News in Brief

American Movie Classics expands non-fiction slate; TVNZ is up for a NZ$12 million grant; Beyond International picks up the JCM catalog.
May 16, 2002

American Movie Classics is expanding its non-fiction slate as part of its efforts to reel in a younger demographic. The U.S. cablecaster’s goal is to add more programs about movies and the movie business – which it will both create and acquire – as well as more contemporary fiction film titles.

Pubcaster Television New Zealand has been earmarked to receive NZ$12 million (US$5.5 million) from New Zealand’s government. In a recently released statement, TVNZ chief exec Ian Fraser said, ‘It will enable us to maintain an increased investment in documentary programs, as well as other initiatives.’

Indie distributor Beyond International has purchased the catalog of fellow Australian outfit Jennifer Cornish Media. The acquisition expands Beyond’s factual offering by 200 titles, or 500 hours, and includes lifestyle, documentary and reality programs. Cornish, who founded JCM in 1995, joins Beyond as manager, factual program development and acquisition.

London-based distributor Explore International has signed a three-year output deal with French educational pubcaster France 5. The deal allows France 5 to access a minimum of 25 hours per annum of factual programs produced by Natural History New Zealand. Among the titles available under the agreement – which covers genres such as science, adventure, wildlife, and medicine – are Wild Asia, Serpents of the Sea, and The Octopus Garden.

The doc Uncle Frank , which premiered at last week’s TriBeCa Film Festival in New York, has been acquired by Home Box Office and will be broadcast sometime in 2003. The film was directed by Matthew Ginsburg, who followed his great uncle Frank Pour as he performed music at nursing homes in Rome, N.Y. Uncle Frank was produced by Kevin Spacey‘s Trigger Street Productions.

Hope, Gloves and Redemption, an early documentary by Jules and Gedeon Naudet, has been picked up for international distribution by RGH/Lions Share Pictures in West Hollywood, U.S. The Naudet brothers recently gained recognition for their film 9/11, which captured footage from inside the World Trade Center minutes before its collapse last September. Hope looks at how the discipline of amateur boxing is motivating youth in Spanish Harlem to stay off the streets and away from drugs.

International Broadcast Communications, a company recently formed by former E! Entertainment Television exec Jon Helmrich, has acquired The Star Treatment, which it will launch at the LA Screenings next week. The 52 x 30-minute reality series, which gets the stories from the people who take care of celebrities – stylists, bodyguards, dieticians – was shot on location in Toronto, Los Angeles, New York and elsewhere by Kaleidoscope Entertainment. ICB will handle global distribution rights, excluding North America.

Scout Productions in the U.S. is producing a new reality series that is being considered by U.S. cable channel Bravo for its fall season. The program, reports The New York Times, will document the transformation of one ‘crude and uncultured’ heterosexual man into ‘a hip and happening Renaissance man at the hands of five fabulously trendy gay men.’ Executives at Bravo and Scout Productions say they are not looking to fill stereotypes.

The Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival will be holding its biennial Tech Symposium September 5 to 7 in Santa Barbara, California. The symposium is directed to producers and companies and will feature industry experts with panel sessions and roundtable discussions. This year’s focus will be advances in digital technology. For more information or registration details, contact the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival at (307) 733-7016 or email

The National Geographic Film Library will convert more than 500 hours of its film archive to high definition, with the help of Minneapolis, U.S.-based company HI-WIRE. Programs with especially appealing images for advertisers and producers, such as Jewels of the Caribbean, will be among the first converted.

The 55th edition of the Cannes Film Festival started May 15 and a hearty sampling of eight documentaries will be showcased this year. Bowling for Columbine, the new film about America’s gun culture from Roger and Me director Michael Moore, will run in the competition section while looking for a theatrical suitor. Actress Rosanna Arquette will debut her first doc, Searching for Debra Winger, while D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus will show their latest, Only the Strong Survive, which has been acquired by Miramax. Veteran doc-maker Frederick Wiseman will show La Derniere Lettre and Nanette Burstein and Brett Morgen‘s The Kid Stays in the Picture will also be shown. Rounding out the line-up is Nicolas Philibert‘s To Be and to Have and Francesca Comencini‘s Carolo, Giuliani, Boy. The festival ends May 26.

At the British Academy Television (BAFTA) Craft Awards on May 12, the BBC‘s Natural History Unit was honored with three BAFTA awards, including a Special Award for outstanding creative contribution to British television. The Natural History Unit also won awards for the series, The Blue Planet, which won two BAFTAs – for original television music and photography factual. BBC2 scored an award for best editing in a factual program for Anna Ksiezopolska‘s documentary The Show Must Go On, while the Channel 4 doc Hell in the Pacific won the BAFTA for sound, factual.

U.K. digi-service BSkyB has so far survived the collapse of both ITV Digital and Germany’s Kirch Pay TV, but it was not left unscathed. According to a report in BBC News, ITV Digital owed BSkyB £22 million (US$32 million) when it went under. In addition, BSkyB must now find alternative homes for several of its channels on the digital terrestrial TV platform, since ITV Digital can no longer carry them. BskyB also lost close to £1.3 billion (US$1.9 billion) in nine months, as of the end of March, primarily owing to the collapse of Kirch in which it was a major investor.

Telepiu, the Italian arm of Vivendi Universal’s Canal+, has received a conditional green light from the Italian anti-trust authority to pursue a merger with News Corp’s pay-TV platform Stream. The companies are currently reviewing the economic viability of the merged company under the proposed conditions, which are designed to encourage competition in Italy’s pay-TV market.

About The Author
Managing editor with realscreen publication, an international print and online magazine that covers the non-fiction film and television industries. Darah is an award-winning journalist who has spent over two decades covering a wide range of issues from real estate and urban development to immigration, politics and human rights, primarily with The Vancouver Sun. Prior to joining realscreen, she was editor of Stream Daily, realscreen's sister publication covering the dynamic global digital video industry. She also served a stint as a war reporter in Afghanistan for television and print, and was a national business blogger with Yahoo Canada.