Non Fiction To Go

December 1, 1999


We be jammin’

‘Culture Jammers’ are people who take on the marketing machine and try to turn it against itself. They are the ones broadcasting pirate radio, defacing billboards, and injecting radical truth into print in order to make people reconsider the mass-marketing of consumer dissatisfaction and greed in which Western culture is enmeshed.

Vancouver’s Reel-Myth Productions is hard at work on a one-hour documentary about the movement, called Culture Jammers. They are filming internationally, in locales like New York, San Francisco and Paris. Development should wrap by January, with production beginning the following month. So far, Films Transit in Montreal has come on as distributor, Canada’s Vision TV as the initial broadcaster, and the film has also enjoyed support from government funding bodies like Telefilm and B.C. Film. The budget for the project is in the US$200,000 range.


Various naked people

You asked for it. Kent-based indie prodco/distributor Airborne TV will soon be offering insights into that mystery of mysteries: the porn industry. Their European Blue Review will be an 8 x 30-minute look behind the scenes of the adult film industry in Europe. The series promises to be loaded with facts and figures (I mean…), and has already found an interested broadcaster in the U.K.’s Channel 5, which has come in as associate producer. Look for this series to air some time in the spring of 2000. The budget for this peep into peep shows is about US$600,000.

Also on the nudity front (although in the form of support programming), comes Bra Wars, an exposé into the development of the Super Bra. `Ultimo’, a silicone-enhanced Scottish contraption, is looking to usurp the majors for control of this US$5 billion market. Available early 2000, this project is a coproduction with Celtic Broadcasting, and has already been sold to TV3 in New Zealand and Czech TV. Two versions will be available, one 30-minute, and one 60-minute. The budget for the production will be just under US$100,000.

Natural History

Wildlife Explore-atory

Natural History New Zealand recently announced a new production partnership with London-based Explore International at MIPCOM. The initial result of this partnership will be two 3 x 1-hour series called Poles Apart and Animal Inventors. An additional ten hours are in development, slated to go into production in early 2000.

Poles Apart compares the science and the natural history (in an adventurous sort of way) of both the North and South Poles. Animal Inventors is said to be a ‘light-hearted look at the wonderful inventions for which nature beat humans to the patent office.’ Both should be wrapped up in 2001. The budgets for the series are in the US$350,000 per hour range.

Brother, can you spare a rhino?

Minneapolis-based Tremendous Entertainment has a slate of programming headed for Discovery’s Animal Planet in the last quarter of 2000.

The Last Rhino details efforts to save the most endangered animal on the planet, the Sumatran rhino. Among other things, the hour will evaluate an attempt to re-populate the species by transporting 40 rhinos to Southeast Asia two decades ago. Also included will be extremely rare footage of this animal in the wild. The budget for this film is in the US$450,000 range.

Filmmaker Lynn Rogers believes the only way to study bears is to get really close to them, and has been known to stroll and even nap with them. In The Man Who Walks With Bears, Rogers follows a single bear from her awakening in the spring to her encounter with hunters in the fall. (Rogers should get cable…) This hour, produced with Tremendous, is budgeted at about US$350,000.

Over six years in the making, Brother Wolf is a project from Tremendous and Nat Geo photographer Jim Brandenburg, who lives with the enigmatic animals in the Canadian Shield. Brandenburg’s commitment to the project allows this hour to delve into the secret lives of the wolves and how they interact with the world around them. This project comes with a price tag around US$375,000.


Can you spell Vicuna? Los Angeles’ RAMM Productions aims to familiarize international audiences with the plight of this endangered browser of the Andes in the first of a 13 x 60-minute series on endangered species of the world. The stories take a long look at restoration efforts and human interactions with some of the world’s most threatened wildlife, and the struggle of each species to back away from the edge of extinction. What is different about these stories is the pace and style. ‘We’re going for a fast-paced, MTV-style rather than a traditional blue-chip approach, to appeal to a broader audience,’ said Alicia Hollinger, RAMM’s VP of production and acquisitions.

