News in Brief

World Doc Fund launched to back theatrical docs; RDF Media offers indies a new deal; Simon Schama to present in two upcoming BBC factual series
May 22, 2003

The National Film Board of Canada, the UK Film Council and the BBC are launching the World Documentary Fund, a £1.5 million (US$2.5 million) financing deal to support feature-length docs for theatrical release. Bearing the monetary burden equally, the three partners will divvy up the international distribution rights to the projects born of the deal that has been the source of rumor for months (see RealScreen, February 2003). The first project to receive funding from the two-year deal is Game Over: Kasparov and the Machine directed by Vikram Jayanti (When We Were Kings). Three or four projects will be supported each year, and will be selected by the NFB’s director general of English programming Tom Perlmutter, BBC commissioning editor Nick Fraser (‘Storyville’) and the Film Council’s head of the new cinema fund, Paul Trijbits.

London, U.K.-based distrib RDF International is looking to boost its market share by offering independent producers a new package of services. Key to the initiative is the independent producers fund, a program whereby RDF – in return for distribution rights – will provide project-development financing, and sales advances, and broker cofinancing deals for up to 50% of a production’s budget. It is open to one-offs and series, and is focused on high-end projects. RDF is also offering an extensive reporting system for deal negotiations and locked-in sales.

The BBC’s factual department has signed celebrity presenter Simon Schama (A History of Great Britain) to do two new series slated for BBC2. As part of the four-year deal, Schama will be the front man of a landmark series on the masterpieces of art and a project ‘linking British and American history,’ the Beeb says. The U.K.-born Schama is a professor at Columbia University in New York, U.S.

Finally, the Beeb has selected a dozen TV producers from around the U.K. to take part in the second year of its executive producer training program. Chosen from indies and various BBC Nations and Regions bureaus around the country, the lucky interns get the chance to show their stuff in the pubcaster’s main London headquarters. The six chosen from outside the BBC are Jacqui Hayden, from Wark Clements; Dermot Lavery, Double Band Films; Chris Jones, Green Inc Film & Television; Rob Finighan, Aspect Television; Chris Stuart, Presentable; and Elin Ryhs, Teledu Telesgop TV. The program begins in July and includes workshops and networking events.

Singer Bob Dylan has granted filmmaker Martin Scorsese full cooperation in a feature-length documentary coproduction unveiled May 20. The coproducers in the yet unnamed project include the BBC and New York, U.S. PBS affiliate Thirteen/WNET. The project will focus on Dylan’s life.

San Francisco, U.S.-based Tech TV has hired investment counsel of Greenbridge Partners to identify potential strategic partners to help fund the company’s new distribution, brand and programming strategies. A key to its strategy is acquiring and commissioning docs for primetime, TechTV says.

About The Author
Jonathan Paul is a Toronto-based writer into creativity, content, advertising, tech, comics, video games, film, TV, time and space travel.