Pulp Non-Fiction: Prodcution news straight from the source

December 1, 1997


La double vie de Rick Ray

President of L.A.-based stock footage library Wish You Were Here Film and Video as well as his own production company, Vagabond Productions, Rick Ray lives a double life – smuggler by day, filmmaker by night.

For his last feature, Raising the Bamboo Curtain, currently airing on pbs, Ray smuggled footage out of Burma, Vietnam and Cambodia for the project, and then scored an additional coup by getting Martin Sheen to narrate.

For his newest feature, Lebanon: Up from the Ashes, Ray smuggled his camera via backpack into Beirut, a location which until recently had been closed to Americans. Ray says he was particularly struck by the contrasting images Lebanon presented. The film reflects those dichotomies, featuring shots such as wealthy Lebanese businessmen at St. George’s beach club, lounging in the shadow of blown-out highrises.

Lebanon, currently in post, will be a 90-minute film shot on 16mm.


Making Millennial Music

Hidden in the heart of suburban Moscow, the Gosteleradio music archives hold over 400,000 hours of classical music. Officially suppressed by the Communists, some of the recordings have not been heard since they were recorded.

Classic Century, a 100 X 8 minute series produced by British Pathe in association with the archive licencee and fellow Londoners Telstar, pairs the rare music with footage from the Pathe archive. Episodes highlight the famous themes, events and personalities of the 20th century – like the Vietnam War and the Russian Revolution.

Thirteen episodes are finished, with the remaining 87 to be completed by the turn of the century. The productions are intended as quality filler, and have already been sold into Japan, Czechoslovakia, France, Poland, Brazil and the U.S.


Return to Bally Maloe

Darina Allen, veteran cook of six Simply Delicious series on Ireland’s RTE, hits the air once again beginning next January with A Year In Bally Maloe with Darina Allen. The 26 x 30 minute series is being produced for the Carlton Food Network in the U.K., as well as RTE. Besides being a television personality, Allen also runs her own cooking school in West Cork and is a mean gardener. The series is being produced by Brian Waddell Productions in Belfast, and will be distributed through Network Ireland Television of Dublin.


The Rocky Road to Dublin

Set for delivery in mid-February, Wild Ireland is a 6 x 30 minute Irish adventure with renowned mountaineer Dermot Somers. Somers takes viewers on a complete trek along the western shore of the Emerald Isle, from the northern-most tip to the farthest point south. Produced by Crossing the Line Productions in Dublin, this project for the armchair explorer is being distributed by fellow Dubliners, Network Ireland Television. The original Irish-language version of Wild Ireland appears on TnaG domestically, with the English language version running on the Travel Channel in the U.K.

Just doing my job, ma’am

Ever wonder where heroes learn the tricks of the trade? They go to Hero School, of course. Hero School is 4 x 1 hours from Washington, DC-based Alexandria Productions and Devillier Donegan Enterprises. Hero looks into where the brave get the smarts to be able to do what they do without getting turned into hamburger. The series looks at four different kinds of heroes: bomb defusers, smoke jumpers, Stat medivac paramedics, and high-mountain rescue-team members. The programs will appear in mid-January ’98, on TLC.


Life, the Universe and Everything

Hosted by award-winning journalist Charles Osgood, A Science Odyssey is a ‘behind-the-science’ chronicle of the most remarkable scientific advances of this century. Produced by PBS with a budget of US$800,000 per hour, the weighty 5 x 2 hours is scheduled to hit the air mid-January ’98. Topics encompass almost 100 years of discovery and scientific exploration – from Apollo 8 to the atomic bomb, from psychotherapy to black holes. Major funding for the series comes from the National Science Foundation, with corporate dollars kicked in by IBM.

Wild Wales

S4C International of Cardiff, Wales, is introducing what is purported to be – unbelievably – the very first comprehensive natural history of the British Islands. Wild Islands is a coproduction with ste in Scotland and rte in Ireland. The project will air in two stages, with 12 half-hour episodes appearing in the spring of next year, and another dozen in spring of 1999. The budget for the series is estimated to be around £1 million. Both a Welsh language version and an English language version will be available.

Animal Behavior 101

A natural history project aimed at the younger set, It’s Wild, from California’s Burrud Productions, is still in the early stages of production, and won’t hit the small screen until the end of 1998. Planned for 26 half hours, the episodes tackle tough subjects like racism and relationships, using real animal behavior as a metaphor. The narrator of the show will be a live-action digitally-manipulated animal host, which means quick translations into foreign markets. While no broadcasters have been firmed up, distributor DTG Entertainment is in negotiations with several international parties. The budget for the programs is expected to be around us$100,000.

