Pulp Non-Fiction: Production briefs straight from the source

January 1, 1998


Love thy neighbor, my butt

Neighbors are a pain in everyone’s butt, but if you think you have it bad, try making friends with people when they’re out to kill you. London, U.K.-based Carlton/cte is launching a new series based on the incredible success of last year’s one-hour one-off Neighbours from Hell. The 6 x 30 minute series should be ready for March, 1998, plumbing the absolute lowest depths to which people who live side-by-side will sink in order to get their way. One of the exceptional stories spotlights the situation of Richard Jobson, a former member of punk band The Skids, who was so bullied by a gentleman farmer, the matter could only be resolved through a lawsuit.

Stars on wheels

Virginia-based Adler Media is distributing Star Cars and Car Stars, a one-hour doc about cars of the rich and famous, and cars that have become darlings of the silver screen in their own right. To be released in April of this year, the project is produced by Florida-based Silver Beach Productions and features interviews with collectors like Arnold Schwarzenegger, David Letterman and Michael Jordan. Also featured is the 1963 Volkswagen Beetle known as Herbie, The Love Bug, as well as the Batmobile. Adler is still in negotiations with international broadcasters.


Ten Hours for Ten Decades

From the very remarkable U.S. city of Los Angeles comes Passport International’s The Remarkable 20th Century, 10 x 1 hours on the past hundred years. Using rare footage, newsreels, interviews and original material, the series looks at the lows and highs of the 20th Century to see how societies have progressed. Featuring a voice-over for easy translation between markets, The Remarkable 20th Century should be completed by June, 1998 at an approximate US$50,000 an hour.

All in the Family

In India, the transition from colony to independent state has largely been directed by the influence of one family. The Dynasty: The Nehru Gandhi Story, from Brook Lapping Associates in London, with Boston’s WGBH, is a three-hour exploration of India’s emergence as a state, and a look at the influence of her most famous of leaders and champions. The major funder for this US$800,000 production is PBS. Dynasty should air some time in the winter of 1998 on public television in the U.S.

Johnson’s Masters

London’s Mentorn Barraclough Carey has a program in the works for the historically nosy. The Johnson Tapes is a production for Channel 4 which uses actual phone calls to the Oval Office taped during the Johnson administration.

Using actors to portray characters, as well as stills and archival material, MBC makes the voices come alive, enabling them to get into the crisis and intrigue of the Lyndon B. Johnson term.

The production also has interviews with some of the figures on the tape, who didn’t know they were being recorded. The Johnson Tapes is a 2 x 1 hour project, which should be ready some time in September, 1998, with an estimated budget of £150,000 per hour.

WGBH finds the American Dream

From farm laborers to Buffalo Soldiers, Africans in America is a look at the early history of African men and women in the United States. The series spans the period from the early 1600s to the beginning of the Civil War.

WGBH in Boston is producing the 4 x 90 minutes – estimated budget us$7 million – with a long list of funders, including neh, The Ford Foundation, The PBS/CPB Challenge Fund and The Rockefeller Foundation. The project should air on pbs close to the end of 1998.

Set to music by The Chieftain’s Paddy Moloney, Long Journey Home: The Irish in America is a big-budget, large-scale history of the displaced denizens of the Emerald Isle. The 3 x 2 hours is being produced by the Lennon Documentary Group for WGBH in Boston.

Because of the US$6 million budget, this feature also relied on some big-name funding partners, which came in the form of PBS and Disney. The series looks at the impact of Irish immigrants on the U.S., beginning with the stream of žmigržs who crossed the ocean during the Great Famine of 1847. The series will be ready to air on pbs late winter 1998.


It’s the real thing

In 1995, Colombian drug cartels earned an estimated us$15 billion, but at a high cost: the 30-year war to stop the flow of money and drugs has claimed 70,000 lives in the South American country. One man has come to symbolize the struggle – General Rosso Jose Serrano – an incorruptible man, who fights the good fight in a country wracked by corruption and greed.

God’s Policeman is a one-hour portrayal of Serrano and his efforts by Glasgow, Scotland’s GOSH Productions. The final product is scheduled to air early in 1998 on Discovery in the U.S, Channel 4 in the U.K., RTE in Ireland and ZDF in Germany. The in-depth feature is shot on Beta SP, enabling the crew to get critical footage of cocaine raids, nighttime covert operations and the special training of the Serrano forces.

A new production company based in Scotland, gosh consists of The Garfield Kennedy Company working in partnership with Peter Williams, executive producer for Studio Z in Maidstone, U.K. as well as journalist Bob Graham.


DDE meets PBS in the jungle

‘The difficulty in the Amazon,’ notes Icon Films’s Harry Marshall, ‘is deciding what not to film.’ The Bristol, U.K.-based prodco will have wrapped in time to deliver Journey Into Amazonia, 3 x 1 hours, in August, 1999. The series is a look at the natural landscape of the world’s most diverse and threatened ecosystem. With an approximate US$600,000 per-hour budget, the major funders on the project are distributors Devillier Donegan Enterprises and PBS.

PBS and DDE have also teamed up with Partridge Films in Bristol to produce a sequel to last year’s highly successful Hidden Worlds series. The four new one-hour episodes of Hidden Worlds II will premiere early in 1999 on pbs and have a budget in the same range as Amazonia’s. As the titles suggest, the episodes will explore wildlife in some of the most exotic locations in the world: Australia’s Shifting Sands, India’s Sacred Waters, Africa’s Green Crossroads and Borneo: Cave to Canopy. It’s enough to make you want to become a producer.


You want fries with that?

Just when you thought you weren’t seeing enough people being eaten on public television, now comes Issei Sagawa, the story of a cannibal. Produced by Gaumont Television in France, this one-hour doc whets the appetite of viewers with the story of a Japanese man who was arrested in a Paris park in 1981, after being caught while in the process of burying a couple of suspicious-looking boxes.

Upon investigation, the gendarmes discovered there was more to the story. Sagawa broke down and confessed to eating a Dutch woman. After an interesting twist of legal sleight of hand, this cosmopolitan connoisseur now lives in Japan and is a media celebrity.

The US$200,000 doc contemplates the political, legal and media aspects of the case. Production on cannibal wraps in February, and will appear on public television on France 3 in the spring. Strictly byof (bring your own fork).


Reaching X-Dream heights

From Essex, u.k.-based X-Dream International comes a production so exceptional that when it is finished, it will have a place in the hallowed pages of The Guinness Book of World Records. This June, a team of four climbers will set out to tackle the highest mountain in each of the 47 European territories, in observance of the rules set out by Guinness, establishing both a world record and new heights in filmmaking.

The crew will have to be in excellent physical fitness for Peak to Peak; besides covering almost 50,000 km by road, they will have to climb over 300,000 vertical feet. The lowest mountain of the set is located in Monaco, a piddling 162 metres compared to the highest, in Georgia, at 5,642 metres. Still in the earliest stages of preparation, the production will run to 26 half-hours with each episode covering two territories. There are no broadcasters involved yet, and the budget will depend largely on the number of copro partners enlisted.


Reliving the SportsCentury

U.S. sportscaster espn is planning an extensive, 18-month-long retrospective of the people and events which made sports history in the 20th Century.

Beginning in September ’98, and continuing to the end of the millennium, the programming will be produced in-house, with a decision still to be made concerning international broadcast.

SportsCentury, the title given to the approximately 60 hours of programming, will include an assortment of projects, including shorts called Millennium Moments – daily highlights of the greatest moments in the world of sports.

Twenty-six hours are also in the works on the top 50 sports personalities of the century, along with programming dedicated to the greatest coaches, matches and influential individuals in sports.

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.