November 1, 1997

Short Takes, November 1997


Following a scouting trip to the Independent Feature Market in New York, IDA helmers David Haugland and Betsy McLane took their seats on the Blue Ribbon Committee, which sequestered itself into the early days of October to pick this year's IDA Award-winners. When the smoke was cleared and the shouting was over, IDA had a newfangled DocuFest'", complete with the winners of the Pare Lorentz and the ABCNews VideoSource Awards. IDA shook the docu-world with DOCtober, the much anticipated festival of docs from hither and yon , and the Gala Awards Dinner on All Hallow's Eve proved to the denizens of Pasadena that its neighbors to the south could sure throw a swell soiree. In the spirit of the season, dinner guests arrived in costume—as their favorite documentary subjects, of course! Imagine Nanook of the North chasing Dorothy Parker around the Ritz Carlton Ballroom with a speargun, or Jimi Hendrix, Rose Kennedy and the Statue of Liberty swapping war stories over Chardonnay... you get my drift about how the evening went. I could tell you the one about Teddy Roosevelt knocking over a tray of cremes caramels into the respec­tive laps of Robert E. Lee and Elsa the lion, but I'll save that for another day.

Miramax Goes for The Big One

Miramax, the Big Daddy of the inde­pendent world, bought the distribution rights to Michael Moore's The Big One, his long-awaited feature-length documen­tary follow-up to his hit Roger and Me. Not that Mr. Moore has been dormant since 1989: he produced a short sequel to his signature work, entitled Pets and Meat; he produced TV Nation, a short-lived but well-received television series for NBC; and he authored a best-selling book, Downsize This! As part of the distribution deal, Miramax agreed to pledge 50% of the profits from The Big One to charities and community organizations in Flint, MI, Moore's home town. The Big One was produced by Kathleen Glynn and execu­tive produced by Jeremy Gibson.

Historic Films Reps Rock Concert Footage

Historic Films Stock Footage Library recently acquired representation of more than 500 classic rock concerts filmed by Metropolitan Entertainment, whose con­cert promoter, John Scher, produced some of the most memorable concerts in the New York metropolitan area. Historic Films has catalogued and restored the original tapes. For more information, call-800-249-1940 , or visit Historic Films' website at

Turner Shifts Most Doc Programming to CNN

Turner Broadcasting, plagued recently by low ratings, has announced that it will shift most of its documentary programming from TBS to CNN. TBS will continue to air National Geographic Explorer and Wild!Life Adventures, as well as some of the productions it has in development. The much anticipated documentary series on the Cold War, however, produced by Turner Original Productions, will air on CNN.

Mandalay Media Arts to Produce High-Definition Natural History Programming

The launch of Mandalay Media Arts—a joint venture in high-definition programming that explores the secrets, science and splendors of the natural world-was announced in September by Peter Guber, chairman of Mandalay Entertainment; Al Giddings, president of Al Giddings Images; and IDA member Barry Clark, chairman of Telenova Productions. The new venture comes at a time when digital television technology is breaking new ground and inventions such as the DVD, the DVD-ROM and linkages between the personal computer and televi­ sion are revolutionizing entertainment.

Currently shooting in Morocco for Mandalay Media Arts is Sahara: Seasons in the Sand, a two-hour natural history production that will be one of PBS's first high-definition presentations when it airs in fall 1999. Packaged by IDA trustee Devillier Donegan Enterprises, Sahara is the first in a series of high-definition, nat­ural history features for TV scheduled for production by Mandalay over the next three years. Other films in the series will profile the natural wonders of the Himalayas, Antarctica and the Andes.

Disney to Go Back to Nature Docs

The Walt Disney Company, whose nature and wildlife documentaries from the 1950s earned eight Academy Awards, will return to the nonfiction programming fold under its Buena Vista Television banner. The company will produce four hour-long specials, two of which go into production this fall. John Wilcox, and his company American Adventure Productions, will serve as executive producer.

