Netflix orders documentary miniseries by creator of "Jiro Dreams of Sushi"

Welcome news for documentary filmmakers: Netflix likes the future of documentary programming, at least in the realm of culinary-focused TV. 

Simon Martin, writing for Tech Times:

Netflix, which is known for producing well-received shows such as "House of Cards," has just ordered its first docuseries in the form of a food-related storytelling.

Filmmaker David Gelb, who is best known for his work on the well-reviewed documentary "Jiro Dreams of Sushi," has been tasked with creating the new series "Chef's Table."

Netflix is rolling out new original content strategically, finding creators with strong performance records and giving them a full season or a mini-series' worth of episodes to develop a concept. (Recruiting Weeds creator Jenji Kohan, currently making Orange is the New Black, is a great example.) This has to be more attractive than the "here today gone tomorrow" network model -- and it promises more creative freedom than the feature film format, usually limited to about 90 minutes. 

 Netflix Dreams of Foodies

Netflix abandoned the model of co-producing indie features when it shuttered Red Envelope a few years back. I have since seen the idea expressed that the binge-watch model of keeping viewers engaged on their platform for hours of episodic content is a more profitable model for Netflix. This can't be true from a cost-per-subscriber model (the more you watch, the more it costs Netflix to support you as an individual), but from a customer retention perspective it makes sense. Episodic series don't have to be "re-sold" to returning viewers, and their likely popularity is far more predictable than individual feature films, each one of which is a unique snowflake. 

So what does this mean for the average indie doc producer toiling away on his/her own projects? Probably not much, at least not in terms of distribution possibilities. But if Netflix joins the ranks of other "TV channels" producing new documentary content, there will certainly be more work for documentarians (never a bad thing) and quite possibly more documentary fans scanning the Netflix catalogue, looking for their next foodie film fix. Regardless, this signals a strong continuing interest in non-fiction storytelling beyond reality TV, something at which (I hope) anyone reading this site can heave a sigh of relief.