With a particular emphasis on creating the best, most engaging original content on social, we sat down with UNILAD video extraordinaires, Alex Mays and Chris Gribbin to discuss the process behind our ongoing original documentary series and how they put all the pieces together.
What helps separate UNILAD original docs from other publishers out there in the social sphere at the moment?
I think the main thing that sets our documentaries apart from others is how it’s very natural and not contrived. Essentially it’s not made with a TV audience in mind, it’s made for Generation Y & Z. It’s uncensored and unfiltered documentation and we get the point across in the shortest space of time. In that sense it’s a lot more challenging, but also much more rewarding.
Which original doc are you proudest of so far and why?
‘The Paedophile Hunters’ was really our first ever step into documentary filmmaking and creating hard-hitting content. Nothing really prepares you for something like that. We were certainly dropped into the deep end, but it made us realise what this line of work is all about. It performed well beyond expectations and to date is our biggest documentary.
But I’d say the closest one to our heart would be a recent documentary called ‘Meat The End’, which explored the meat and dairy industries and the impact they have on the planet and our health. It was at the forefront of the internet, people were talking about it on the likes of Reddit, Twitter etc. and these people were actually reconsidering their diet and there’s no better feeling than helping influence that monumental shift in society’s way of thinking.
What are the key steps when deciding which topics to cover and the treatment with which to cover them?
When we’re researching and looking into new documentary projects we ask ourselves, is it topical? Is it relatable? Is it trending? And can we open people’s minds and challenge their perceptions by doing this video? At the end of the day we work in social media so we need to be reactive first and foremost, but it’s also about taking a subject and making it relatable to a young audience. We have a huge platform which puts out great, viral content, but our team essentially gives our viewers a daily dose of reality through these original videos.
What would you say are some of the biggest challenges when it comes to creating an original documentary, and how do you overcome them?
The hardest thing for me is remaining emotionally unattached to those you interview and work with. We’ve worked on some very sensitive topics and it’s hard not to get wrapped up in their world, but you need to remain unbiased and balanced. Regardless of your own personal views. On the creative side of things, we want to make it look beautiful and push creative boundaries, regardless of the topic and that has its own challenges and limitations at times itself. We’re coming up with new ways to make that happen, whether that’s filming gritty, original footage to accompany the interview or reconstructing events with the help of some of our more experienced team members – it’s what really makes our documentaries unique- especially for a Facebook audience.
Which doc has been your most fun to work on?
Fun probably wouldn’t be the natural word I’d use to describe what it’s like working on a documentary. It’s exhilarating, it’s a passion and ultimately it’s important work. You’re constantly on your toes and emotions can run high, so it’s all about keeping this in check – especially when working on sensitive and more investigative pieces.
Where do you see UNILAD Original Documentaries going in the future?
We’d like to see the team expand, make bigger projects and find new, creative ways to help tell different people’s stories – that’s the ultimate goal. I want to see us rivalling the big guys like Vice, Channel 4 and the BBC, we’re a young, hungry team and I don’t see why we can’t do what they do.