A quite recent practice in the production of documentaries and factual contents is the reversioning. This phenomenon is a consequence of some international broadcasters who require different versions of the same product; this way it is easier for them to adapt the product to the local audience.

It’s possible for  every country to have its own version of the same product. The difference may be seen in small details such as credits or single scenes.

The reversioning process may often concern the final part of post-production or a completed video content and then transform it in a new product, “looking to ‘breath new life into existing material'” (via Realscreen, “Reversioning tips from the pros”).

The American Wall

With Berta Film we considered the reversioning process when directors/producers of Movie Movie, Nene Grignaffini and Francesco Conversano, asked us to promote abroad their beautiful documentary, “Walls” (original title: “Muri”). This is a classic 85- minutes documentary feature and it is divided into two long parts: one that takes place in Mexico and Usa border, the other in Kosovo.

The film had already been distributed with success in Italy. The aim was to understand if and how, it would have worked with international audience.

That is a really tough challenge for such a movie which is very long, complex and with such a creative narrative structure. We were sure that the first part, the one shot in Mexico, was the most suitable for current affairs tv slots. For that reason we have decided to extract the first segment and transform it into a 50-minutes one-off entitled “The American Wall”. We were able to create a new version for the international current affairs market thanks to a quick and easy reversioning process. We have valued that precise movie segment according to our needs. “The American Wall” is still requested by International TV channels,  the North-American educational system and the documentary film festivals. We can say that the operation we have talked about went pretty well so far.

Walls - Feature lenght vs

The American Wall - Mid-lenght vs

Re-versioning techniques

Which aspects  of a documentary or  factual series can be influenced by an operation of reversioning?  First of all, when a product needs to be adapted in the language of another country, it may be necessary to use subtiltles or dubbing; then it is important to look at the “cultural translation”, which means transforming the product so that it can be understandable and appreciated by a foreign audience. If we take as examples the English and the American audience, it is possible that the first one likes better a host with his shirt in his trousers, whereas the second one prefers him with his shirt out of his pants. (Realscreen)

Another aspect may concern graphic, music and often the title adaptation of the product. An example is the Italian channel Real Time, which has decided to change the title of the British reality show “Snog marry avoid” in “Dire, fare, baciare” way more suitable for  the Italian audience.

It is possible that important changes  are requested by the commissioning editor. Those  changes could interest the editing and additional shoots. In that case it is recommended, or even inevitable, to renegotiate the broadcasters’ investment if the requests are too expensive.

Ultimately, the producer could take some precautions such as doing interviews in both original and English languages, ( this way they are ready for the English market ). He can also add  the timecode to the screener that the clients watch, this way it is easier to discuss about changes or reversioning process.

Written by Stefano Mutolo and Valeria Alberti