RTÉ Arts and Culture are seeking proposals that reflect and comment on life in Ireland, stories with human interest at the heart, stories with a strong narrative that engage and resonate with a broad audience. We welcome proposals marking anniversaries; ambitious, big subject arts anchor projects exploring the stories and national events. We also invite independent production companies to submit ideas for high-impact, peak-time arts documentaries on RTÉ One which have the potential to attract BAI funding and other third-party money, such as collaborations with national cultural institutions, organisations, or government bodies. We are looking for documentary ideas with a fresh approach.
Stories of Cultural Significance – Society & History:
We are interested in commissioning one-off or - where merited - multi-part short series about subjects from our cultural history. 100 Years of Ulysses is an example of this - a documentary unlocking one of the most acclaimed and explosive of novels on the 100th anniversary of its publication. Steps of Freedom - The Story of Irish Dance, is another example: a sweeping, cinematic, film documentary in two parts, telling the story of Irish dance and how it evolved from ancient ritual to global phenomenal in the last three decades. The recent Jack B. Yeats documentary, Jack B. Yeats, The Man Who Painted Ireland, marking 150 years since the artist's birth worked well in this vein. Author Colm Tóibín co-developed the story and wrote the script, narrated by Pierce Brosnan who, like Tóibín, is a Yeats fan.
Relevancy and popularity of the subject are of interest to us, so please come to us with your take on contemporary figures and stories which have had a big impact on recent Irish culture and society.
Personality driven Documentaries
Personality driven documentaries can provide audiences with an appealing ‘way-in’ to big stories in Irish culture, well known faces on a personal journey with something insightful to say. The recent two part series Tommy Tiernan’s Epic West, is a prime example of a personal engagement with a big subject, enhancing viewer experience rather than distracting form the subject matter ... another good example is Francis Bacon: The Outsider presented by Adam Clayton. Who else with a clear passion for the subject matter, could present an authored documentary on a suitable and timely subject - whether it be from the past, present, or even the future?
Colm Tóibín - On Memory's Shore is a good example of a style and approach that works well - the documentary eschewed a more conventional talking heads format and brought us into the life, home and under the skin, of one of Ireland's most successful novelists by featuring only the subject, Colm Tóibín, in an intimate and revealing portrayal. Are there other figures in contemporary Irish cultural life right now that could merit a similar immersive, intimate approach by the director and subject?
The audience respond well to this style of storytelling, even with lesser-known recent subjects such as Songs of the Open Road, a documentary on Thomas McCarthy, a singer from the travelling community and Clodagh, a trailblazing Irish designer. Both, honest and intimate portrayals as told primarily by the subject themselves with very strong use of archive.
Are there other cultural figures whose stories can be told in a similar intimate way?
Popular artist profiles
Profiles featuring artists who have had an exceptional effect on culture and a particular generation of Irish people in recent time. We are in this instance interested in subjects that straddle the lines between entertainment or news, factual and the arts.
And, are there other iconic cultural figures whose life, work and legacy are ready to be explored and even re-examined? - Perhaps dismantling the half-truths, misconceptions and myths that have grown up around certain figures or eras. Could this be extended to notable iconic cultural figures from our recent past and present day? Recent feature documentary releases like Nothing Compares and Love Yourself Today are strong examples of the kind of story and story-telling that RTÉ would like to support. Are there issues and news stories bubbling up that might be told in a different way to the news agenda? - the recent international release All The Beauty and the Bloodshed follows the life of American artist Nan Goldin and the fall of the Sackler family. Obviously, that's not our story to tell but we're interested in ideas that explore controversial Irish stories.
Note that RTÉ's in-house team already make 10 biographical documentaries. The Works Presents, each year on current Irish artists in The Works Presents, for example features Doireann Ni Ghriofa, Conor McPherson, Louise O' Neill, John Boyne and Eimear Noone.
However, we are open to suggestions for half hour formats which could feature current Irish artists in a different format to the The Works Presents.
RTÉ Arts and Culture places strong strategic importance in growing our relationships with artists, musicians and performers. With this in mind we are interested in hearing your ideas. Recent in-house Arts and Culture shows include Shine Your Light Easter 2021, Shine Concert - summer 2021, Bowie: Starman with the RTÉ Concert Orchestra, Culture Night 2022 - Live at Lough Boora, The RTÉ Radio 1 Folk Awards live from Vicar Street. We are interested in hearing your fresh, inventive ideas with or without the use of the RTÉ Concert Orchestra. An example of a fresh idea from the independent sector is the upcoming one hour A Note For Nature, exploring, through music, the beauty and fragility of the Irish landscape and habitat in this time of ecological instability.
Please do consider the orchestra in development ideas where soundtrack could be recorded as part of a commission/of RTÉ 's support.
Tá suim againn i smaointe ina bhfuil Gaeilge le cloisteáil go nádúrtha, bíodh sin sa rogha ceoil nó éitheoireacht, uaidh na haoíanna nó na láithreoirí. srl.
We are interested in hearing ideas that use the Irish language as a natural part of the programme from music choice, performance, written word, presenter talent, contributors and more.
We ask, in the first instance, that producers submit ideas into the eCommissioning system Login | RTE (rtegroup.ie) system under the programme category Arts & Culture “Documentary Series”
Please note: The discussion of, or initial interest in, a proposal does not represent a commitment to commission by RTÉ and should not be understood as such.
Commissioning decisions will reflect the quality of proposals received and the scheduling priorities operating at the time. RTÉ's financial position will also be a factor.
- funding should clearly detail finance plans, identifying all funding parties and the amounts committed.