Emmy Awards Kick Off the Fall Season

The following programs won Emmy Awards in the nonfiction, documentary or informational categories this past Septem­ber: Historical ProgrammingCombat Cameramen (TBS/National Geographic Explorer ); Special Classification for News and Documentary Program Achievement—Catch 22 (The Learning Channel/Great Books); Special Classifi­cation for News and Documentary Individual AchievementBefore You Go: A Daughter's Diary (HBO/H BO Family Video Diaries); Individual Achievement in a Craft: Writers—IDA member David Grubin and Geoffrey Ward for TR, the Story of Theodore Roosevelt (PBS); Individual Achievement in a Craft: Directors—IDA member Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman for The Celluloid Closet (HBO), and Ben Loeterrnan for Angel on Death Row (PBS/Frontline); Individual Achievement in a Craft: Cinematography—Bill Mills for National Geographic Special: Tigers of the Snow (NBC; National Geographic Television), and Robert Richman for Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills (HBO; Hand To Mouth Prods); Individual Achievement in a Craft: Editors—Jason Rosenfeld for Memphis PD: War on the Streets (HBO), and IDA members Joe Berlinger, Bruce Sinofsky and M. Watanabe Milmore for Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Rob­ in Hood Hills (HBO); Individual Achievement in a Craft: Sound—Paul Schremp, Darren Barnett, Pattie Lorusso, Paul Trautman for National Geographic Special: Tigers of the Snow (NBC). Individual Achievement in a Craft: Researchers—Diane Hamilton, Amanda Pollock, Allyson Luchak for TR, the Story of Theodore Roosevelt (PBS); Informational Special—Without Pity: A Film About Abilities (HBO); Mierendorf Prods—IDA member Michael Mierendorf, producer/director/writer); Informational Series­—A&E Biography (A&E); The Great War and the Shaping of the 20th Century (PBS; KCET—Los Angeles/BBC/Imperial War Museum).

HBO, Discovery Lead the Pack in CableACE Nonfix Pix

HBO/Cinemax scorched the competi­tion in the CableACE Awards, with 108 nominations overall and 25 nominations in the documentary and nonfiction catego­ries. The Discovery Channel/Learning Channel/Animal Planet troika was the front-runner with 28 nods, while the Turner conglomerate of TBS, TNT and CNN snared fourteen nominations. The nomina­tions in the nonfiction categories were the following (IDA members are indicated by an asterisk* on first mention):

Magazine Show Special or Series: The Beef (The Family Channel; Goldcoast Entertainment); Moms of a Lifetime Special (Lifetime; Triage Entertainment); National Geographic EXPLORER (TBS; National Geographic Television, Allison Argo*, producer); Sex in the '90's: The Safest Sex of All (MTV; Lauren Lazin*, executive producer; Bill Richmond *, producer). News Special or SeriesThe Death of a Princess (CNN); Discovery News (Discovery Channel; ABC News); Inside North Korea (CNN); Investigative Reports: Death of Vince Foster (A&E­ Michael Cascio*, executive producer; Jeff Swimmer*, producer/writer; BNN—Steve Rosenbaum*, executive producer); Investigative Reports: Meth's Deadly High (A&E; Kurtis Productions).

Extended News or Public Affairs CoverageThe OJ Simpson Trial: Beyond Black and White (Discovery Channel—Mary Ellen Iwata*, executive producer; NYT Television); Great Books (TLC—Nancy LeBrun*, executive producer; The Cronkite Ward Compa­ny/Great Expectations Productions, Inc.); Transplant: The Clock is Ticking (TLC­ Mary Ellen Iwata*, executive producer; NYT Television); The Ultimate Guide: Snakes (Discovery Channel—Steve Burns*, executive producer; Partridge Films, Ltd./David Hickman Films, Ltd.). Public Affairs Special or Series—27th & Prospect: One Year in the Fight Against Drugs (HBO—Sheila Nevins*, executive producer; Kurt Simon* and Karen Goodman*/Simon & Goodman Picture Co.); Final Take: Megan's Law (Lifetime; BBC Documentaries); A Kill for a Kill: America Undercover (HBO; Carlton Tele­vision UK); Memphis PD: War on the Streets: America Undercover—(HBO; Half-Court Pictures, Ltd.); Talked to Death: America Undercover (HBO; Parco Prod., Inc.).

