News in Brief

OSF plans to triple production output; HBO doc is adopted as a permanent historical resource; and Channel 5 brushes up on the arts
May 30, 2002

Oxford Scientific Films, the U.K. production unit of Australia’s Southern Star, is repositioning itself within the factual marketplace and intends to triple its production output in 2002. It also plans to extend its genre offerings. Three OSF productions were recently commissioned by the BBC and National Geographic: two ‘Natural World’ specials for the BBC, each one hour long; and the 6 x 30-minutes series Wild Orphans for Nat Geo. The latter is a coproduction between OSF and Wild Pictures that depicts the realities of orphaned animals in Africa.

Footage from the HBO documentary In Memoriam: New York City, 9/11/01 will be available as a permanent resource at the Museum of the City of New York, thanks to a grant from the AOL Time Warner Foundation that supports the archiving of September 11 video footage. The grant also supports a related web-based initiative and the screening of the film at the museum over the summer. In Memoriam: New York City, 9/11/01 features still photographs, news reports, and video clips as well as eyewitness accounts from former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani.

The U.K.’s Channel 5 is going uptown with its image. According to a report in The Guardian, the station once known for its programming focus on ‘football, films and fucking’ has declared itself the main source for primetime programs about the arts. C5 director of programs Kevin Lygo asserted his channel’s position as a public service broadcaster, pitting it against the BBC and Channel 4. C5′s upcoming arts slate includes 28 half-hours about famous painters and a three-part series titled Easter in Art.

NHNZ‘s stock library has acquired more than 30 hours of footage shot in East Africa by cinematographer Adrian Warren. The footage was originally captured for an episode of The Living Edens, and was shot in Tanzania in Ngorongoro Crater. Among the wildlife caught on film are the spotted cat and the serval, as well as gazelles, buffalo, lions, wildebeests and cheetahs.

Oceanographer and National Geographic resident explorer Robert Ballard has found the remains of a World War II patrol boat, which may be the one that was captained by former U.S. President John F. Kennedy. The search for the remains – found on the seabed of the Blanket Strait off Gizo Island, just northwest of the Solomons capital Honiara – will be featured in a Nat Geo documentary scheduled for release in November. Kennedy’s PT-109 was hit by a Japanese destroyer in August 1943. Lieutenant Kennedy and his crew were eventually rescued from a nearby island. Ballard also found the skeleton of the Titanic in 1985.

The submission deadline for international films for the Toronto International Film Festival is fast approaching. The 2002 deadline for international feature and short films (both documentary and narrative) is June 7. While the submission deadline for Canadian films has passed, interested parties who missed the deadline should contact the festival at (416) 967-7371.

Danish communication company Hoyer & Mathiasen is looking for 10 to 12 hours of international TV programs that tackle biotechnology and gene technology. The films should be 30-minutes to 60-minutes long and will be distributed for educational purposes in conjunction with an initiative, commissioned by the Danish Ministry of Economic and Bussiness Affairs, to raise awareness about the issues surrounding biotechnology. For more information about the project, log onto

After an eight-hour meeting, the board of Vivendi Universal (parent company of French pay-TV channel Canal+) approved the creation of a corporate governance committee, which will be headed by Vivendi vice-chairman Edgar Bronfman Jr. Jean-Marie Messier, Vivendi’s chairman and CEO, remains secure in his position. The meeting’s main purpose was to address the company’s poor stock performance and rising debt. The board did not release details about any possible asset sales, leaving the future of Canal+ open to speculation.

U.K. media companies Carlton Communications and Granada both posted losses from October to March 2002, BBC News reports. Carlton’s loss was to the tune of £179.4 million (US$263 million) while Granada’s was £169 million (US$248 million).

The collapse of their jointly held venture, ITV Digital, is widely acknowledged as a primary cause.

Temple Street Productions in Toronto, Canada, is launching a factual entertainment division. David York, whose production credits include Gerrie & Louise and Gene Hunters, will helm the new division.

The Documentary Studio, also in Toronto, is now accepting film proposal submissions from emerging Canadian doc-makers. The Studio intends to provide full funding to six filmmakers who will each produce a one-hour documentary on the subject of their choice, although the organization describes its goal as ‘personal exploration of the human condition.’ The deadline for applications is July 1, 2002. See // for more details.

New York-based distributor Cowboy Pictures will re-release Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, the Pennebaker-Hegedus Films project that captured musician David Bowie‘s final live performance as Ziggy Stardust in London in 1973. The film has been re-mixed into Dolby 5.1 surround sound on new 35mm prints. It will screen at Film Forum in New York on July 10, later traveling to theaters across the U.S. The re-release commemorates the 30th anniversary of Bowie’s album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, and coincides with a release of an enhanced version of the album and a Bowie retrospective at the Museum of Television and Radio in New York.

The worldwide theatrical and home video rights to Paper Clips have been acquired by Miramax Films. The 52-minute doc is being produced by The Johnson Group in McLean, Virginia, U.S. and carries a budget of about US$500,000. The film documents a student-led effort to commemorate the lives of the six million Jews killed during World War II by collecting a paper clip for each of the victims.

IMAX 3D film Space Station has accumulated a worldwide box office gross of US$5.9 million. The large-format film launched at the Smithsonian’s National Air & Space Museum in Washington, D.C. on April 17, 2002. It’s currently showing in 59 IMAX theaters around the globe.

Bowling for Columbine, the newest doc by Michael Moore, garnered more attention last week at the Cannes Film Festival, which ended May 26. The film won a 55th Anniversary Award (Special Jury Award), a praise generally given out every five years (though the festival skipped 1997). Last week, RealScreen Plus reported that Bowling was acquired by United Artists for the speculated sum of $3 million, and that Alliance Atlantis had signed a distribution deal for the film with Diaphana Distribution in France.

In August, E! Networks will debut a weekly half-hour reality series titled The Anna Nicole Smith Show. The program will follow the former Playboy pinup turned plus-sized model turned multimillionaire widow through her everyday functions, allowing audiences to meet her teenage son Daniel, her punk assistant Kim and her lawyer Howard K. Stern. E! VP of development Jeff Shore is executive producing. Marcus Fox, coordinating producer of MTV hit The Osbournes, is also on the production team. E! Networks’ international division is exploring coproduction opportunities with European broadcasters.

The fourth annual Provincetown International Film Festival, which runs June 13 to 16 in Provincetown, Massachusetts, U.S. has announced its lineup. The festival will screen 20 documentaries, 28 narrative films and 5 shorts, along with special screenings over the course of four days. Included in the pack for docs are Bill Weber and David Weissman‘s The Cockettes, about an eccentric 1960s theater group; Arthur Dong‘s Family Fundamentals, which profiles conservative Christian families with homosexual children; and Gail Dolgin and Vicente Franco‘s Daughter from Danang, winner of the 2002 Documentary Grand Jury Prize at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival. The ‘Youth and Diversity Program’ will present the Oscar-nominated doc Promises, along with HBO’s The Laramie Project, based on the true story of the murder of college student Matthew Sheppard. Journalist Sebastian Junger will participate in the panel ‘Images of Conflict: Film During Times of International Crisis,’ and films relating to the topic will be screened, including Iranian director Mohsen Makhmalbaf‘s Kandahar. The festival will also present Junger with ‘The Human Spirit Award’.

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