November 1, 2000

Short Takes, November 2000

It only believes
In a pile of dead leaves
And a moon
That's the color of bone.

-Tom Waits


November couldn't have arrived sooner, following a frantic month of documentation. DoCtober, Frame by Frame, the Awards Gala, DocuFest and, to cap it all off, Halloween: it shivers me timbers just contemplating it. Big shout-outs go to Melissa Simon Disharoon for leading us all to the hinter regions of Pasadena for a well-done DOCtober, replete with ribald and rousing recounts of Japanese women wrestlers, art festivals in the scorching Nevada desert, laughing clubs in India, infomercial pitch people and so much more. Reality never gets much better than its representation. And hats off to the Documentary Achievement winners this year, most of whom were undecided by press-time; competition was that fierce. And thanks to IDA board member Rick Trank, for putting on a classy gala, and Jessica Rath for staging DocuFest the next day. November is a time to re-emerge from the wreckage and renew one's faith in the rest of the year—a smorgasbord of presidential elections, football games, Thanksgiving (US), Remembrance Day (Canada), Guy Fawkes Day (UK) and Anniversary of the Revolution (Mexico). It's time to weather the gathering chill, behold a landscape bereft of leaves, shade and shine, and saunter forth into the maw of the holiday season.




Alliance Atlantic Communications Bails Out Câfé Productions

According to DOC TV, Alliance Atlantis Communications, the Canadian broadcaster, producer and distributor, has agreed to a ''long-term significant ownership stake" in Câfé Productions, the UK-based documentary and factual programming producer. Câfé Productions had faced liquidation prior to Alliance's rescue.

Andre Singer, Câfé  CEO and an IDA board member, commented, "It is our good fortune to have begun exploring an ongoing relationship with Alliance Atlantis, given our recent difficulties." Câfé currently has 20 hours of ongoing productions, and the arrangement with Alliance may enable Câfé to move some of their development projects forward.

National Geographic to Build New Production Studio

According to Variety, National Geographic Channel has broken ground on a digital media production facility at its headquarters in Washington, DC. The studio, the projected "base camp" for National Geographic's newly, launched network news organization, will feature a multimedia news set, with accommodations for interviews, special assignment features, digitally enhanced segments and online content. A team of 60 reporters, producers editors, photo-journalists and technicians will work out of the new site.




Roberts Named New Head of Vision TV

Bill Roberts was appointed President and CEO of Vision TV, the Toronto-based specialty channel in multi-faith broadcasting. Prior to joining Vision TV last month, he was secretary-general of the North American Broadcasters Association, where he was involved with organizing the United Nations World Television Forum on the Impact of Television on Peace and Development. He also helped developed relationships with Microsoft and AT&T. He previously served as senior vice president for the Canadian Association of Broadcasters and senior managing director of external relations and senior director-general of international affairs for TVO.

Channel 4 Shuffles its Programming Staff

Anticipating its planned programmatic expansion, the UK's Channel 4 has restructured its principle personnel. The channel is developing such areas as digital subscriptions and education, and it plans to launch E4, an entertainment channel. Karen Brown, deputy director of programs, will become managing director of learning and will retain commissioning responsibilities for science and education. Peter Dale will become head Film and Video area, will report to Dale.

Warren Takes Program Sales Position at Aussie Channel

Kaye Warren, former sales manager for BBC Worldwide, was recently appointed manager of program sales worldwide at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Her predecessor, Wendy Hallam, left ABC after eight years to become director of sales for Film Australia.




IDA member Sidney Sherman is wrapping post-production, with writer/director Kenneth Carlson, on Go, Tigers!, a documentary about a season in the life of three high school football players in a small town in Ohio...

Academy Award nominee Jonathan Stack (The Wildest Show in the South: Angola Prison Rodeo) is producing a 13-episode series on Las Vegas' casinos for Discovery Channel...

Lee Lew-Lee's All Power to the People!, an examination of the Black Panther movement, received a Congressional screening in Washington, DC, that was sponsored by members of the Congressional Black Caucus. The screening was part of a day-long examination of human rights violations in the US in the '60s and '70s.

KCTS/Seattle To Develop Series on Japanese-American History

KCTS/Seatle Public Television has announced the development of a major new television series that will present a comprehensive overview of the Japanese-American experience. The Japanese-American Saga will consist of three one-hour programs, produced in high-definition television. The Japan-United States Friendship Commission has awarded KCTS a major pre-production grant, which will be used for intensive research and development over the next year.

Alice Ikeda of KCTS will serve as producer, with Randy Brinson and Chris Conybeare serving as co-producers. Dr. Franklin Oto of the Smithsonian institutions' Asian Pacific American Studies Program will act as principal advisor on content.

Production on The Japanese American Saga is slated to begin in 2001, with completion targeted at late 2002.

Reality Checks

Survivor creator Mark Burnett has sold his latest reality brainstorm, Destination Mir, to NBC. For this series, twelve Americans will train at the Star City Russian training center for a chance for one of them to blast off to the Russian Mir space station... Producers Jerry Bruckheimer and Bertram Van Munster sold Race Around the World, a 12-episode series to CBS. Here, eight pairs of contestants will race across 11 cities, where they must complete tasks in 30 days... MTV introduced Fear in September, in which six contestants, equipped with head-mounted cameras, are thrown into a haunted prison.




