‘We certainly have ramped up quickly,’ says Jeff Weber, president/CEO of Lightworks Producing Group. ‘Already in the first two months of the year, we’re in production on 25 hours of new television. That’s for channels such as History, National Geographic, Smithsonian and HGTV. We’re actually doing two series for History, a series of specials for Nat Geo and individual specials for Smithsonian and HGTV. We’ve kind of hit the ground running in 2009.’
KPI, a unit of Lightworks Producing Group, was responsible for The Sweet Lady with the Nasty Voice, a feature documentary on Wanda ‘the Queen of Rockabilly’ Jackson that aired on the Smithsonian Networks last May. The doc not only brought Jackson back into the general consciousness, but may have raised her profile enough to catch the attention of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which has selected to induct the singer on April 4. Smithsonian will rerun the documentary on April 4. ‘Certainly we don’t take credit for the induction,’ says Weber. Rather, directors Vincent Kralyevich and Joanne Fish intended the film to answer the question ‘Who is Wanda Jackson?’ and bring the remarkable woman to a new audience. The feature doc format was unique to KPI, but Weber maintains that it will be something that Lightworks will look at doing more of in future.
Also coming out from KPI is Getting Out Alive, a 1 x 60-minute program airing on History on March 24. The incredible journey to film the program (told by EVP and COO Vincent Kralyevich here) was undertaken for a pilot which told stories of ordinary products, in this case nickel-based batteries, and how they got from their original home to consumers’ homes. With the batteries, their origin is a nickel mine in Siberia, in a town that is one of the most contaminated areas in the world. From there, the material journeys over thousands of miles on a nuclear ice breaker through frozen rivers to get to the port of Murmansk and from there, on to the rest of the world, says Weber.
Another new project is an hour-long special for Smithsonian, called Chosin Few, which tells the story of ‘an epic American military campaign,’ says Weber. That campaign was The Battle of Chosin Reservoir during the Korean War. ‘There were 30,000 United Nations forces marching and they became surrounded by four times as many communist Chinese soldiers at this reservoir,’ details Weber. ‘This is the story of how that group of forces plotted and planned a breakout through enemy lines. The incredible thing is they were led by Lt. Curt Lee and Lee wasn’t your average Marine. He was the first Chinese American commissioned in the Marine Corps. This is your first Chinese-American commissioned as officer leading them to safety against enemies of his own heritage.’ That program will air sometime in the summer of 2009.