Entertainment/Cultural Documentary SpecialBallyhoo! The Hollywood Side­ show—(AMC; Peter Jones Prods.—Peter Jones*, executive producer; Andrew Tilles*, supervising producer); Big Guns Talk: The Story of the Western (TNT; Galen Films, Inc.); Biography Special: Jerry Lewis: The Last American Clown (A&E; Soapbox Prods., Inc.); The Burger and the King: The Life & Cuisine of Elvis Presley (Cinemax; BBC TV); Paul Monette: The Brink of Summer's End (Cinemax; Brink of Summer's End Prods., Inc).

Environmental Documentary Special­—Galapagos: Beyond Darwin (Discovery Channel—Tim Cowling*, executive producer; Al Giddings Images; David Clark, Inc.); Great Siberian Grizzly (Animal Planet; SuperFlow Corp.); National Geographic Explorer: Lords of the Everglades (TBS; ational Geographic Television); National Geographic Explorer: Savage Garden (TBS; National Geographic Television); Wildlife Adventures: Survival of the Yellowstone Wolves (TBS; Turner Original Productions—Pat Mitchell*, executive producer; Vivian Schiller*, senior producer/Busch Productions, Inc.; DMW Productions).

Documentary Special—Breathing Lessons: The Life and Work of Mark O'Brien (Cinemax; Inscrutable Films/Jessica Yu*, producer); Heart of a Child (HBO; Simon & Goodman Picture Co.); Investigative Reports: Blood Money: Switzerland's Nazi Gold (A&E; Crisman Films, Inc.); Muhammed Ali: The Whole Story (TNT; Consentino Film & Video); Taxicab Confessions 3: America Un­dercover (HBO; View Film & Video Inc.­ Harry Gantz*, producer).

History Documentary Special or SeriesThe Great Egyptians: Mystery of Tutankhamen (TLC; Cafe Productions, Ltd.Andre Singer*, executive producer); Jerusalem: City of Heaven (Discovery Channel—Nancy LeBrun *, executive producer; Atlantic Productions); Mumia Abu-Jamal: A Casefor Reasonable Doubt? America Undercover (HBO; Ottmorr Productions, Ltd.); Nuremberg (Discovery Channel; Worldview Pictures); Wonderland (Cinemax; Rhinestone Prods LLC; Good Machine, Inc.).

Documentary Limited SeriesGlass Jungle (TLC; Wall to Wall Television); Newsreel to Nightly News (The History Channel; Canadian Broadcasting Corp.; BBC); Raging Planet (Discovery Channel; Pioneer Productions).

Writing a Documentary Special—David Darlow: Survival in the Sky: Blaming the Pilot (TLC); Sam Hurst, Ned Judge: The Coming Plague (TBS); Greg Kandra, Bob Waldman: Charles Kuralt: Life on the Road (A&E); John Rubin, Dixon Steele: National Geographic Explorer: Savage Garden (TBS); Georgia Searle: Big Guns Talk: The Story of the Western (TBS).

Documentary SeriesBiography (A&E); Cronkite Remembers (Discovery Channel; The Cronkite Ward Co.—Denise Schrier Cetta*, producer); Medical Detectives (TLC—Richard Wells*, executive producer; Medstar Communications); Solar Empire (TLC; York Films—David Berman*, producer/director); Understanding (TLC).

Business or Consumer Programming Special or SeriesCyberLife (Discovery Channel; Termite Art Productions); Cyberspace: Through the Looking Glass (TLC; Antelope); Investigative Reports: Hooked on a Dream: America's Lotteries (A&E; Crisman Films, Inc.); Super High­way Robbery (TLC; Hart Ryan Produc­tions/Channel Four Television); You're on Your Own (CNBC).

Sports Information SpecialBreaking Through: Our Turn to Play (Lifetime); Football America (TNT; NFL Films); Long Shots: The Life and Times of the American Basketball Association (HBO; HBO Sports/Black Canyon Productions); NBA at 50 (TNT; Turner Original Productions/NBA Prods.); Sports on the Silver Screen (HBO).

Directing a Documentary Special­—Monte Bramer: Paul Monette: The Brink of Summer's End (Cinemax); Vince DiPersio, William Guttentag: Memphis PD.: War on the Streets: America Under­cover (HBO); Marc Levin: CIA: America's Secret Warriors (Discovery Channel); Richard Matthews: National Geographic Explorer: King Cobra (TBS); Jessica Yu: Breathing Lessons: The Life and Work of Mark O'Brien (Cinemax).

