On Aug.15, Netflix will premiere "Mission Blue," an exclusive documentary about famed oceanographer Dr. Sylvia Earle and her lifelong efforts to learn from and save the world's oceans. It's an important film — and one the streaming service aims to replicate with a new big push into the world of cause-based documentary filmmaking.
Since earlier this year, Netflix has been pursuing rights to some of the biggest films coming from documentary filmmakers, including "The Battered Bastards of Baseball," "The E-Team," "The Square" and more recently, the conservation-focused "Virunga."
"We are really free from the constraints that other platforms have,” Lisa Nishimura, vice president of original documentary and comedy programming at Netflix, told the NY Times. “How many people in the world really get to go to Sundance?"
Unlike other television models that air documentaries only during a set period of time, Netflix brings the advantage to filmmakers of getting their film on demand in front of millions. As of June, the network counted more than 50 million members in 40 countries, including 36 million in the United States. With such a built-in audience, it's no wonder they're spending $3 billion on original programming.
“I can be talking about this film for the next couple of years, and boom, there it is,” Fisher Stevens, director of “Mission Blue," told the Times. “It is just getting more and more subscribers and more and more eyes on it every day.”
"Virunga" director Orlando von Einsiedel echoed Stevens' sentiments; adding in a statement that Netflix's "global reach is second to none and so was the obvious platform for us to share with the world the story of the park’s brave rangers and their David-and-Goliath battle."
For filmmakers attempting to rally the world behind a cause, such exposure beyond the theater and traditional television models is hugely important. With Netflix seeking out more films with a global appeal, the documentary genre is sure to get a much-needed boost in exposure and action.
Check out a trailer for "Mission Blue" below.
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