Pulp Non-Fiction: Selected Production Briefs

See Spot Run!...
September 1, 1997

See Spot Run!

Produced by German news bureau das redaktionsbŸro and All American Orbis in New York for Germany’s SAT 1, Spot das magazin is scheduled to run 40 hours in season one. Combining from-the-field current-affairs stories with interviews conducted in front of an audience at Babelsberg studios near Berlin, the primetime news mag is hosted by Milena Preradovic and Dieter Kronzucker – the so-called ‘Walter Cronkite of Germany’.

Wildlife & Nature

Flirting with Disaster

Viewer demand for more flying cows and floating homes gave rise to Anatomy of Disaster, from L.A.-based GRB Entertainment. The series airs on Discovery in North America before year’s end, appearing on tlc under the less-sexy moniker Earth’s Fury. Originally seven one-hour episodes, demand has seen Anatomy expand to a complete season of 13. The show explores natural disasters, from floods to super-storms, with coverage supplied primarily through eye-witness footage and bystander accounts. The series will be narrated rather than hosted to facilitate easier dubbing, but the screams of terror should be fairly universal. The first episodes will blow into mipcom, with the rest being delivered at the end of the year.

I’d like to be under the sea…

From internationally renowned underwater cinematographer John Stoneman, CSC, comes Danger in the Sea. With episode titles like Sharks: Killing Machines and Spines of Death, the 13-part, half-hour series is expected to enjoy wide appeal in a market which never seems to tire of sharp teeth and blood. Shot under a budget of CDN$1.7 million, the Marquee Film Company production for Discovery is now in post, scheduled to air January ’98. Broadcasters attached include Nine Network in Australia, TV3 in New Zealand and rte in Ireland.

Tapping into the Keg

Toronto, Canada-based Keg Productions is developing two wildlife series for the end of ’97. Eleven one-hour episodes featuring titles like Gator, Last Jungle in Africa and Camouflage, Profiles of Nature is more a collection of individual specials than a continuous series. Running about cdn$300,000, half the production is complete, with the rest to be wrapped by year-end. The series has been picked up in North America by Discovery, with European distribution rights going to Tele Images, Paris.

Mother Nature, starting production this fall, follows up a U.S. home-video series of the same name produced by Keg four years ago. Presold to The Learning Channel, this one targets a younger audience, and has a soft approach suitable for preschoolers. (Hyenas gorging on bloody antelope are kept to an absolute minimum.)

Animals Anonymous

Paris-based Gaumont Television, SDA Productions in Montreal and France 3 have teamed up for Wildlife Images, a 4 x one-hour series about the Wildlife Images Centre – rehab for animals in Oregon – an animal shelter established in 1981 with a four-part mandate: Rescue, Rehabilitate, Inform and Release. Shooting begins this fall and the series airs on France 3 in 1998. Budget for the production is FF8 million, or about US$1.3 million.

Out to sea

A one-hour doc from the BBC, The Cruel Sea: The Tony Bullimore Story profiles the rescue of three sailors who capsized in the Southern Ocean, surviving several days of incredible storms. With delivery set for December 1997, Cruel Sea features reconstructions of events, and extraordinary footage shot during the actual rescue attempts. The budget is expected to come in around £250,000.


Pop goes the pop star

Looking to pull in daredevil CHiPs fans the world over, The American Adventurer, produced by Hollywood-based Associated Television International, is hosted by Erik Estrada and features regular celebrity appearances. The 100 x 30-minute series, taped on location in France, U.S., U.K., Asia and Africa, is dedicated to bungee jumping, stuntmen and people who tempt the grim reaper for kicks. As are most ati productions, The American Adventurer will be primarily directed at the international syndication market.

Goodbye canned soup, hello magic mushroom risotto

Toronto-based Mammoth Media is offering viewers a cooking show best described as not-your-average-Galloping Gourmet. A variety show for the twentysomething generation,What’s That Burning features topics like cooking with dangerous foods and booze, and faking a home-cooked meal. Instead of an actual set, the plan involves using a virtual backdrop, complete with animated toasters. With production just underway, each of the 13 half-hours has the shoestring price tag of cdn$15,000.


I’d tell you, but I’d have to kill you. . .

Produced by Nineteenth Star of Indianapolis in association with Cable Ready of New York, Dangerous Knowledge is a series of half-hours profiling people whose lives have been put in jeopardy because they know too much. Subjects include a former ira member, currently hiding from an ira death sentence, who foiled a plot to assassinate the Prince and late Princess of Wales. No broadcasters are attached to the production. The budget will range from US$180-220,000 per episode.

Lunatic fringe

A coproduction from Pixcom of Montreal and Galaxie Productions of Paris, Killer Cults looks at the murderous dispositions of four cults who have made recent headlines, among them the Solar Temple. Produced for cdn$1 million, the three one-hours will air on France 3 in Europe and Canal Vie in Canada. The project is being filmed in Canada, the U.S., France and Japan, and should be completed by the middle of 1998.