Dubbed Saving The Endangered Species, episodes are currently being filmed in Africa, the U.S., Canada and South America. Production will continue through mid-2000. Other episodes will feature wolverines, black rhinos, swift foxes, Humbolt penguins, Seychelles tortoises, Amazon river dolphins, and macaws. Average cost per episode is US$300,000. Executive producer Glenn Hartford conceived the series while recuperating from a motorcycle accident. ‘If I recovered,’ he explained, ‘I wanted to make a contribution.’ RAMM may distribute the series itself, but is exploring co-distribution avenues. A second series of 13 is also being planned. Carl Mrozek

Ultimate follow-up

With its third Ultimate Guide series, the Discovery Channel U.S. takes the format from wild animals to new turf, including the science and technology realm. Green Umbrella Productions in Bristol is producing three of the five episodes of this series: The Ultimate Guide to Domestic Cats, . . . to Planes and . . . to Weather. True to the format, each program strives to cover everything you might care to know about the subject and a bit more, according to Nigel Ashcroft, coordinating producer for the series and executive producer of The Guide to Planes. ‘We re-enacted the Wright Brothers’ first flight with the Kitty Hawk, World War I dogfights and a flight of the Lockheed Constellation, one of the last propeller-driven airplanes left on earth.’

The Guide to Weather tracks extreme weather systems, as they move across continents and oceans, and explains how a Pacific typhoon may affect the weather in New York. The Guide to Domestic Cats goes back to the roots of our feline relationships, beginning in the grain fields along the Nile. Discovery U.S. will premiere the third series beginning in spring 2000 and continue through the fall. Each episode is budgeted at around US$650,000.

Carl Mrozek

Big on bears, bees and birds

National Wildlife Productions explores the plight of bees in Pollinators, with the help of Peter Fonda. This US$300,000 effort is being produced by National Wildlife Productions in coproduction with Turner Original Pictures, and is slated to air on TBS in spring 2000. This one-hour doc, directed by Anee Prum, has a conservation edge. ‘Loss of bee habitat and bees has been a big issue for us at the National Wildlife Federation, and is one of the issues which we explore in this program,’ said NWP president Christopher Palmer.

NWP is also moving ahead with production of a new IMAX film, Bears of the World. This bear epic focuses on the bears of North America, including kodiak bears in Alaska, grizzlies in Montana, black bears in Minnesota and polar bears in Canada. It is a departure from the blue-chip approach of many IMAX films in that it is the story of both the bears and people of these locales. While NWP will oversee the production, Dave Lickley of Science North in Alberta, Canada, is the DP and producer. The film is a coproduction with large format specialists Primesco Communications in Montreal, Canada. This US$5 million epic has been in development for four years and should be showing in an IMAX theater by spring ’01.

Birdwatch, another NWP production, is a 13 x 30-minute ‘how-to, where-to’ guide to bird watching in America, which is in production for its third season. Produced in collaboration with Connecticut Public Television, the series is hosted by ornithologist Dick Hattro and NWF naturalist Craig Tufts. With its second renewal comes economy of scale with episodes averaging US$75,000 apiece. ‘Second and third seasons are great because the groundwork has been laid and key relationships established, so you can concentrate on production,’ says Palmer. The series airs on PBS.

Carl Mrozek

Remembering Kent State

In 1970, Ohio National Guardsmen opened fire on a group of demonstrating students at the Kent State campus in the U.S. Four students died and nine were wounded.

Thirty years later, this horrific event has inspired both a documentary and feature film, but the doc will hit the airwaves first. Kent State: The Day the War Came Home will air close to the anniversary date (May 4) on TLC in the U.S. and History Television in Canada. The US$380,000 one-hour special is scheduled to wrap in March 2000. The feature-length documdrama, Ohio, is still in development (Davis Entertainment and Lord/Weaver Prods).

Kent State is being helmed by Santa Monica, Calif.-based Single Spark Pictures and Canadian prodco Partners in Motion of Regina, Saskatchewan. Single Spark president Mark Mori is executive producing, while Partners president Chris Triffo is directing.

‘We are telling the tragic story of Kent State to a new generation,’ Mori was quoted as saying. ‘This event was the turning point of the Vietnam War that galvanized popular opinion against the war.’

Mori has previously produced two films that were nominated for Academy Awards: Building Bombs in 1990 and Blood Ties: The Life and Work of Sally Mann in 1993.

Susan Rayman

About The Author
Andrew Jeffrey joined Realscreen in 2021 as its news editor. Here, he helps to oversee assignment, reporting and editing for Realscreen's daily newsletter. Prior to his work covering documentary and non-fiction film and TV, he worked as a reporter and associate producer for CBC Edmonton, and as a reporter for The Star Calgary, where he covered daily news on beats such as local and provincial politics, health care and harm reduction, sports and education. His work has appeared in other Canadian news outlets such as TVO, the Edmonton Journal and Avenue Magazine.