Nat Geo slates projects from Gibney, Howard, Costner

Red Planet, exec produced by Ron Howard and Brian Grazer, will combine scripted and unscripted elements to examine the space race to Mars, while the miniseries Parched, exec produced by Alex Gibney (pictured), will look at the global water crisis.
July 31, 2015

National Geographic Channel (NGC) has enlisted Ron Howard, Brian Grazer, Alex Gibney (pictured) and Kevin Costner as exec producers for three major projects on its upcoming slate.

Announced during the Television Critics Association summer press tour, the projects are the miniseries Red Planet, produced by Imagine Entertainment and Radical Media, Billy the Kid: New Evidence from Leftfield Pictures and 18Thirty Entertainment, and Parched, produced by Gibney’s Jigsaw Productions as both a miniseries and a feature doc, which will receive a limited theatrical release.

Red Planet, exec produced by Howard and Brian Grazer as well as Radical Media’s Justin Wilkes and Dave O’Connor and NGC’s Robert Palumbo, will combine scripted and unscripted elements to examine the space race to Mars. Set in both the year 2032 and the present day, the series will tell the story of the first manned mission to Mars, depicted as taking place in 2032, and frame the narrative with interviews featuring present-day scientists and technological innovators paving the way for such a mission.

Calling the project “cinematic in both scope and storytelling,” NGC CEO Courteney Monroe said in a statement, “We hope to spark the curiosity of viewers by not only transporting them to another planet, but by embedding them with today’s leaders who are revolutionizing space technology.”

Meanwhile, Parched will examine the science and politics behind the looming global water crisis, delving into issues such as privatization, factory farming, energy extraction and chemical dumping.

In a statement, NGC president of original programming and production Tim Pastore said the broadcaster was keen to team with Gibney as he “pulls no punches and delivers the kind of hard-hitting, intriguing stories that we’re passionate about sharing.”

“With the drought crisis in California, America is starting to wake up to a future where fresh drinking water is scarce, expensive and beyond our control,” added Gibney. “With the global reach of National Geographic, we hope to stress the urgency, and now more than ever we need to understand what’s literally below the surface.”

Gibney, Stacey Offman and Lynne Kirby exec produce for Jigsaw Productions, with Richard Perello as co-executive producer. Matt Renner exec produces for NGC.

Also, Leftfield Pictures and exec producer Kevin Costner are teaming for a two-hour special examining a rare photo that may be of notorious American outlaw Billy the Kid.

Billy the Kid: New Evidence, set to air on October 18, documents the discovery of the tintype in 2010 and investigates its authenticity through modern methodology and time period recreations. If authenticated, the photograph could set a record for the sale of a rare collectible.

The only other photograph known to exist of Billy the Kid was purchased by William Koch for US$2.3 million. If authenticated, the tintype could fetch several times that value.

Costner exec produces and also narrates, while exec producers for Leftfield Pictures are Brent Montgomery, David George, Shawn Witt and Philippe Denham. Jeff Aiello exec produces for 18Thirty Entertainment and Michael Kovnat exec produces for NGC.

All three projects will roll out globally in 2016 and air in 171 countries.

Elsewhere, a natural history miniseries with a working title of Big Game of Thrones will be on the way for Nat Geo Wild next year from Icon Films and Natural History Unit Botswana. The series will capture the action in Savute, a remote corner of Africa, where predators such as lions, hyenas, wild dogs and leopards hunt giant herds of prey, ranging from buffalo to elephant and zebra.

In a statement, Nat Geo Wild EVP and GM Geoffrey Daniels elaborated on the similarities between his network’s series and the HBO scripted smash Game of Thrones, while also joking that “HBO’s lawyers can stand down, a new title is forthcoming.

“When we developed the series we immediately saw the parallels with Game of Thrones and the name stuck as our working title,” he added. “It is a natural fit for our story of the kings of the savannah fighting for the throne, complete with brutal violence, unexpected deaths, surprising characters and even interfamily romance.”

Exec producers for Icon Films and Harry Marshall  and Laura Marshall, while Natural History Unit Botswana producer is Brad Bestelink. Exec producer for Nat Geo Wild is Ashley Hoppin.

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