Tom Neff, the Oscar-nominated and Emmy winning film exec who founded The Documentary Channel (DOC), announced he has left DOC to pursue independent projects through his company, Tom Neff Productions (TNP). TNP will focus primarily on partnering with corporations and institutions to develop “branded documentaries” around their organization histories and issues important to them.
Neff, who has won more than 25 national and international awards for his documentary work, developed the earliest branded documentaries 20 years ago, working with organizations to tell their stories in a fuller, more compelling format than traditional advertising. Neff executive produced “Speed Dreams” for Exxon, “Built for the People” for the Tennessee Valley Authority, and “emPOWERed” for the Environmental Protection Agency, which all aired on DOC. Organizations also use the branded documentaries in their individual marketing efforts.
“Through documentaries, organizations can reinforce their brands in a way that has tremendous staying-power with audiences,” said Neff. “They can tell their stories directly by creating a documentary on their history, or indirectly by sponsoring a documentary about a cause that concerns them, such as public health or the environment.”
“No great company was ever founded solely on the idea of making money,” added Neff. “They start with individuals who have a vision. And therein lies a story.”
Neff’s new venture builds off his 10-year success creating and building DOC, the nation’s first 24/7 channel dedicated solely to documentaries. Today, DOC reaches 25 million viewers through Dish Network and DirecTV.
As Founder and Chief Creative Officer overseeing Programming and Creative Services, Neff originated the DOC brand and created and designed the channel’s original 24/7 programming schedule. Neff also created and executive produced the three signature programming series currently airing on DOC: “DocTalk,” featuring interviews with current documentary filmmakers and executives about their films and the documentary genre; “Treasures of the Academy,” which airs Oscar-nominated and Oscar-winning documentaries, and also features other activities of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, such as restoration; and “Doc-U,” which introduces the documentaries of students and the next generation of filmmakers.
While at DOC, Neff also executive produced – and won the Emmy for – the film “Shake Hands with the Devil: The Journey of Romeo Dallaire,” directed by Peter Raimont.
“I am extremely proud of what we were able to create at DOC, providing a much-needed outlet for an often overlooked but critically important international art form – documentary film,” said Neff, who intends to offer signature projects and series to DOC. “I am now looking forward to working with corporations and other organizations to create branded documentaries for television, while also consulting with other channels on programming and brand.”
Among the branded projects TNP is currently pursuing and for which it is seeking corporate partnership is a documentary on Clara Barton, the founder of the Red Cross. “She was ahead of her time, an incredible character, and you only have to turn on the news to see her relevancy today. I am working to find a sponsor that recognizes the opportunity of an association with this important project,” said Neff. Additionally, TNP is seeking partnerships for two new series, “American Visions,” which showcases great American companies and their visionary founders, and “Voices,” introducing new documentary filmmakers of color to the nation.