The PRIX JEUNESSE 2022 Pre-selection Report
Category 11 – 15 Years Non-Fiction
by Monica Maruri, Journalist, TV Producer, Ecuador
All content needs good characters, an interesting theme, good narration, and engaging execution. This is how we chose the finalists. This year the pre-selection judges for the 11-15 non-fiction category found only a few excellent and innovative programs that took our breath away. We were met with many programs that were developed with clear educational objectives in documentary and grand reportage formats. We also saw profoundly moving interviews.
The most common themes have been related to stories about adolescents that are suffering from or dealing with disease, parental divorce, domestic violence, suicide, and emotional difficulties, but also about climate change and the survival of the planet. We also saw some stories about struggles with coexistence and survival for youths during the pandemic.
There is a large disparity between countries with large budgets and those with very tight budgets. Nonetheless we have learned throughout the years that high budgets do not guarantee a high-quality narrative. Being innovative, vanguardist, and provocative can be difficult for television. In this selection we have some innovative and dazzling products. One form of innovation was evidenced in products conceived for other platforms such as TikTok and YouTube. These must be evaluated with different metrics and parameters than those used to judge television. Perhaps these times suggest a new category to that end, as they do not compete with each other on the same level or conditions.
We are sure you will enjoy the ride as much as we did. Prix Jeunesse is the scenario for the world´s best children´s television. Welcome!
Category 11 – 15 Years Fiction
by Nils Stokke, Founder & CEO of Spark, Norway
For the first time in PRIX JEUNESSE’s history, the screenings were held online this year. Instead of watching the entries together in a room in Munich, we watched them in the comfort of our own homes. We met regularly over ten days on Teams for long, fruitful, and sometimes heated discussions.
The 11-15 fiction category saw a 50% increase in entries this year. We were pleased to see several new countries on the entry list, and even more satisfied with the improved quality. I doubt any other category at Prix Jeunesse this year has experienced such a rise in quality compared to the 2020 festival.
More shows and higher quality makes for stronger competition. Just about one out of five shows made the final cut this year. Needless to say, many more shows deserved to be a finalist. The jury saw several trends this year. First, we were struck by the amount of entries that came from a longer series. In earlier years, many entries have been one-offs, sometimes also short movies. This year, most entries were from multiple-episode seasons (often with multiple seasons too). Whereas these programs are popular among the home crowd, the entries are tricky to judge. A single episode does not show enough justice to the entire series, and while we know many story lines will be solved and the characters will develop throughout a season, the jury has to judge what we see in the entered episode. Episode 01 often establish the story and characters, leaving less room for action. Later episodes have tons of action but we don’t understand the characters and context that well.
That being said, in a really well-produced show, the characters are strong and the storylines are well-structured and you understand the basics even if you watch a mid-season episode.
The stories in most of the above-mentioned entries circulate around the daily life of teenagers, and the series definitely mirror its target group. These series are undoubtedly great successes in their home country. However, we felt many of these stories didn’t necessarily travel very well across borders, making them hard for us to judge. Also, when the category has plenty of these rather similar entries, it is difficult for any of them to really stand out.
We were slightly surprised with the lack of stories dealing with more severe topics like the European migration crisis or global climate issues. There were, however, exceptions and we saw a few shows that mixed difficult themes into the daily/weekly teen drama, like OCD («Truth or dare», Norway), school shootings («TBH» Czech Republic), refugees («Mental», Finland) and racism and current events («LOCKDOWN», USA).
In earlier years, a reoccurring discussion topic in the juries has been if the show is really for the audience. For many years, there were plenty of shows where the target group was missing on screen. Well, not this year! Almost all entries have youths as the protagonists, the stories were almost exclusively kids driven, and the topics resonate well with the target audience. Many entries emphasized an extensive target group research done during the development and script writing. Again, the quality this year was higher than ever before.
A vast majority of the shows were set in modern times, dealing with modern issues. While these shows are cost-effective and more safe bets for the networks, we sometimes missed a bit of imagination and fantasy among the entered shows. We are also happy to include shows this year from countries with historically little track record, like a post WWII story from Israel («Rising»), a Lebanese story about basic children’s rights («Story in the Attic»), and a family drama from Bhutan («Dancing with cranes»).
With only one out of five shows making it to the final, we strongly advice you to check out some treasures in the media bar where the jury members have given some shows an extra recommendation. And to those who did made the final cut: congratulations, you have all the reason to be extremely proud!
