A Slice from Documart

Spirituality to go...
December 1, 1999

Spirituality to go

Foreseeing an increase in spiritual malaise, Peter Raymont of Toronto’s White Pine Pictures offered up Sacred Places. Raymont has devoted several years to developing this ambitious 6 x 60-minute look at spiritual centers around the world. With a projected start date of May, 2000, the series will be shot on Super 16 for US$2.5 million. Slated to be a Canada/France copro with Gedeon Programmes, Raymont has offers on the table from TVO and France 3. Mark Hamlyn of Film Australia saw a chance for a copro relationship if an Oz broadcaster could be attached, though John Hughes of Australia’s SBS thought the project might be too huge for them to take on. ABC Australia’s Paul Clarke suggested talking with June Pritchard, who runs a strand called Compass. Wolter Braamhorst of AVRO in the Netherlands was interested in taking on one episode, if available.

It Takes One to Know One

Sharyn Prentice of Australia’s Flaming Star Films plans to document the life and works of D.A. Pennebaker and his partner Chris Hegedus in Pennebaker Inc. After opening her pitch with the entire sequence of Bob Dylan flipping cue cards in time to ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues,’ Prentice declared ‘That’s the pitch.’ As an early proponent of verité, Pennebaker helped to define a generation with films such as Primary, Don’t Look Back, Monterey Pop and The War Room. Prentice plans to structure the film around the still active filmmaker who, at 75, has just started shooting a doc on DV about internet start-ups and the stock market. With exclusive access to Pennebaker and his archives, Prentice elicited an enthusiastic response from the assembled C.E.s. Prentice will be coproducing and writing the project with Uli Pfau of Filmvergnuegen, Germany. Commitments to date include presales to ARD in Germany and Bravo U.S. Jane Balfour Films will distribute. The budget is US$450,000 for a Super 16 shoot with feature length and TV versions. SBS’s John Hughes was in for development, though not sure his dollars would go far enough in relation to the budget. ABC Australia’s Geoff Barnes was happy to pick up the show if SBS didn’t. C4 now has C4B, a digital platform for indie features, and Jacquie Laurence thought that they might be able to fill the shortfall. Jeremy Mills of BBC Bristol thought it a good project for Storyville. Marc Smolowitz of distributor Turbulent Arts said he was ‘very interested’ in U.S. theatrical distribution.

Freak `em out

Hometown filmmaker Heather Croall of Australia’s Omar Khayam Films presented a spirited pitch for her one hour film Freakers. ‘Freakers’ is Australian slang for streakers, and Croall’s film will explore public streaking as naked political protest, college fad, and international media event. At the heart of the film will be three wannabe streakers determined to streak during a major Australian sports event by the end of the summer, hopefully without getting caught by Sydney’s dedicated ‘streaker squad.’ Developed with help from the South Australian Film Corporation, the budget is US$220,000 with a projected start in February 2000. ‘Yeah, I’m in’ was the response of Jacquie Lawrence, head of independent film and video at C4, with an offer of £20,000 to £40,000. Jeremy Mills of BBC Bristol is already doing a streaker portrait, but would be interested if C4 didn’t come in. Chris Haws pointed out that nudity is difficult for Discovery International and took a pass. Closer to home, John Hughes was lukewarm and Geoff Barnes of ABC was booed for taking a pass with the comment that he ‘didn’t know what the story was after the first five minutes.’

Food for thought

Suzette Myers of Insight Documentaries of Vancouver, drew favorable response despite rather disturbing subject matter. Myers background as a news anchor and producer was evident in her

dramatic telling of the story for Lobotomy for a New Age, a one hour look at the resurgence of psychosurgery. Lobotomies and other types of surgery used to cure psychological problems have not gone away. Replacing the crude methods of the past (i.e. an ice pick through the tear canal beside the eye), modern neurosurgeons are using advanced MRI scanners to help pinpoint areas of the brain and alter them surgically. Brian Hamilton of Omni Films, Vancouver, will coproduce with writer/director/producer Myers on a proposed budget of US$165,000. With no broadcasters attached prior to Documart, by the end of the pitch the producer had a number of leads. Michael Allder of CBC’s Nature of Things thought the subject was fascinating, though wasn’t quite sure of Myers’ POV. Geoff Barnes of ABC was very keen, and suggested involving an Australian coproducer. ‘We’re interested,’ was the response of Peter Flemington of Vision TV in Canada. Both Jeremy Mills of BBC Bristol and Jacquie Laurence of C4 were confident of the project’s prospects in the U.K. Chris Haws was very positive about the pitch and saw the film playing on a variety of strands, with the potential of creating an ongoing, net-based discussion vehicle.

(James Weyman is a Program Consultant for the Ontario Film Development Corporation in Toronto, Canada)

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