Networks in Canada, Australia and the U.S. have optioned the rights to make local versions of Channel 4 (C4) series Jamie’s Dream School, Fresh One Production’s MD Roy Ackerman (pictured) told delegates at a Sheffield Doc/Fest session hosted by realscreen.
The seven-episode, Fresh One-produced series aired on C4 in March and April this year, and saw celebrity chef Jamie Oliver enlisting an array of celebrities in a bid to encourage discouraged teens to give the education system a second shot.
Talking in Sheffield at a panel hosted by realscreen associate editor Adam Benzine, Ackerman said that the format for the show has now been optioned by CBC in Canada, Ten Network in Australia and MTV in the United States.
“Dream School was a show that we felt was not a ‘Jamie’ project in the way that Ministry of Food or School Dinners was, it was a format – star teachers, tough kids, what can we do?” added Ackerman.
“We always thought and hoped that it could go abroad and I’ve now got Australia in pre-production, America in pre-production and Canada in early pre-production. There are also offers from other places, including Ukraine, for The Ukrainian Dream School.”
The C4 show involved a multilayered partnership with YouTube, which featured online lessons and a talent hunt for Britain’s best teacher. Ackerman explained, however, that there was a certain amount of friction when C4 first put the producer and the web giant together for a meeting.
“I was sitting there thinking, ‘What’s the transaction here?’” Ackerman recalled. “It seems to me we’re providing big star names, filmed in very high quality by C4 and C4′s budget, and surely there’s this thing called the Internet and we could just put it up there anyway? So I started saying, ‘Surely you should buy your way in?’ They [Google] didn’t exactly hug me for that.”
Nevertheless, the two parties came to an arrangement that saw YouTube agreeing to fund a scholarship scheme for the troubled teens once the show had finished, allowing them to continue in education (“a considerable sum of money,” according to Ackerman).
Elaborating on the point at the session, which was entitled ‘Google Box: Do Google Do Telly?’, the web giant’s director of external relations Peter Barron said that Google was looking to get involved in “a few” projects a year, such as the YouTube Symphony Orchestra or the Kevin Macdonald collaboration Life In A Day.
However, he added that Google was, as a general rule, not looking to invest in content. “What our job is as a technology company, rather than a media company, is to provide the tools for making the content,” said Barron.
“That’s what we tend to say, but very occasionally we think the project is so interesting, so in tune with our ideals… but we’re not in the habit of just saying, ‘That’s an interesting project, we’re going to just sponsor it,’ like some soap powder might do.
“A lot of people say, ‘You don’t put money into content’ – we are not a content company. Google are engineers, we put our energy in the creating of the tools for the discovery of content.”
The session also featured Andrew Chitty, MD of Illumina Digital, who discussed the development of “Dreamschool/Dreamteachers,” the interactive elements of the project.