Category 7 – 10 Years Non-Fiction
by Aldana Duhalde, Independent creator, format developer, scriptwriter & consultant
This year the experience of the preselection was pretty different than any other previous edition. No sitting together around the famous big table was sad BUT the virtual modality also brought interesting things like being able to view the programs many times if we had doubts, or return to some aspect that we needed to discuss in more detail in our virtual meetings. The debates were intense, passionate and revealing – providing different perspectives that allowed us to build a broader view of the content and have a deep exchange of ideas despite the distance.
Taking the overall category into consideration, below is a summary of the outstanding aspects, certain patterns and the most debatable features:
An area of discussion, which took us significant time to debate, was who the content submitted was aimed at Many programs -be they animations, studio shows or documentaries- presented contradictions in this regard. On several occasions we saw very complex and provocative themes but the format/duration, the art design or the tone of the participants made it difficult to imagine it for an audience of 7 to 10 years old. Or the opposite: its treatment was pertinent, but the subject was so predictable and obviously trying to feature diversity and political correctness that we did not perceive it as sufficiently attractive or appealing for children 7-10 years old. (The tester behind was: Honestly, would a 7-10-years old watch it all the way through?)
-Regarding humour and tricks
A great challenge for any production is to achieve age-appropriate humour and several submissions unfortunately did not always achieve their goal. This was due to a lack of a sense of timing or underestimating the audience or simply because it felt forced. The intended audience was always at the heart of our debate when we were judging content that presented challenges or scientific tricks. Some felt too silly or too complex, or too long!
-Take promises seriously
Many programs had opening titles full of enthusiasm, promising everything in the introduction and presentation of the protagonists but by the end, the story sadly failed to live up to the promises of its first few minutes. We observed this “symptom” several times, programs that open with high expectations of success that resulted in not being fulfilled at all, leaving a certain disappointment, a certain need for a “grand finale” that never occurs, we all felt that children especially would be disappointed by this.
-How universal a proposal should be?
Many scripts were too much based on local elements, data and traditions, without letting the issue grow in a richer direction/ not all the kids living in a place belong to that place, or know a certain tradition, so this comment refers also of the doses of information and contextualization that the programmes would offer, in all cases, especially in times of migration,
We also discussed the fact that in several submissions, the style of the characters in the animations, didn’t reflect what the children they were depicting look like in real life in terms of appearance, faces, clothes etc. It leads us to a classic dilemma: Is it possible to be local and universal? Is focusing on local stories a way of fighting against globalization, and if so, is it the best to celebrate and protect under-represented identities? Can we be loyal to local issues and at the same time open a broader point of view?
-The presenters and protagonists were once again a prominent issue
We observe how difficult it is to achieve the balance between connecting and overreacting. Participate actively by replacing the children or let the children themselves be their own mediators and protagonists. We still see adults being silly and children overacting, emulating adult presenters. The role of the voiceover is once again questioned, sometimes the child narrator, other times an adult character guiding the show from off-camera. Is it necessary to have so much voice over to tell a story? Perhaps programme makers should trust the story, sound and images to tell the story, without feeling the need to over explain in voiceover.
-Real vs scripted
In all cases it was interesting to observe the relationship between what was scripted, and what was observational reality. Many times, the intervention of the filmmakers prevented it from being completely clear who the storyteller really was, leaving little room for the authentic participation of the child protagonist.
-A -many times- sinuous line between fiction and non-fiction
It was especially noticeable this year the quantity of programmes that we could consider hybrids – after all children don’t distinguish between what is fact and what is fiction and some of the best content reflected this. This pattern shows how the borders between fiction and non-fiction are becoming ever-more blurred. We feel this would be a great discussion point at the festival.
-My story, my life, my diary, my documentary…
We saw a lot of programs in which children present their lives, their contexts, their homes, their families. The ones that were selected stand out for their potency and uniqueness. We believe that one of the keys is once more the care in choosing the very special stories to tell and of course, the super charismatic main character. The question could be: Do the protagonist kids bring something really exciting to the screen? Do they empower other children with a real success story, take them to totally unknown realities? Can they move and excite viewers with their actions? Ultimately: Will the audience end up loving these protagonists and what he/she/they are going to open to us?
The task was to choose 1 out of 5 programs, it was not easy at all.
We weren’t surprised or excited by innovation in the content we were judging, most of it was quite predictable with very few outstanding new formats and in some cases while the content was very worthy, we felt that children may find it underwhelming with not much action, and lots of chat. We wondered if this was due to the fact that programme makers were all doing their very best in extremely challenging times over the last 2 years. Across the world there was a pressure to educate children and explain the coronavirus with very little time and money to make the content leading to a lack of creativity. While these programmes weren’t finalists, we highly recommend delegates watch them in the Media Bar. They are sure to be a valuable historical archive of what we have all been through during this pandemic.
