I’m not sure whether it’s because I’m surlier than most, or more eclectic, but in many cases I ended up with my own ideas about the films we screened. What follows is a list of my personal picks – ones that didn’t make it to the final grouping. (Like the other judges know what they’re talking about…)
My Bare Lady
Can porn stars make it in an English acting school? Beats the hell out of me, but I want to see them try.
My Bare Lady is a reality series that begins at the Edinburgh festival, then heads south to London for lessons and rehearsals. These stars of adult film have just three weeks to prep for a West End show that will showcase their thespian talents. Or not.
This idea is so good, it’s hard to believe no one thought of it sooner. It’ll attract a huge male/female audience and will hit the prime 18-to-34 demo. Fluffers need not apply.
Partners: Zig Zag Productions (London) for Fox Reality (US) and Bravo (UK), through Channel 4 International (UK)
Wrapping: November 2006
Length: 3 x 60 minutes, plus possible additional hour
Rights available: Worldwide, excluding UK and US
Love Me, Love My Doll
Keeping in the sex theme, Love Me is about high-end love dolls and the people who own them. Each doll is a custom job that runs between US$6,500 and $10,000 and takes at least 80 hours to craft.
There have been shows about high-end love dolls before (check, for example, Surplus by Erik Gandini and Johan Söderberg), but this hour is unique, as it really gets into the lives of the owners – freakish though they may be. Meet the factory worker who saved for nine months to buy his, or the proper English gent who has a harem of dolls and regularly does photo shoots with them. These people walk among you, folks.
Partners: North One Television (London), through All3Media (London) for Five (UK)
Length: 60 minutes
Rights available: Worldwide television
From affluent sex fiends, it’s over to ‘pensioners behaving badly.’ Young@Heart is a film about a chorus of 75- to 93-year-olds who tour their own musical show, singing the hits of acts like Hendrix, Outkast and Radiohead. It’s probably best seen to be believed. One of the highlights of the show is 93-year-old gi bride and Blitz survivor Eileen Hall’s rendition of The Clash’s Should I Stay Or Should I Go?
The film follows these anti-pensioners as they rehearse for a new show and, unfortunately, includes the death of two cast members. This is a film of great highs and lows, but in the end you’ll realize you’re only as old as you’re willing to accept.
Partners: Walker George Films (London) for More 4 (UK), through Channel 4 International (UK)
Wrapping: September 2006
Length: 52 or 100 minutes
Rights available: Worldwide, excluding UK
The Passion of the Mao
We’ve been inundated with serious docs about China that do their best to package an entire civilization’s history into an hour or two. Here’s one that takes a different route.
Mao tells the leader’s story in an irreverent, almost madcap way. It mixes the history of the Cultural Revolution with animation, humor and a few nervous ticks to create an interesting take on the author of the Little Red Book. Whether or not it’s enough to start a Permanent Revolution in the history genre is yet to be seen, but in the meantime, this feature demonstrates how even potentially dry history can be made entertaining.
Partners: Little Red Book Production Company (Northfield)
Aired previously at: Cinequest International Film Festival
Length: 90 minutes
Rights available: Worldwide, all media
Living With the Enemy
The other winning approach to history, it should be noted, is to tell a story that hasn’t been told many times before, and do it well. Living With the Enemy does that, recounting German history from 1945 through 1949, when the country was occupied by the Allies. It’s a period of great evolution in German history, and led to the birth of two states. It also continues to impact everything in Germany, from family life to the arts, and from geopolitics to economics. The series features amazing sources and is a must-see for anyone (like myself) obsessed with that period of world history.
Partners: Looks Film & TV (Leipzig) through German United Distributors (Cologne) for MDR and WDR
Wrapping: May 2007
Length: 4 x 52 minutes
Rights available: Worldwide, except Germany
The New Technology of War
There are few guarantees in broadcasting, but this might be one of them. The New Technology of War, a series produced with the help of Popular Mechanics, highlights the new technologies behind ground combat, counter-terrorism procedures, air and sea power and other newfangled ways for countries to destroy one another.
Combining sure-fire (pardon the expression) cable content with the power of a brand like Popular Mechanics is a great way to hit big male ratings. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel with a 7.62mm M240B. Oh, and it’s a really cool series as well.
Partners: Strategic Entertainment (New York) in association with Koch Entertainment (Washington), through Octapixx Worldwide (Toronto)
Wrapping: September 2006
Length: 5 x 60 minutes
Rights available: Worldwide broadcast and DVD, except US (through Octapixx). US and Canadian dvd rights through Koch Entertainment
Space For Living
As the man says: ‘And now for something completely different.’ Space For Living combines the best of home makeover shows with the best of culture and travel. Beyond just getting good design tips, you also come away with a sense of other cultures’ living solutions, and what’s a priority for them. Add to that cool extras like ‘Foreign Exchange,’ where artisans from around the world take a crack at modifying the same piece of furniture, and you’ve got a solid half hour that has more legs than the average credenza.
Partners: Space for Living Production through Marvista Entertainment (LA) for HGTV (Canada)
Aired previously on: HGTV
Length: 26 x 30 minutes
Rights available: Worldwide television and DVD