Days of Wine & Pre-Sales

Project: Wine World...
October 1, 1998

Project: Wine World

Description: A 13 x 30-minute series that combines information about wines with facts about travel in wine regions throughout the world.

Executive Producer: Matthew Frank

Director: Rory O’Connor

Producers: RDF Television (London, England), XYZ Entertainment (Sydney, Australia) and TV8 (Stockholm, Sweden).

Budget: £20,000 per episode

It is a fantasy of many people to spend the holidays touring the globe, sampling wine and getting to know the customs of the regions where it is produced. So it was little wonder there was some interest in the possibility of a series named Wine World.

October, 1997: Executive producer Matthew Frank, RDF’s director of program sales, and the RDF distribution staff head to MIPCOM in Cannes to discuss what kind of leisure program broadcasters might be interested in acquiring. Frank, together with staff in London, had already come up with an idea to do a series about wine.

Though RDF Television, which specializes in making low budget material for cable and satellite broadcasters, had talks with a couple of potential partners, there were no firm commitments.

Frank and producer/director Rory O’Connor decide there is enough interest to go ahead with a pilot.

December, 1997: O’Connor sets off for his homeland of Australia to get footage for the first in the series and filmed a number of vineyards during the Antipodean summer. He gets to speak to one vineyard owner who was a former head of Castlemaine, the famous Australian beer brewer.

April, 1998: A series pilot is prepared for the MIP-TV market, at a cost of about £20,000, and further talks with interested parties help hone the series proposition a little further. ‘We were slightly driven by what people were telling us,’ says Frank. He explains that adding elements of travelogue and material on how best to combine food and wine were also included, as the buyers had broadly outlined what sort of program they were looking for. ‘The idea was not just to do a cerebral program but something to educate the palette. We got to know the business of grape crushing, but there is also some travel and scenery in the documentary. We also featured local rodeos and talked to local vintners who told us which wines they think are good,’ adds Frank.

As well as featuring local history and custom, RDF also incorporated advice from local experts about which wine to combine with which food. This is enough to convince Sweden’s satellite and cable service TV8 to come on board with around £2000 toward the production of a 13-part series.

May, 1998: With one serious backer on board, producers persuade Australian production company XYZ Entertainment to contribute some funding.

August, 1998: With production in Spain and Portugal underway, another two broadcasters come onboard. First was the Flextech/BBC channel, U.K. Style, and the second was Mico, the commercial arm of Japan’s public service station, NHK.

The pre-sales helped make up almost 80% of the £20,000 per episode budget.

The unlikely pre-sale from Japan originates because of increasing domestic interest in the subject of wine. (The country’s wine industry had been given a boost by the Japanese health minister who said that a glass of wine a day was healthy).

Some difficulties arise: one of the problems with filming on location is translation of foreign languages, complicated by local dialects. Few of the team speaks other languages, so more funding has to be found for an interpretor in some of the countries.

RDF also knows from experience that music clearances play a big factor in pushing up budgets (up to £3-4,000 per episode), so it hires Simon Lacey, a British musician who had worked with the BBC, to provide a musical score.

September, 1998: With four pre-sales in the bag, RDF is still a little short of the budget but is hoping to find the final 20% at this year’s MIPCOM in October.

October, 1998: RDF plans to move the production to Italy, France and Germany with other locations to follow. The series will also look at wine production in South Africa and California. Wine World will be completed a month earlier than expected, in December 1998. The producers hope this project, shot in different locations, will hold the potential of a few more international sales. To maximize Wine World’s foreign potential, Frank says they tried to exclude presenter shots to make reversioning more simple.

See also:

The War That Wasn’t: World War III (pg. 58)

Staying Power: Champions of the Wild (pg. 64)

Family Drama: Mountain Rivals (pg. 70)

The Neverending Story: Operation Free Ranging Lions (pg. 76)

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.