While the debate rages on about the merits of blurring the lines between fictional and factual programming, Atlas Media has opted for some first-hand experience. The New York-based non-fiction producer/distributor has launched a docudrama unit after acquiring the assets of DVTV, a prodco (also based in the Big Apple) known for that genre. According to Bruce Klein, president and executive producer of Atlas, ‘this is basically the logical extension of the core business.’
Klein says Atlas’ docudrama unit will produce four to six films per year, with budgets ranging from US$500,000 to $1.5 million. In his estimation, the cable market will be the destination for these programs. Klein explains: ‘As many outlets – especially U.S. cable networks – have matured over the last decade, they’ve had more program dollars at their disposal and are more willing to take chances. Yet, most of them still can’t quite afford the $4 million to $6 million ‘event’ movie. Since many of our original docs are becoming more and more cinematic anyway, we’re saying, ‘Let’s take some of these standard basic cable docs and blow them out – give them a more epic, cinematic treatment – and maybe do a feature length docudrama, in the $750,000 to $1.5 million range.’ That’s the idea – they’ll be factually based, but the re-enactments will be extensive.’
DVTV, headed by president and founder Craig Coffman, now falls under the Atlas banner. Coffman and several other key staffers have made the move, and continue to work on projects already in the works at the time of the buyout. Two of these projects are Alien Abduction (for the Discovery Channel), which looks at first-person accounts of alien abductions and explores their possible link to the medical condition of sleep paralysis, and Caught (for TLC), about fascinating crime cases from around the world.
Klein adds that Atlas has already optioned the rights to several properties that will be the unit’s first projects from scratch. One, brokered through a deal with the William Morris Agency, is Indiana Gothic, a non-fiction novel billed as ‘a true story of love, betrayal and murder in the American mid-West.’ Another is Saigon: The Night America Fell, a screenplay about the last 24 hours of the Vietnam War. Atlas’ non-fiction productions include History’s Lost & Found, Extreme Cuisine and American Classics.