-Last but not least
Yes! Also themes such as ecology, inclusion or ethics dilemmas, could be taken without solemnity, but grace and originality. We actually found some “pearls” that explore new narrative resources, some bets that stretch the limits of the conventional, and overcome prejudices. You know… those programs that, due to their personality, stand out from the rest just by watching the first few minutes. We know that these bets are the ones that will challenge us as content makers in our commitment to go beyond what we known. And yet, some of them just stimulate us to get out of our comfort zone and others would lead us to the territory of controversy. Well, we hope so…and be welcome to the 2022 PJ general debates!
Category 7 – 10 Years Fiction
by Frederik Hansen, Producer & Partner at OK Monkey, Denmark
We’ve had an amazing and inspiring experience watching more than a 100 programs from around the world. But at the same time it was also very heartbreaking, because we had to deny a lot of high quality shows access to the finals. Please know that if your production didn’t make the cut in the 7-10 fiction category, it was up against impressive and inspiring programs from all over the globe.
From screening around 32 hours of fictional shows for the 7-10 years old we are left with some general impressions that we would like to share with you:
There’s no doubt that the quality and knowledge of producing for children has gone up in all corners of the world. The ambitions are high and the love for producing quality content for children shines through many of the shows we’ve screened, and when you watch all the finalists we hope you’ll agree.
In the jury we were very happy to see that so many productions were shot on location and not in a studio. From the countryside to the city center to a small village and even into a chinese vegetable market. All of these stories and locations give us and the viewers an insight into a daily life in an environment you don’t get to experience everyday and have right around the corner – and in these Corona times it also allows the children to travel around the world with their eyes.
Among the entries we also saw some very impressive productions that touched our hearts and quite a few of those were driven by personal experiences from the authors and/or directors themselves giving the stories a strong authenticity – for example the experience of fleeing a country as a small child or waking up one day not being able to hear anything at all.
Of course every entry wasn’t mindblowing and we also stumbled upon some annoying tropes that seemed to appear again and again through the screenings. One in particular being adults acting like imbeciles. We watched a lot of shows where the comedy in the writing fully relied on adult actors acting dumb, and although we understand how portraying adults as idiots in some way will reflect on the children and make them look empowered, we found it tiring and bordering annoying that the adults – most of the time – were incompetent.
Portals to other worlds/dimensions was also a well used trope, that of course can be a very exciting tool to tell a larger-than-life story, but it also very easily becomes a cliché, if you as a writer don’t bring anything new to the table.
And that leads us to a third point – CGI. We saw a lot of very good looking CGI in more than a handful of the productions. There’s no doubt that decent CGI is now within the limits of some children’s productions, but we also experienced that some shows relied so heavily on the use of CGI, that depth in characters and excellence in writing wasn’t a driving factor. And a funny side note to that is, that the best “portal” show we saw during the screening, didn’t use CGI at all, but ordinari furniture, blankets, sheets and a flashlight.
It was a pleasure to be allowed to screen all these entries and to see how much love and energy there is for producing quality content for children.
Category Up to 6 Years Non-Fiction
by David Kleeman, Senior VP of Global Trends for Dubit USA, UK
The Up to 6 Nonfiction committee had the smallest collection of entries of any category. Over the years of PRIX JEUNESSE, this category has grown and shrunk year to year.
While there were relatively few submissions for 2022, it was clear that broadcasters and producers had been very thoughtful about the youngest children’s needs from television during pandemic lockdowns and limitations. Never before has television been more important for little children than when they couldn’t be with friends or in schools.
We saw a few curriculum-heavy programmes that clearly had been part of governmental responses to home learning. Unfortunately, as important as these were for children, schools programming isn’t permitted for PRIX JEUNESSE, but these are available in the video bar.
Other broadcasters responded with shows to spark children’s creativity and activity at home. Some featured simple arts projects, others encouraged participation in music and movement, and some put the spotlight on children’s hobbies.
It was encouraging to see many programmes with children as the presenters, sometimes describing their own lives and sometimes narrating stories about their families. When children were the voices, the pacing tended to be slower and more clear. We still see many programmes where an adult is the presenter and, too often, takes away the center of the storytelling or overacts. There is a third model we saw, as well, in which an adult voice (off camera) asks questions or makes comments on the action. These were often effective in making clear what’s happening and advancing the story, while not distracting focus from the child at the center.
