Since March of the Penguins has earned more than US$72 million in worldwide box office sales, it would be understandable if the doc’s masterminds took a well-deserved break. But, on the contrary, the French trinity behind the film – broadcaster Canal+, Paris-based prodco Bonne Pioche and director Luc Jacquet – is rejoining forces on a new project.
Currently in development, The Almanac (w/t) is a 12 x 1-hour series that ‘is a very simple, yet very obvious idea,’ says Bonne Pioche’s Emmanuel Priou, who was a producer on Penguins. Each episode will focus on a different month and the global events that occur in nature within that time. ‘In the same month, there could be penguins nesting in the Antarctic, and there could be a big migration of elephants in the northern hemisphere,’ says Priou. ‘The idea is to make people step back from the planet to show what’s happening everywhere at the same time.’ Six to eight regions will be highlighted in each episode, with five to seven minutes spent on each spot.
Jacquet likens the point of view to ‘moving a huge telescope’ that will shift focus throughout worldwide regions within each episode. He is currently working to create editorial links between the varying global snapshots.
In addition to original footage (all of which will be HD, since Canal+ is going high def in April, 2006), some archived material will be used. All of the shots will be high quality, assures Priou, ‘because if we are only showing six minutes about elephants, it has to be the best images.’
Canal+ head of documentaries Christine Cauquelin notes the ease with which the series can fit into a TV sked. (She may start airing it in September, 2006, for the start of the French TV season.) ‘We have a regular Sunday slot at 5 P.M., and it makes sense to have one Sunday a month about what’s happening in wildlife across the planet. I like the idea that every month we’re going to have a rendezvous with the audience.’
The Almanac team is in the midst of a rendezvous with potential partners, and will be on the lookout for others at MIPCOM. ‘The success of March of the Penguins will help to raise money,’ says Jacquet, in a seemingly gross understatement. (If this team has trepidation about securing funding, where does that leave other doc-makers?) But Priou is quick to add: ‘We’re very careful in this business. You never know.’ Cauquelin furthers, ‘Working in documentaries makes you very realistic people.’