Editing a Documentary Special or Series—Sandra Consentino, Stephen Consentino: Muhammed Ali: The Whole Story (TNT); Adam deWolf: Extreme Machines: Image Impossible (TLC); Leslie Jones: Wild Bill: Hollywood Maverick (TNT); Garry Michael Kluger, Lori OLiiwenstein, Paul Shepard: The Ultimate Guide: Elephants (Discovery Channel); Petra Lent, Vincent Stenerson: Big Guns Talk: The Story of the Western (TNT).

International Informational Special or Series—Calling the Ghosts (Cinemax ; Bowery Prods./Luthanda Films, Inc.­ Mandy Jacobson*, producer); The Johnson Tapes (The History Channel; Barraclough Carey Productions); Painted Babies (TLC; BBC); The Real E.R. (Dis­covery Channel; Blast! Films).

International Documentary Special or Series—Drug Run (Cinemax; Carlton UK Television); The Selling of Innocents (Cinemax); The Voyage of the Damned (Discovery Channel; National Film Board of Canada; Les Films d'Ici; Galafilm Inc.).

Nonfictional Short Form Programming Special or Series—Before and After Jackie (SportsChannel New York); Direc­tor of the Month (Turner Classic Movies; Wing Tip Prods.); The Good Father (CNN); Legacy of Pain/Children of the Holocaust (CNN); Rent (CNN).

Children's Educational or Informational Series—Jaws & Claws (Discovery Channel; TVNZ Natural History/Gallien Global Vision/Partridge Films, Ltd./Pangolin Pictures); Nick News Special Edition: Peace on Earth (Nickelodeon); Pop Sci (Discovery Channel; BELO Prods); Smoke Alarm: The Unfiltered Truth About Cigarettes (HBO; Curious Pictures; Consumer Reports Television); WAM! Goes To Washington (WAM! America's KIDZ Network).

Awards Round-Up

Nearly half of the Austin Film Soci­ ety's 1997 Texas Filmmakers' Production Fund grants were awarded to documentar­ ians. A total of ten grants rangin g from $1,000 to $5,000 went to Texas-based documentary filmmakers. The program is financed through benefit premieres and private donations. Applications for next year 's program will be available in April 1998... The Canadian Ballet is not about high culture in the Great White North, but about the Canadian striptease industry, and its screening at the lFFM in New York in September drew SRO crowds. Paul Borghese directed and co-produced with his wife Malika.

Festivals Round-Up

Errol Morris screened hjs new film Fast, Cheap and Out of Control at the 35th New York Festival to capacity crowds, as did Fred Wiseman, with his latest, Public Housing. Jim Jarmusch premiered his first documentary, Year of the Horse, a blistering rockumentary featuring Neil Young and his band Crazy Horse on their 1996 tour... MIPCOM '97 featured a special preview of Worldview Pictures' monumental eight­ part series War & Civilization. The film, directed by Stephen Trombley and Tony Bulley, was shot in sixteen countries on four continents and covers 5,000 years of wars waged throughout hjstory—in the name of civilization. The film was produced for The Learning Channel, in associ­ation with La Cinquieme.


Shirley Clarke, independent film/video pioneer, died in September at age 77. Moving from dance to experimental film in the 1950s, she won an Oscar® in 1962 for her documentary Robert Frost: A Lover's Quarrel with the World. Her documentary Portrait of Jason (1967) was an extended interview with a black male hustler. Her final film, Ornette: Made in America (1986), profiled jazz musician/composer Ornette Coleman. Her narrative films—The Connection (1960), The Cool World (1963), earned acclaim for their grittiness and brutal honesty. In 1962, she co-founded Filmmakers Cooperative (with Jonas Mekas), a nonprofit distribution company for independent films. She turned to video­ making in the 1970s and was a professor of film at UCLA until 1983.

Stanley Garfinkel, a historian and documentary producer, died in his native Cleveland of prostate cancer. He was 67. While he wrote and produced numerous documentaries on a wide variety of subjects, his most celebrated work was Completely Dior, about the legendary fashion designer. In his research for the film, Garfinkel happened upon an invaluable collection of mannequins from the 1940s that were dressed by some of greatest names in the industry. Garfinkel was educated at Harvard and Princeton, and he taught at Kent State University for more than 30 years.