences is becoming more desirable.”

Humphrey also has an eye on the SVOD and digital arena as he looks ahead. “There is always a challenge around volume with short- and mid-form content, especially when looking to license to traditional linear platforms, but with the right partners internationally we’re getting a better feel for the content that works in different places and on different homes. It’s definitely an area we’re looking to expand upon.”