News in Brief

CameraPlanet and Discovery get behind feature docs; Nat Geo India reaches new heights in programming; NBC seeks out an older demographic
March 7, 2003

In a major bid to raise its profile in the documentary world, Bethesda, U.S-based Discovery Communications has joined forces with New York-based prodco CameraPlanet to commission and release feature-length theatrical films. Called Discovery Docs, the initiative announced March 4 will see CameraPlanet coproduce and distribute an as yet undetermined number of docs to cinemas in at least five U.S. cities starting in early 2004. A TV premiere in a two-hour Discovery Channel strand will follow the theater tour roughly six months later. Six factual filmmakers who have put forward proposals are: Barbara Kopple, Michael Apted, Peter Gilbert, Nanette Burstein, Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker. Discovery Networks will be the primary financier of the projects.

The Indian and Nepalese armies are conducting a Mount Everest climbing expedition to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first summit reach. In a nationwide contest chronicled by the National Geographic Channel India, one Indian citizen was elected to accompany the Indian Army to Base Camp. Everest Se Takkar, the resulting nine-part series, will premiere in the spring. ‘This is the first time our Indian office has produced programming specifically for their own viewers,’ an NGC spokesperson told RealScreen. ‘The Indian army gave NGC-India an unprecedented opportunity to film the process, granting exclusivity to their own expedition.’ In a prepared statement, NGC India managing director Zubin Gandevia revealed that the channel has invested over INR110 million (us$2.3 million) in the promotion and creation of the program.

In a move that is surely to be mistaken for a sketch-comedy parody, U.S. network NBC has greenlit a reality series that puts the spotlight on the over-50 set. The requisite nation-wide talent-search for Second Chance: America’s Most Talented Senior begins March 11 with a premiere to follow by late spring. Producers are looking for the best senior singers and dancers and ‘the most exceptional novelty acts.’

The National Film Board of Canada has increased its commitment to the Reel Diversity documentary competition to CDN$1 million (US$680,000). Reel Diversity provides five up-and-coming Canadian filmmakers of color with CDN$200,000 (US$136,000) to make a 40-minute English-language doc. The finished project will air on CBC/CBC Newsworld and cable-channel Vision TV. The application deadline is April 4. For details, visit //

Sweden’s Film I Vast is the lucky recipient of a €2.2 million (us$2.3 million) subsidy from the European Union. The Trollhattan-based regional film center funds feature films and docs, and will receive the money, which is earmarked for ‘infrastructure’, over a two-year period. ‘The new money – representing one of the EU’s biggest efforts in this area – will enable us to establish an international, full-service film and media industry,’ Film I Vast managing director Tomas Eskilsson told RealScreen.

Asia is often cited by television execs as the territory with the most potential, so get yourself to France. MipTV will roll out the red welcome mat for more than 131 companies from Asia that are planning to exhibit at the coming market in Cannes. Buyers, distributors and producers from Korea, China, Japan, Thailand, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan will attend. A few stats to note: The number of South Korean companies exhibiting at Mip has increased 40% to date, more than 43 buyers will travel from China, and Japan will be represented by 37 companies. MipTV takes place from March 24 to 28, 2003.

Last autumn, the U.S. Public Broadcasting Service partnered with San Jose, U.S.-based TiVo, a creater of digital video recorders (DVR), to develop PBS’s programming-on-demand business (see RealScreen, September 2002). The partnership appears to be a success, as it’s being pursued into its second phase. Over the next six months, TiVo will spotlight three PBS programs through TiVo Showcases, a brand development initiative. In April, the pubcaster will promote Manor House, a six-part living history series; History Detectives will go out in July, with TiVo users able to access behind-the-scenes footage; and episodes of ‘NOVA’, PBS’s weekly science strand, will be made frequently available. The partners will analyze the monthly results of these campaigns to determine their success in acquiring and retaining existing viewers

The historic 1938 Silver Theater in Silver Spring, U.S. is being renovated and will open anew on April 4 as the AFI Silver Theater and Cultural Center. It will become the home-base for Silverdocs (June 18 to 22, 2003), a new doc festival from The American Film Institute and Discovery Channel. The 49,000-square-foot complex will offer hard-to-find film and video pieces, including indie features, shorts, foreign films and documentaries. It will also schedule special events, such as filmmaker interviews, discussion panels and performances. The theater will accommodate film formats from 8 to 70mm, high-definition digital cinema video projection, broadcast quality video recording and live music accompaniment, as well as distance learning capabilities via satellite, fiber and the Internet.

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