Pulp Non-Fiction: Straight from the source

November 1, 1997


-Cuisine to go

Now You’re Cooking: Culinary Travels with Dave Eckert is a 13-part, half hour series which hits the road touring American restaurants, to meet their chefs and explore the cities they call home. Produced by Vine’s Eye Productions in Illinois, the strand goes to air in January on most pbs stations in the U.S., with plans to go international after solidifying a niche in the market at home. The entire budget for the first season was US$350,000: enough to attract guests like football coach Mike Ditka.

-More than Meatballs

From Kompromiet in Oslo, comes an off-the-wall cooking show that would do Ingmar Bergman proud. Set against a backdrop of idyllic Swedish lakes and Norwegian fjords, Floyd’s Fjord Fiesta, a seven-part, half-hour cooking series, features acclaimed British chef Keith Floyd. The series will be distribut-ed by NRK Aktivum, an arm of Norwegian state broadcaster nrk, and will begin airing December on SVT in Sweden and DR TV in Denmark. Floyd turns his talents to the local culinary customs of Norway, Sweden and Greenland, whipping together recipes aboard ships, on bird-nesting rocks, and among reindeer herds.


-Backpacking: Pastime of the Gods

One of the most popular reference tools for the backpacking set is Harvard travel guide Let’s Go, and now there’s a tv version. Host of Travelling Lite, Brad Thor, squires travelers to all the hot adventure spots this side of Valhalla – from the Swiss Alps to scenic Vienna. Distributed through Adams Wooding Television in New York, Traveling Lite comes from Thor Entertainment out of Chicago. Scheduled to air on pbs and set for delivery late this month, the ten half-hours carry a budget of US$750,000.

-A bevy of Trailblazers

Discovery Channel Europe, Trans Atlantic Films of Santa Monica, The Royal Geographical Society and The Institute of British Geographers are striking off en masse for a series called Trailblazers (working title), a 13-hour adventure series tracing the steps of early pioneers, scientists and writers. Scheduled to air in 1998 on DCE, principal photography for the series started last month in Namibia. The series begins with host Mariella Frostrup in the Royal Geographical Societies’ map room, and journeys from there to Argentina, Pakistan, Bhutan and a host of other exotic locations, exploring culture and environment at each stop. The series will have its first window in the U.K., with plans for distribution in Europe and the rest of the world still undetermined.


-The other kind of shooting

For over one hundred years, civilians have been relying on war photographers to bring back real visual descriptions from the world’s armed conflicts. The War Photographers from Adams Wooding Television is a look at the photojournalists who risk their life for the whole story. The first episode, featuring award-winning photographer Ron Haviv, has been completed. The remaining episodes are still in production and are likely to be completed next year. The 7 x 1 hours comes with a price tag of around US$150,000 per hour. As yet, there are no broadcasters on board.

-To cut, or not to cut…

Shooting began last month on London-based Worldview Pictures’ latest doc feature, Project X: Castrating Rapists. The one-hour film is a coproduction with The Discovery Channel, in association with YLE-TV2 (Finland) and drs/rtsr/rtsi (Switzerland). Project X looks at controversial legislation in four American states which would allow for the chemical or physical castration of sex offenders. Ready for delivery by the middle of next year, the one-off is budgeted at approximately us$400,000.

-Kung-Fu Monk School

A crew from Antelope of London is currently in China filming an hour-long feature for BBC2′s Under the Sun series and carries a healthy £200,000 budget. The Kung-Fu Monks of Shaolin, produced and directed by Leslie Woodhead, and shot on Super 16, typifies modern China’s conflict with tradition and history. The focus is on De Yang, a monk belonging to a monastery in China’s Hunan Province who has opened his own Kung-Fu school for 300 students ranging in age from six to 20.

Antelope is also working on a two-hour feature tentatively titled The U.S. Hostage Crisis for BBC’s Storyville strand. The project is linked to both BBC and The History Channel UK, and will be completed by the 20th anniversary of the Iranian hostage crisis in 1999. The feature is budgeted at around £300,000.


-The History of Cool

Ken Burns, the filmmaker behind the epic series The Civil War, is now in the midst of Jazz, an eight-part, 12-hour retrospective of the hippest of homegrown American musical forms.In production since 1996 and not scheduled for completion until the turn of the century, Jazz has a US$10 million price tag. So far, pbs in the U.S. and Australia’s abc are on board, and negotiations are ongoing with several U.K. broadcasters.


This ain’t no Ice Capades

The ’98 Winter Olympics in Nagamo marks the first time women’s hockey will be a medal sport. Team Canada, from the National Film Board of Canada, is a look at the three-time World Champions as they train for the Olympics, paying particular attention to the rivalry between the Canadians and their u.s. counterparts. The producer is well-known documentarian Silva Basmajian and the director is Lyn Wright. Originally planned to be shot on film, the budget was US$375,000, but a decision to switch to Beta will see that figure drop by about a quarter. The one-hour one-off is tied to CBC Sports and should air on primetime shortly before the Olympics in December.


-Billy’s got a gun

Non Fiction Films of New York is currently in production on The Gunfighters, a five-part one-hour series on pistol-toting outlaws like Billy the Kid and Wild Bill Hickok. TLC is the broadcaster on board. Delivery is scheduled for early 1998.

-The Rich and Infamous

Trans World International and British Pathe, both of London, are diving into the seedy side of money and power with Fabulous Fortunes, 6 x 1 hours to be compiled by TWI with consultations and footage supplied by Pathe. TWI has yet to begin marketing the project, but the first few episodes will be ready for April 1998, with the balance following by the end of September. The series is expected to carry a budget of US$1 million to $2 million. Fabulous Fortunes focuses on the money- and power-brokers of the 20th century – from the kings of industry, to the lucky few who struck it big in oil or gold, to drug lords, to the superstars of show business.

-From the Horse’s mouth

OR Productions, based in London, U.K., is scheduling the delivery of War Horse for the fall of ’98. The horse has been the servant of armies since the beginning of history, functioning as a vital tool for the great armies of both antiquity and the modern era change the face of the world. The 4 x 1 hours have been pre-sold to The History Channel in both the U.K. and in the U.S.


-Ready, Set, Explore!

If you think you’re ready for some underwater action, Dive! Explore from Santa Barbara-based Thomas Horton Associates will be hitting the market this month. Six episodes of the 13-part, half-hour series will be ready by the end of November, with the rest completed for June of next year. Dive! will feature both stock footage supplied by underwater producer Stan Waterman, and new film picked up from locales as remote as the Sea of Cortez, and the reefs of Borneo.

Also in production news:

-Coup of the Month

-Millennium Watch

-Fighting over more than the bathroom

-Spotlight: Adventures with Adler

-Look out Channel 4. . .

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.