Escape to Shanghai

From Pinball Films of London, with assistance from the Austrian Ministry of Arts & Sciences and in association with hbo, The Port Of Last Resort: A Jewish Refuge In Shanghai profiles the story of 20,000 Jewish refugees who fled to Shanghai before World War II. Shanghai was one of few international territories which didn’t require a visa for entry at the time. Scheduled for October 1997, the production has a budget just under US$500,000.

One hundred years of sex

From Toronto-based Barna Alper Productions in association with Carlton Television and itv in the U.K., France 3, TFO and The History Channel in Canada, The Sexual Century looks at the transformation of the culture of sex from Victorian taboo to mass-marketed commodity. Starting production this September, six one-hour episodes are scheduled for delivery August 1998.


Angels and Insectia

A 7 x 30-minute coproduction from Cinétévé in Paris and Pixcom in Montreal, Insectia looks into the mysteries of insect behavior. With a budget of about cdn$2 million, shooting starts 1997 in South America, Africa and Mexico for completion in Summer 1998. Broadcasters involved are Canal D, Société Radio-Canada and Discovery in Canada, and La Cinquiéme for France.

Is that a rocket in your pocket?

Another one for the don’t-try-this-at-home file, Ka-Boom is a GRB Entertainment, California, production for Discovery in North America (airing as Blast Masters on TLC). The three one-hours look at diverse aspects of the anatomy of explosions from popping champagne corks to supernovas, including the art of demolishing buildings, a woman who blows herself up for a living, the military and political power of explosives, and counter-terrorism and crime-solving techniques.


Way to go, Chris!

The Columbus Mystery, a one-hour special from Indianapolis-based Nineteenth Star, profiles an underwater exploration of three ships Columbus lost during a hurricane in the Dominican.

While filming Columbus, the producers heard tales from the local population about a forgotten Indian tribe living inland. Following up, the crew found the remains of a primitive village dating back to the 13th century, complete with skeletons, artifacts and a crate of gold at the bottom of a well. The side-trip quickly became a second one-hour production called Secrets of the Lost Tribe of the Americas. Discovery has domestic rights for both, with international rights becoming available when the production airs this fall. The cost for both shows is about us$400,000.

Big in Japan

About a Canadian diplomat and his mysterious suicide in the ’50s, The Man Who Might Have Been: An Inquiry Into the Life and Death of Herbert Norman is a production from Canada’s National Film Board. Norman’s death still has people wondering if it may have had more to do with his Communist ties and anti-McCarthy beliefs than self-destructive urges. Norman was also an authority on Japanese history, and the production has sparked enough interest in the Land of the Rising Sun for Toyota to come on board as a sponsor. The budget comes in at cdn$500,000 with two final versions available – a 90 minute and a 60 minute. Filmed in Japan, Cairo, Paris and Washington, the series will be ready for early 1998 and is under consideration by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.


Speak, Memory

Produced by Vancouver’s Voyage Media in association with bravo! (Toronto), CFCF 12 (Montreal), Knowledge Network and scn (Saskatchewan), My Art Will Rise Up and Speak celebrates the lives and work of Argentinian-born artists Juan Manuel Sanchez and Nora Patrich. Patrich fled the country during the ‘Dirty War’ of the late 1970s, in which 30,000 Argentineans disappeared or were murdered by the military regime. Sanchez was a member of the Spartacus Movement, a group of artists who portrayed that country’s poor and underprivileged. The production has a budget of approximately CDN$200,000, and premieres in Canada this fall on bravo! A version with Spanish subtitles will be available.

Coup of the Month

London-based OR Productions managed to wrangle camera access to the World Bank in New York, for the first time ever. The Great Experiment – already sold to Channel 4 and arte – investigates how the $100-million fund for developing countries is actually spent. Produced in association with IBT Productions, the two-part, one-hour series is represented at MIPCOM by Mediavision.

Millennium Watch

As this millennium calls it quits, France-based Protecrea and TF1 bring us a look at landmarks which testify to the world’s beauty. Operation Okavango runs 18 x 46 or 9 x 90 minutes, and will be filmed from a veritable smorgasbord of floating, flying and rolling vehicles, from hang-gliders to 4×4′s. Nicolas Hulot and the Ushuaia team have just wrapped filming in Africa for the first nine episodes.

Also in this report:

-NFB & D’Ici: Tales Out of Hollywood

-Spotlight OnÉDevillier Donegan Enterprises

-Wildlife Grant

About The Author
Daniele Alcinii is a news reporter at realscreen, the leading international publisher of non-fiction film and television industry news and content. He joins the rs team with journalism experience following a stint out west with Sun Media in Edmonton's Capital Region, and communications work in Melbourne, Australia and Toronto. You can follow him on Twitter at @danielealcinii.