ARTE Thema co-production


LAB TO MEDIA's Kathleen Van Damme and the French production company EX NIHILO ARTE sold Franco-German channel ARTE on the idea of dedicating a full Thema to two important European research schemes - Marie Curie and Women & Sciences.

The long-running Marie Curie programme – named after the Nobel physicist and chemist – together with the Commission’s Women & Sciences scheme underscore the importance of research careers and training in Europe. EU efforts and funding were given a human face, showing the daily struggles and triumphs the average scientist faces during their careers.

The film, called Dans les couloirs de la recherche (In the corridors of research), was a three-party co-production – a first for ARTE France, the European support programmes and Ex Nihilo. It consisted of two 52-minute documentaries and a studio debate hosted by ARTE GEiE.

The first part, entitled Profession: chercheur (Profession: seeker) and directed by Claude Mouriéras, portrayed scientists’ daily lives, from defending their theses and raising funds to the need to move for work and how this contributes to the so-called ‘brain drain’ from Europe to the USA.

The second, called Femmes de tête (Hard-headed women), traces the professional, private and family lives of several women researchers throughout Europe. Some argue the glass ceiling – holding women back from reaching their full potential in what many regard as a male-dominated profession – no longer exists. But only 33 women have won Nobel Prizes in its more than 100-year history, compared with the hundreds given out to men.

The film’s director Hervé Nisic paints a balanced picture of a complex and challenging situation, showing how women in various EU countries are perceived.

Viewing figures
Broadcast on 29 June 2004 in a slot between 8:40 to 11:15 pm, average viewing figures in France, Belgium and Germany for the entire evening were 1.6 million. This turned out a surprisingly good audience rating for a very competitive slot, according to ARTE.

On the same day it was aired, the Marie Curie programme and the project’s backers organised an event at the Cité Universitaire in Paris, which brought together French Research Minister for Research François d’Aubert, European Commissioner Philippe Busquin and the scientists appearing in the films, as well as 500 guests.

Following the broadcast on ARTE and with the contractual agreement of ARTE and EX NIHILO, a ‘magazine’ insert deal was struck with French magazine La Recherche, Germany’s Bild Der Wissenschaft and the British magazine New Scientist. Each inserted copies of the DVD free of charge (except handling). This extended the film’s reach to new such groups as students and teachers, parents and educators, magazine readers and the interested general public. And the reviews were exceptional.

The good reviews and widening audiences continued in the traditional press, especially news broadcasters and channels. Follow-ups were seen in, for instance, in Nouvel Observateur, Télérama, TéléStar. The films are available for viewing on AthenaWeb portal, another project reconnect to LAB TO MEDIA personnel (see Case Study 2).

Thema devoted to Marie Curie and Women & Sciences
  • An international co-production of two documentaries
  • A prestigious event attended by leading figures in science
  • Exceptional press coverage
  • DVD inserts in German, French and British science magazines
  • A communications success story for a minor initial investment, but huge spin-offs!