Unfortunately, we had to turn away several “re-entries” this year – programmes that had competed before and not changed substantially since. In a highly competitive time, with tight budgets, we ought to celebrate programmes that thrive over time and keep their freshness after several seasons; however, as a festival PRIX JEUNESSE wants to spotlight new content, or ideas that evolve over time to reflect the producers’ learning about improving their shows. Still, as a committee, we applaud those who have a great idea and keep it growing.
We were somewhat surprised at how few animated programmes were submitted for Up to 6 Nonfiction. There were several entries (including multiple finalists) that add animation to shows that are largely live action – bringing children’s stories to life, having animated characters comment on the live story, short items in a magazine show.
As always, we were only able to send about 1 in 5 programmes to the final competition, though many more were of outstanding quality. We appreciate the producers who submitted their work, and thank them for the opportunity to watch. Please do visit the Media Bar for more excellent and innovative programming.
Category Up to 6 Years Fiction
by Alison Stewart, Children’s Media Consultant, Executive Producer & Writer, UK
As you may know, due to Covid travel restrictions we couldn’t meet in Munich and the pre-selection process had to be virtual this year. Big thanks go to the whole PRIX JEUNESSE team for making the screening process so easy and for providing so much background information for the programmes. Of course, screening the entries alone wasn’t as much fun as watching them together, but the online process gave the jury members the opportunity to consider the entries in great depth. When we met online to discuss the programmes the conversations were enlightening and extremely rewarding and it was such a pleasure to see our fellow jury members and share our thoughts – even though we were in little boxes!
Our jury screened 71 programmes in this category, met online five times to discuss the entries and are proud to have selected 19 titles from 16 countries as finalists for the Festival.
• There was a mix of fiction and non-fiction content in many of the programmes and we had to decide which of these had a strong enough fictional narrative to qualify for this category. Quite a few of these hybrid entries were moved to the Up To 6 Years Non-Fiction category (where several of them have become finalists!)
• Amongst the many animated entries there were some outstanding pieces, with beautiful design, lighting, texturing, colouring and soundscapes. There were fun stories, rich scripts and diverse characters.
• We are used to seeing amazing live action dramas in this category, but this year sadly there were few entries of this type. Two strong entries from Canada’s Sinking Ship Entertainment were moved to the older 7-10 Years Fiction category, which left very few live action dramas to be considered. Of the nineteen finalists there are just three purely live action shows.
This left the jury discussing the possible reasons for this . . . Are these productions too challenging to make? Is their content too local to attract co-production funding? Do producers and broadcasters doubt their success with the target audience? Is everybody now looking to make shows that work around the globe?
There was further discussion about what role is played by public service broadcasters here, as their remit is surely to provide their young audiences with content that reflects their own lives and surroundings? And could the big streaming platforms ever be persuaded to commission or acquire local live action kids’ content? Lots of important points to discuss with you all when we can be together again!
FESTIVAL 2022 THEME
The theme for this year’s Festival is The Power of Sound, and many of the entries reflected this in their submissions, resulting in some beautiful music and rich soundscapes.
When discussing The Power of Sound, the jury would also like producers to think about the power of silence! We felt that some of the entries were too full of music and sound effects, some had too much dialogue, spoken too fast for the age group, and it was refreshing to see when producers dared to go for “less is more” or choose a new direction in terms of sound design. See I-5: Odd Duck as an example of this.
• We were happy to find a positive portrayal of young children in almost all of the entries. We saw them thinking for themselves, learning from their own experiences rather than always being shown the way by adults and supporting each other to achieve their aims.
• Strong families and communities are found in many shows, supporting our child protagonists.
• Many of the entries dealt sensitively with issues of diversity. There were stories of migration and displacement; authentic stories about communities which have been under-represented in the past; and a welcome addition of signing characters.
It goes without saying that pre-school children’s development is affected by everything they see and hear, and our young ones need to be nourished with a healthy and varied diet of programming. They need to see characters like them who live in the places where they live, to help them make sense of their world. They need to learn strategies to cope with the challenges they will face as they grow older. They need to be delighted by stories, by images, by sounds and songs. They need to laugh! All this is on offer in our Finalists’ shows, and in the programmes which you will find in the Media Bar.
Up to 6 Fiction is a delightful category to judge. This year, as always, our jury viewed content that is creative, authentic, funny and moving and we were impressed by the high standards of production in evidence. We continue to be entertained and enlightened by the producers from around the world who are showing such great care for our youngest audiences.
The final word goes to jury member Christophe Erbes: “We saw some gems with well-developed ideas and intentions that will help kids to make sense of our chaotic world and give them hope”.