Production Briefs: Pulp Non-Fiction

October 1, 1997


From British Pathe and Trans World International of London comes Century, a 13 x 1 hour retrospective. Expected to be ready for the beginning of November, the $4 million series looks at the past century thematically, exploring topics like freedom and metropolis. The series has been sold into almost 20 territories, including The History Channel in the U.K., Discovery for Latin America, KBS for Korea and TV4 in Sweden. Notably, no North American broadcaster has come aboard yet.


Cola Wars

It’s only colored water and sugar, but few things define American culture better than pop – specifically, Cola. Three years in the making, The Cola Conquest, 3 x 1 hours from Montreal-based DLI Productions, is set for delivery the beginning of November. As expected with a price tag of us$1.4 million, several broadcasters are attached: cbc and T&eacutel&eacuteQu&eacutebec in Canada, Channel 4 in the U.K., Canal+ in France, Telepool Germany, ABC in Australia, BRTN in Belgium, Finland’s TV2 and Canal+ Spain.

The series is divided into three parts: The Big Sell, about how an 1886 invention turned into the world’s favorite drink; Cola Wars and Peace, the history of the Pepsi/Coke conflict; and Coca-Colonization, a look at cola imperialism – the globalization of Western culture in the U.S.S.R., Europe and South America.


The Wild card

Adams Wooding Television, with partners Pop Twist Productions of California and Partridge Films of London, in association with Discovery, looks at how evolution and the environment will affect the animals of tomorrow. The Future is Wild, 6 x 1 hours airing fall 1998, even speculates which species might replace the Homo Sapien as the dominant species on Earth.

AWTV is still looking for coproducers in Germany and France. Expected to range US$500,000 per hour, Future is about one-third CGI animation, and the producers hope technology will allow viewers to see what the world and animals of the future will look like.

Gripes of Wrath

In an effort to give misunderstood animals some press, Great North Communications of Edmonton, Canada, looks at animals normally ignored by shows (like pigeons). The Wrath Among Us explores the mythology surrounding these animals andUS$525,000 per episode, and is tied to Discovery Canada, Canal D and Canal+ in France, as well as German broadcasters orf.


Uh, what just happened?

L.A.-based GRB Entertainment brings you more reasons not to sleep at night. What Went Wrong (Without Warning on TLC) focuses on the how and why of manmade disasters, from plane crashes to rampaging circus elephants. Tied to Discovery, the 31-episode series should be complete by year-end, ringing in under US$250,000 per half-hour. Like much GRB fare, it will have voice-over to facilitate easy travel between markets.

Space 1999

Coming soon to a galaxy near you, Planets, 8 x 1 hours, looks at the evolution of our understanding of the galaxy, and the technology that made it happen. A coproduction, with A&E and mothership BBC sharing costs equally, Planets is still in the earliest stages of development, with delivery planned sometime in 1999.

Is anyone out there?

Having given up their search on Earth, scientists are continually looking for intelligent life in the rest of the galaxy. Mars: The Planet of Dreams, produced by L.A.-based SET Productions and TLC (distributed through Solid Entertainment of California) is a one-hour debate over whether life existed on the red planet. The US$200,000 doc will be ready for the middle of October.


Flipper they ain’t

Navy Seals: The Silent Option is a production from L.A.-based Gordon Forbes III distributed through Solid Entertainment. Navy seals are highly trained u.s. commando units able to work on sea, in air or on land. Forbes lived alongside the seals for over six years, filming as they trained and carried out operations. Seals is a production for Discovery in the U.S., and will be ready to air in February of 1998. The seals motto is: ‘Show no mercy, expect none in return,’ which explains why they don’t get invited to many parties.

Follow that elk!

From Peter Lynch, producer of Project Grizzly, comes The Last Lap, an equally bizarre tale about the last Arctic reindeer drive. Because of Canadian bureaucracy and a couple of wrong turns, the scheduled 18-month drive took six years, enough time for the leader of the herd drivers to become completely senile. The NFB production is still shooting and will be available in a 90- and 60-minute format. The budget should come in around US$375,000.

Calling Carlos

Nineteenth Star in Indianapolis has 13 x 30 mins in the works for Discovery called Shadow of the Assassin, about famous assassinations through history and their effects on the public. The series compares cia, fbi and Interpol sketches against the real killers, and even chats with a couple to see what’s on their minds. Ready for the beginning of November, the show’s budget is around us$200,000 per episode.


L.A.-based Brentwood Productions has acquired the rights to stories from American magazine, Police Gazette, which ran from the 1800s until 1977. The resulting 26 x 30 mins, Police Gazette, will be ready for January 1998. This magazine-style program includes famous crimes like the Lindbergh kidnapping and the Jesse James story. No broadcasters are on board yet.


911 goes primetime

If blood and guts make you queasy, don’t eat before you tune into E.R. Live. This look at America’s busiest emergency rooms, 12 x 30 minutes, is coproduced by York Productions of New York and Magic Hour Pictures out of l.a. The pilot is available, with the finished series ready to air by the end of 1998. E.R. will show actual events, from the victims of violent crime to the most miraculous of medical rescues. No broadcasters attached yet.


The Czar drinks with the fishes

On November 3, 1916, the M.S. Jönköping was making a routine night crossing of the Baltic Sea when she was torpedoed by German U-Boats. The scream that escaped the Russian Czar’s lips could be heard in Baltimore when he realized the ship was carrying 5,000 bottles of his champagne, 67 kegs of brandy and 17 vats of wine. The Czar’s Champagne from Bluesky Action Photo production, distributed internationally by SVT Sales, the independent commercial production arm of Sweden’s SVT, will be ready to air by December 1998. The one-hour one-off features shots of the salvage operation, which dove 64 metres to recover the still-drinkable Heidsieck Monopol Champagne – a perk you just don’t get doing nature docs…

Coming in from the Cold… War that is

Inside the Cold War, from L.A.-based Porchlight Entertainment in association with David Paradine, promises to be a unique look behind the scenes of the Cold War. The foundation of this two-hour special is David Frost’s interviews of all the major players, including jfk. A view of the war through the eyes of power, stock footage is used alongside recently declassified visuals. Produced for PBS in the U.S. for under $1 million, the doc should be ready for early 1998.


Double Dutch

Dance is one of the few artistic disciplines to cast its disciples off just as they reach their prime in their thirties. Goodbye… Hello, a one-hour doc from Greenspace in Montreal, highlights a production choreographed for recently retired prima-ballerina Karen Kain by the Netherlands Dans Theatre III (a troupe of dancers over the age of 40). Filming begins fall of this year, with delivery set for March 1998. The one-off airs on the cbc in Canada.

Century Club

January marks the 100th anniversary of Russian filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein’s birth, and ZDF Arte in Germany is just finishing production on a two-hour doc about his life. Set to debut at the 1998 Berlin Film Festival, Eisenstein came in at a budget of under 700,000DM. Films Transit of Montreal is the North American sales agent for the project.

Also look for:

-Dr.Death and His Dog

-Soop’s On

-Moon over Jimi

-Spotlight On: Filmproduktion edition disegno

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.