Of course, in my day…

John Rubin, former supervising producer for National Geographic Television, is releasing Coming of Age to launch his new production house, Lost Coast Films. Produced with DC-based Devillier Donegan Enterprises for pbs, the scientific series is a 3 x 1 hour look at recent revolutions in the study of aging, focusing on how the process might one day be controlled. The production will reach maturity fall of 1998, accompanied by a US$500,000-per-hour budget. (Now, in my day, you could buy ten productions for that kind of money.)


Hard to tell them apart sometimes

Saints and Sinners from S4C in Wales, in association with Ireland’s RTE and La Cinquième in France, is a 6 x 1 hour look at the popes of the middle ages. As the title might suggest, sometimes the bad guys wore the big pointy hats too. Different versions will be available in Welsh, English and French, and the project goes to air at the beginning of upcoming year. The budget for this project will be approximately £1 million.

The Third World War

Several times during the 80s, the Cold War threatened to turn hot as policy and emotion clashed. Germany’s ZDF Enterprises, in association with TLC and Discovery Europe, is assembling a 2 x 45 minute (or 1 x 90 minute) ‘what-if’ mock-umentary called The Third World War about what the global ramifications might have been had cooler heads not prevailed during deciding moments of crisis.

The basis of the story comes from actual Zero-Hour plans, which existed at the time in preparation for conventional and nuclear attack and reprisal, based on weapons available, pre-selected targets, and the contingency plans upon which millions would have depended for survival. The project should be completed by summer of ’98, and will air on ZDF, TLC and Discovery in Europe.

Towers leanings: from law to depression

Towers Productions in Chicago should be a name familiar to most American cable viewers by now, and if not, it’s only a matter of time. They have a full slate of productions in the works for some name strands, as well as a few novelties.

Towers and series co-host Bill Curtis are currently in production on 20 new hours for A&E’s American Justice, a weekly examination of the American criminal system. Towers is also working on seven new Biography episodes which will appear in ’98, as well as new episodes of The Unexplained – the strand A&E broadcasts on Thursday nights to square off against network juggernaut er. The Unexplained seeks to debunk claims of the supernatural and paranormal.

One of their newest productions, The Great Depression is a 4 x 1 hour look at one of Western civilization’s lowest points during this century. The series is tied to The History Channel in the U.S., and will be hosted by former Governor of New York, Mario Cuomo. The series should be ready by March, 1998.


Up Close and Personal

Turner Original Productions with executive producer Kathy Eldon of L.A.-based Creative Visions Inc. is producing Dying To Tell The Story, a two-hour doc about journalists who cover the most dangerous stories around the world.

The topic hits especially close to home for Eldon, whose son Dan, a Reuters photographer, was stoned to death in Somalia in 1993. The documentary will follow Amy Eldon, the sister of the slain photographer, as she visits the hot-spots where journalists have put their lives in peril, including the site of her own brother’s death. The feature will be completed for the end of August 1998, and will air on the TBS Superstation. Creative Visions is also working on a feature film on the topic for Columbia Pictures.


The World Is My Freak Show

From sunny Orange County California, the birthplace of all things disturbing and unnatural, comes more Beyond Bizarre. The Burrud Productions project is a continuation of a series which did especially well when it first aired, rating in the top ten during primetime on cable outlets in the U.S.

The four new hours look at the weird and unnatural from around the world, ˆ la Ripley’s, but a little less seriously. Beyond Bizarre has a million dollar price tag, and is being distributed through DTG Entertainment in Encino. u.s. domestic rights belong to Discovery, with international rights still being hammered out. Beyond Bizarre should be twisting young minds in the first quarter of ’98.


That’s a wrap!

California’s Passport International Productions hopes to have The Bond Girls completed in time to ride the fever caused by the release of the new Bond feature early next year. The hour-long doc will look at the women who have played 007′s varied squeezes, and bring viewers up to date on what they have done since. While interest in the project is huge, Passport isn’t committing to any broadcasters yet, preferring to wait for the final production before they make any decisionsÉ Also from Passport comes The Best of Hollywood, a 50-hour, year-by-year, us$50,000-per-hour look at the glitziest town on Earth. With the first hour wrapped, Passport hopes to have the first 25 hours ready for winter ’98, with the balance completed for the same time ’99. In the U.S., Passport is syndicating The Best of Hollywood station-by-station. Negotiations are underway internationally.

In this report:
-Spotlight on Seventh Art
-The Sins of their fathers
-Bright Lights, Big City
-Mothercorp and Itel go long

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.