The National Emmy Awards were distributed late last August. Here are the winners in the Non-Fiction category:

  • Outstanding Non-Fiction Series: AMERICAN MASTERS, PBS; Susan Lacy, Ex. Prod.l Tamar Hacker, Sen. Prod.; Karen Bernstein, Prod.
  • Representative Program: Hitchcock, Selznick and The End of Hollywood, Michael Epstein, Prod./Dir./Wrtr.; Bob Eisenhardt, Ed.: Eileen Wilkinson, Assoc. Prod.
  • Outstanding Non-Fiction Special: Children at War, HBO Sheila Nevins, Ex. Prod.; John Hoffman, Sup. Prod.l Alan and Susan Raymond. Prods./Dirs./Wrtrs.
  • Outstanding Special Visual Effects: Walking With Dinosaurs, Discovery Channel; A BBC/Discovery Channel/TV Asahi Co-Production; Jez Harris, Spec. Effects Sup.; Mike McGee, Tim Greenwood, Vis. Effects Sups.l Mike Milne, CGI Sup.; Virgil Manning, Alec Knox. Carlos Rosas, Daren Horley, David Marsh, Lead CGI Artists/Animators.
  • Outstanding Achievement in Non-Fiction Programming: Cinematography: Raising the Mammoth, Discovery Channel; NOVI Productions for Discovery Channel in assoc. with France 3; Didier Portal, Robert Pauly. Cins.
  • Outstanding Achievement in Non-Fiction Programming: Picture Editing: New York—Cosmopolis 1919-1931The Power and the People, PBS'. A Steeplechase Films production for THE AMERICAN EXPERIENCE in association with WGBH Boston. Thirteen WNET New York and The New York Historical Society. Li Shin Yu, Nina Schulnran, Eds.
  • Outstanding Achievement in Non-Fiction Programming: Sound Editing: Walking With Dinosaurs. Discovery Channel; A BBC/Discovery Channel/TV Asahi Co-Production: Andrew Sherriff and Simon Gotcl at Adelphoi. Sound Designers...

The IDA members who figured among the winners of the Washington, DC-area Peer Awards included Allison Argo, for her script for Wisdom of the Wild, and Gary Westphalen, for his videography on Glucier Goats...

The London-based National Film and Television School Foundation announced in September the establishment of the Human Rights Investigative Documentary Award in honor of the late British documentarian David Munro, maker of such landmark political films as Do You Remember Vietnam? (1978), Year Zero (1919) and The Four Horseman (1985)...

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has pledged $250,000 to the National Film Preservation Foundation. The grant will go toward preserving "orphan films"—media works, ranging from newsreels to avant-garde films to public domain material, with no studio affiliation....

The National Film Preservation Foundation, in turn, announced its annual grants to film and television archives across the country. The largest grant—$10,000—went to Documentary Educational Resources to preserve The Hunters (1957), a documentary shot in Africa by John Marshall. Other recipients included the University of South Carolina NewsFilm Archive, for a 35mm newsreel that featured aviator Charles Lindbergh a year before his celebrated trans-Atlantic flight...

Independent Feature Project/West announced a new documentary category for its annual Independent Spirit Awards. Candidates must have been made for less than $500,000, and must be at least 70 minutes in length. Unfortunately, the call for entries arrived too late to have been included in last month's ID.




The inaugural Woodstock Film Festival closed, fittingly, with the US premiere of Barbara Kopple's My Generation, a chronicle of the Woodstock festivals—and generations—of 1969, 1994 and 1999...

Werner Herzog's new documentary Christ and Demons, which examines the blending of paganism and Christianity in Guatemala, premiered at the Telluride Film Festival in September...

At the International Widescreen Festival in Amsterdam, Mick Csaky took the Golden Rembrandt for his Mozart in Turkey, while IDA Vice President Marina Goldavskaya earned the Silver Rembrandt for The Prince is Back.The Special Jury Prize went to Succession of a Kyomai Master, produced by NHK...

Eric Tait's Then I'll Be Free to Travel Home took the Best of Festival "Spirti of the Maafa" prize at the Maafa Film and Video Festival in September. The film was also a Paul Robeson Honorable Mention Awardee at the Newark Black Film Festival this past summer.

The doc winners at Prix Italia 2000 were Jazzman from the Gulag, produced by Helene Le Coeur and directed by Pierre-Henry Salfati, for Cultural Documentary; and I Love You, Natasha, produced by SVT of Sweden, for Factual Documentary...

Independent Feature Project/West announced last August that it would take over production of the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival and incorporate it as an ongoing program of IFP/West. IFP/West had co-produced the five-year-old festival this year with LA Film Collaborative. The festival retains Director Richard Raddon, Programming Director Thomas Ethan Harris and Marketing/Pr Director R.J. Millard. The LA Film Collaborative, the founding entity of the festival, will continue to support emerging filmmakers through consultations and grants.



Creative Planet to Cut Prices on Movie Magic Programs

Creative Planet (, the information resource and Web portal for the filmmaking community, announced that it would cut the cost of its Movie Magic Budgeting and Scheduling software from $899 to $99. The move was designed to enable low-budget filmmakers to take advantage of this software. Creative Planet is planning to unveil wireless products and web-based programs for film production management in the future.

Eveo Annoints Once and Future Filmmakers

Eveo (, a leading user-generated video company, named independent film luminaries to its advisory board. These filmmakers include Doug Block, Jim Dwyer, Lynn Hershman, Bennett Miller, Rob Nilsson, Todd Verow and Haskell Wexler; they will provide their expertise in digital video production and will serve as resident critics for short videos submitted to They will also mentor emerging filmmakers and video enthusiasts.

Eveo also announced in August its first Next-Gen Talent Incubation and Management Program. which provides talent development and management services to emerging filmmakers who demonstrate the ability to crossover into other mediums and formats of filmed entertainment.