On the Slate: Off the Fence & Flame TV

From crazy science to a real life Zelig... it's the latest projects from Off the Fence and Flame TV.
March 12, 2009

From crazy science to a real life Zelig… it’s the latest projects from Off the Fence and Flame TV.

Off the Fence Productions is well known for its science programming. Two new projects the prodco has on the slate fall under the science genre but look at issues such as extinction and climate change in unusual and humorous ways.

First on the list is a program the company made specifically for an online airing on Babelgum. Extinction Sucks follows an Australian conservationist and her best friend as they battle extinction in unique ways. Each episode the duo hears about a new animal that is facing extinction and they get in touch with a local group that is working to save this animal to find out what equipment they need to make this dream a reality. ‘Then they basically throw a big fundraiser and invite anybody and everybody from their grannies to their grannies’ dogs to all their friends and people on the street to raise money to buy this equipment,’ explains Deborah Kidd, producer at Off the Fence. ‘It’s a very fast, furious, funky conservation program.’

The prodco took the show to Babelgum because the interactive element of the program lent itself to online. The first run will be strictly through online on Babelgum starting March 16, but Off the Fence will be offering the 6×30 minute program to broadcasters at MIP.

The second project Off the Fence has in the works looks at Asian scientists and the many unorthodox methods they are using to fight climate change. ‘I’ve termed it ‘bonkers scientists doing bonkers things,” says Kidd. That’s one way to sum it up. The three part series looks at the off the wall ideas of these scientists, from alternative uses for cow dung, to a whole house that collects and stores rainwater, to a satellite system that delivers data on CO2 gasses, to edible cutlery. Changemakers Asia for Discovery Asia takes the assumption that Asia is causing most of the climate change problems and shows that they are actually part of the solution. ‘They’re really left field ideas, but they might just save the world,’ says Kidd.

Flame TV’s latest projects uncover mysteries from fraudulent insurance claims and the people who investigate them to a former politician with a mysterious past.

For Who Was Tom Driberg?, Flame TV’s one hour docudrama on the former chairman of the Labour Party, the UK-based prodco delves into the life of a man who has been accused of being a spy for the KGB. In the doc Driberg’s old friend and colleague William G Stewart hosts the program while investigating the story of his former boss who appears to have been a number of contradictions all in one. ‘He was a high churchman and a communist and an extraordinarily promiscuous homosexual and a gossip columnist and a spy,’ says Roger Bolton, chairman at Flame TV. The doc aims to answer the question of who was the real Tom Driberg through interviews with his friends and colleagues and experts on spies. ‘He’s a contemporary Zelig figure,’ says Bolton. ‘He just appears everywhere and knows everybody.’

Flame is also taking on another investigation, this time for a 15×45 minute series for BBC1 which follows insurance claim investigators as they try to suss out the strangest claims on offer. Following the investigations of fraudulent claims in real time the series will look at everything from accidents to floods but also some of the more off beat claims, such as the million pound chicken – that’s right, a chicken insured for one million pounds. ‘He actually did live at the Fox Inn, it also taught ducks how to cross the road, I kid you not,’ says Bolton of this particularly peculiar claim. ‘Then it was foully killed.’ The series is both sad and exploratory as it shows the desperation of some crooks. The Claim Game is due to wrap in just over one month and will air in May.

About The Author
Andrew Tracy joined Realscreen as associate editor in 2021, following 17 years as managing editor of the award-winning international film magazine Cinema Scope. From 2010 to 2020 he also held the position of senior editor at the Toronto International Film Festival, where he oversaw the flagship publication for the organization’s year-round Cinematheque programming and edited its first original monograph in a decade, Steve Gravestock’s A History of Icelandic Film. He was a scriptwriter and consultant on the first season of the Vice TV series The Vice Guide to Film, and his writing and reporting have been featured in such outlets as Cinema Scope, Reverse Shot, Sight & Sound, Cineaste, Film Comment, MUBI Notebook, POV, and Montage.