Channel 4′s controversial independent film and video (IFV) department has put three major new series out to tender among independent producers.
The highest-profile series is the returning Queer Street, an eclectic mix of documentaries focusing on the gay community. C4 has stuck with the series despite criticism from the British gay press which called last year’s films ‘anti-gay stuff for the chattering (straight) masses.’
The gay community was particularly upset with films on issues which sensationalized their lifestyle, such as gay porn and cottaging. C4, however, was unapologetic about a series which it says was ‘always going to deal with queer phenomena which gay and lesbian lifestyle programming would ignore.’ Other topics in last year’s series included a critique of a gay village in Manchester, England and a look at the Palm Springs Golf Tournament which attracts 20,000 lesbians each year.
This year, IFV deputy commissioning editor Jackie Lawrence is looking for a set-piece one-hour film to kick off the series. The film, budgeted at £125,000, will be aired in C4 primetime. Other half-hour programs will cost about £70,000 each. Submissions must be with Lawrence by January 9, with delivery scheduled for May, 1998.
The second series out to tender (closing on February 6, with proposals heading to Robin Gutch) is another returning strand. Films of Fire will include 6 x 50 minute films budgeted around £135,000.
C4 is looking for what it calls, ‘Personal and authored cris de coeur dealing with contentious social and cultural issues.’ Last year’s series included films on the use of child sexuality in art, sentencing policies for murderers of gay men, and a fantasy film centering on media mogul Rupert Murdoch.
Although the original series received some critical acclaim from the liberal press, it fell short on ratings. In its tender document to producers, C4 admits, ‘The overall ratings level was very disappointing for a 9p.m. slot, so a critical objective of the series was not fully achieved. In the end, the programs did not spark sufficient debate.’
Producers have been warned that this year’s series must ‘radically extend its editorial reach. The issues need to be nearer the real lives, emotions, passions of the audience.’ Furthermore, the change of government means it must ‘anticipate and find the new voices of opposition.’ C4 has hinted strongly that DVC-based proposals will be looked on favorably.
The third IFV series is a new multicultural strand called In the Mix, which replaces Black Bag. In the Mix is designed to broaden the range of stories covering minority communities in the U.K.
The search is on for contemporary stories ‘which best exemplify the cross-cultural society in which many of us now live.’ Films can be ‘investigative to light-hearted to witty, from personal profile to social survey.’ Budgets for the eight half-hour films will be £60,000. Proposals must be delivered to Yasmin Anwar by January 31.
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