PBS telecourse curriculum highlights The Directors

Montreal: American university film schools are among the most active users of the World Affairs Television profile series The Directors. All 46 hours of the collection can be licensed online at reduced rates as part of a telecourse curriculum program offered through PBS’s Adult Learning Service (www.pbs.org/als) in Alexandria, VA.

Season four of The Directors, 11 hours comprised of 10 new profiles, is hosted by Dateline NBC’s Keith Morrison and Geoffrey Korfman. The series tapes in Montreal, Toronto, New York and Los Angeles and is a ‘mind-boggling’ logistical exercise of rights clearance, post and editing, travel and hotel arrangements, says exec producer Larry Shapiro. Sessions can cost as much as $20,000 to produce or as little as $7,500. Tim Kittleson, director, UCLA Film and Television Archive, describes The Directors as ‘very engaging – most impressive is the thoroughness of the interviews. The viewer really experiences the director’s take on his craft and how he got to where he is.’

The new season’s eclectic lineup includes Guy Maddin, Pierre Falardeau, James Ivory (Remains of the Day), Clement Virgo, American B-movie legend Roger Corman, who has produced 550 films and directed 50, Alanis Obomsawin (Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance), documentarian Ron Frank, renowned stage actor Richard Monette, a two-part session with Wim Wenders (Buena Vista Social Club) and Genie Award-winning director Denis Villeneuve (Maelstrom).

The Directors is licensed by Paul Gratton and Isme Bennie of Bravo!, which has exclusive first season rights as well as unlimited rights, with additional windows on The Independent Film Channel based in Halifax and the western pay-TV channel Movie Central. Shapiro and Canamedia have sold the show in 15 international territories, from France to China/Hong Kong and Vatican City, and Shapiro is looking for new play dates on U.S. specialty services.

World Affairs (worldaffairsinc.ca) produces two other 13-hour profile series. Playwrights and Screenwriters (Brad Fraser, Stephen Gaghan, Gore Vidal, Ken Finkleman, Michel Tremblay) is hosted by Canadian actor and industry personality Marilyn Lightstone. The series premiered on Bravo! in November and has already been renewed for a second season, with an additional window on Canadian Learning Television. The second World Affairs series, The Actors, is licensed to Bravo!, IFC and Movie Central.

Shapiro plans to start taping a new series, The Producers, as early as this spring.

World Affairs produces The Editors, renewed for 2002/03 and in its 17th season on PBS; Literati, seen on Book TV and hosted by Noah Richler; and The Economist Business Challenge, an annual North American MBA student competition commissioned by the prestigious magazine The Economist and broadcast on Channel 4 in the U.K., PBS and CLT. A fourth edition will be taped in Montreal in September.

Henderson’s Water Marks

Writer/director Anne Henderson is in sound editing on Water Marks, a one-hour documentary profile of two sisters’ search for understanding in the wake of a horrific family tragedy. In 1975, when Beth and Christine Lowther were still very young, their poetry-writing mom, Pat Lowther, a rising star on the B.C. literary scene, was murdered by her husband. He died in prison, leaving the kids to face their future alone. Henderson revisited the Lowther story and Pat’s daughters, now in their 30s, at locations along the B.C. coast, in Vancouver, Clayoquot Sound, Tofino and Mayne Island. The DV cinematography is by DOP Marc Gadoury.

The picture edit by Barbara Brown was done at Kalarhari Video. Henderson’s impressive filmography includes the ’99 Hot Docs! (best political doc) and Vision TV Humanitarian Award winner Road From Kampuchea; the anti-globalization manifesto Inside the Summit, coproduced with the National Film Board; the Green Lion Productions doc series The Human Race; A Song for Tibet, winner of a best doc Genie Award; and the Productions Point de Mire doc series Women: A True Story, for two episodes, ‘Body Politics’ and ‘The Power Game.’

Water Marks will be broadcast April 7 on Newsworld’s The Passionate Eye, and later on Radio-Canada (L’Empreinte). The film will be screened March 8 on International Women’s Day at the downtown Simon Fraser University cinema, and is part of an upcoming cross-country screening program sponsored by Newsworld. Additional broadcast windows include Bravo!, WTN and Knowledge Network in B.C.

Water Marks is produced by Paul Lapointe of production house Erezi (Inside the Summit) on a budget of $325,000. Funding sources include Telefilm Canada, SODEC and the Canadian Independent Film and Video Fund.

Wintonick eyes the world

New production at Necessary Illusions includes Seeing Is Believing, a one-hour doc on the impact of new technology on human rights activism and media. It films in the Philippines, Japan, Argentina, Australia and England on a budget of $310,000, with support from CBC and Newsworld’s The Passionate Eye, Radio-Canada and Dutch, Danish and Belgium interests. Peter Wintonick is producing and directing with Katherina Cizek. Wintonick says he plans to approach actor Angelina Jolie (in town for the Mandalay Pictures’ movie Beyond Borders) for a voiceover contribution. Jan Rofekamp of Films Transit is handling international sales.

Wintonick and Patrice Barrat of Article Z, Paris, are coproducing Mad Mondo, ‘a citizen-driven look’ at the impact of globalized economies on working people. First pitched at Hot Docs! in 2001, two pilots (in one, a guy loses his job at the Ford plant in Brazil) were financed by ARTE and are now completed. This 12-hour international doc series has interest from Spanish TV and SBS in Australia, with hopes the National Film Board will play a role and Radio-Canada and CBC will ultimately offer licences.

Meanwhile, Wintonick continues work on a project called Utopias, often as a sidebar activity to his many festival obligations.

In other news from the house, Frank Cole’s strange Sahara Desert chronicle Life Without Death, produced by Francis Miquet, was recently screened on ARTE. Ottawa-based Cole was murdered by bandits last fall while working in Mali on a new film. The Noam Chomsky POV profile Manufacturing Consent, produced for $500,000, has now ‘gone into profit,’ reports Wintonick, editor of POV Magazine, published by the Canadian Independent Film Caucus.

‘I go to a lot of these [festival and market] events, in Amsterdam, Thessalonica, Australia, and in the real world if you are making POV documentaries you really have to go outside the country to get presales together,’ says Wintonick. ‘If they’re not official coproductions, then they are buy-ins early on. It doesn’t matter what the [country] of origin is so much in that the films are being sold around the world.’ Wintonick is also encouraged by the advent of more coproductions across language barriers, most notably between CBC and SRC.

‘Some francophones find they want the creative right to work [in English], like Robert Lepage or Lea Pool, and I find, for myself, and a lot of my documentary colleagues [we] are actually working [more] in French. We need state support, but the state is a complex thing,’ says Wintonick, recently named a director of annual production retrospective, Rendez-vous du cinema quebecois, Feb. 15-24.

Dutch doc on Driessen

A Dutch film crew was at the National Film Board’s Montreal headquarters on Cote de Liesse Road in late January shooting an upcoming documentary on acclaimed animator Paul Driessen.

The bio doc, Paul Driessen Inside Out, is directed by Guus Van Waveren, written by Ton Gloudemans and produced by Gerrit Visscher and will premier theatrically on 10 screens across the Netherlands this September before airing on Dutch broadcaster Avro and Belgium’s RBTF. It’s also part of the official retrospective program at the upcoming International Animated Film Festival, June 3-8, in Annecy, France, and will be screened at the International Documentary Filmfestival of Amsterdam, Nov. 20 to Dec.1. Driessen is animating the production’s title sequence.

Writer Marc Glassman and screenwriter Gloudemans are collaborating on an upcoming book on Driessen, expected to launch at Annecy.

Driessen (Cat’s Cradle, An Old Box, The End of the World in Four Seasons) is this year’s winner of the Genie Award for best animated short for the NFB production The Boy Who Saw the Iceberg. In 2000, he was nominated for an Oscar for his independent short 3 Misses, and is presently working on a new animated short called 2D or Not 2D, a Cinete (Holland)/NFB coproduction, produced by Willem Thijssen and Marcy Page.

Born in Holland, Driessen has worked with the NFB since the early ’70s.

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