Quebec Scene: Allo Prof rollout includes TV, telephone and now the Web

Montreal: Allo Prof is a popular kids’ educational tv magazine with growing tentacles. Taped live in front of a student audience in Studio 3 at Tele-Quebec, the program’s community networking includes a province-wide, after-school telephone service to help kids with their studies, and as of last month, a new Web site, the fifth to date for Tele-Quebec.

Developed over four years of r&d by Productions sda, Allo Prof is aimed at both preteens and their teachers, with the goal of promoting interest in things scholastic and putting the brakes on the all-too-high provincial dropout rate.

Program hosts Martin Matte and actress Julie Deslauriers use reports, interviews, panels, sketches and games, whatever it takes to stimulate students.

Allo Prof hit the airwaves mid-October and is seen four nights a week. It’s Tele-Quebec’s principal youth program this year and is an ambitious joint venture between Consortium Allo Prof (made up of teachers and retired school personnel, parents committees, school boards and directors), Tele-Quebec, Ministere de l’education du Quebec, sda and Quebec-Telephone.

The phone service consists of eight call-in centers across Quebec staffed by teachers paid by the school boards, which are in turn reimbursed by Allo Prof. The primary clientele ­ sixth graders and first-year junior high students, mainly call in with math and French-study problems.

The Web site address is

sda’s ’96/97 children’s lineup includes Sur la piste, Mais ou se cache Carmen Sandiego?, La Courte Echelle, coproduced with Allegro Productions, and the animated preschool series Max le Chat.

Diane England is Allo Prof’s producer. Manon Beaudoin is the line producer. Claude Boucher and Pierre Lord are the directors.

-For Hire, thriller with a twist

Rob Lowe, J’e Mantegna (David Mamet’s favorite actor), Montreal actress Bronwen Booth (The Call of the Wild, The Blue Man, Love Streams), John Dunn Hill and Larry Day are the principal cast of For Hire, a suspense thriller from Kingsborough Greenlight Pictures producers Pieter Kroonenburg and Julie Allan.

Directed by Jean Pellerin and budgeted at $6 million, For Hire is the story of ‘an actor (Lowe) who drives a cab during the day who has a good friend, a regular client who is actually a very famous writer,’ says Kroonenburg. ‘The writer thinks he’s being followed by an assassin and sort of pressures, then blackmails his friend into helping him. It’s basically a suspense thriller and a duel between two very bright wits with a lot of nice twists and turns.’

The film reunites Lowe (Bad Influence, Wayne’s World) and Kroonenburg, who coproduced one of the actor’s first movies, The Hotel New Hampshire (1984).

Barry Gravelle (Hemoglobin) is the dop, Charles Boulay is the production designer, Glenn Berman is the editor, Helene Boulay is pm and Suzanna Fischer (director Max Fischer’s wife) is the costume designer.

It’s been a most busy year for Kroonenburg and Allan, with four films with combined budgets of $25 million in 1996.

Time for a holiday? ‘Absolutely not,’ says Kroonenburg. ‘In February we’ll be shooting an environmental action story in Africa (Kenya and Tanzania) called To Walk With Lions. It’s a u.k./Canada coproduction and we have John MacKenzie (The Long Good Friday) to direct.’ The film is budgeted at $15 million and is being coproduced with ex-pat Montrealer Jamie Brown.

Also ahead for Kingsborough is Rivers of the Heart with director Rick Rosenthal (Bad Boys) and hopes to sign Montreal regular Nick Nolte; Love is a Longshot, a script from the late Ted Allan (Lies My Father Told Me, Bethune); and a timely remake of the Italian film Bread and Chocolate.

As for Kingsborough’s ’96 slate, Call of the Wild has been sold to Hallmark in the u.s., while New Line and Dimension’s acquisition departments are both actively ‘tracking’ Pellerin’s Laserhawk, now in its fx stage. The highly anticipated Hemoglobin was presold for foreign to Fries Schultz, but Kroonenburg wants to wait for the film to be completed before cutting a u.s. deal. Everest Releasing is the Canadian distributor.

For Hire is crewed by the stcvq and shoots 27 days in and around Montreal from Nov. 18 to Dec. 22.

John Buchanan and Greenlight ceo Gary Howsam are the exec producers. Fries Schultz is handling foreign sales.

-Rudy, all the time

Montreal film and multimedia producer Rudy Rupak says financing is in place for an early ’97 tv movie called She’s Too Tall For Me, an original script from actress Brigitte Nielsen.

It’s a comedy (and the title of an old-time polka hit), with Nielsen obviously attached and ‘an expression of interest from Dudley Moore.’ Foreign presales, Rupak’s mo, include Screen Partners and l.a. distributor Cine Qua Non. Millennium, Rupak’s company, holds u.s. and Canadian rights.

Millennium’s maiden project, coproduced with Claudio Castravelli, is the slapstick comedy Snowboard Academy, shot here this spring on a budget of $3 million. Jim Varney, Nielsen and sctv alumnus J’e Flaherty star. The film is set for a February release by Columbia Pictures in the u.s. and Allegro Films Distribution in Canada. Rupak hopes it can do $7 million in ‘domestic’ theaters. ‘It might do better in crazy places like Seattle, or upstate New York, than in New York (City) itself,’ g’es the logic.

Rupak is now taking aim at ‘a bigger and better’ snowboarding film, Board Lords, an unofficial sequel aimed at the sport’s more fanatical practitioners, unlike Academy, which Rupak says is targeted to ‘suburban wannabees.’ The idea is to shoot in ’97 somewhere, anywhere, where the snow lingers and release it following the ’98 Winter Olympic Games in Nagano, Japan.

Rupak reports the multimedia division has cut a deal with Big Entertainment in the u.s. to produce Leonard Nimoy’s Primortals, an interactive comic book distributed by Sierra On Line.

Rupak and equity investor Quebecor have put up a label called Romix to create electronic comics for online and cd-rom distribution, with the latest twist being a deal with America On Line as Romix’s distributor.

Rupak is also entering the dvd market with a multilayered critical analysis of the film classic Citizen Kane. Options include scene-by-scene commentary from the pov of the dop, writer, actor, movie critic and director.

London, Eng.-born Rupak, a tender 28, also has a feature thriller called Poisonous in development. The plan is to coproduce with a Benelux country and bring in director George Sluizer (Crime Time, The Vanishing) who’s booked through to July.

-Insectia, the final presale

Pixcom Productions and France’s Cineteve have announced an agreement to produce Insectia, a 13-part, half-hour science series popularizing the world of insects and the surprising analogies between humans and this evolutionarily successful species.

Pixcom vp Andre Barro, the show’s exec producer, flew to Toronto, London and Paris 10 days ago scouting out the final piece of financing, a presale to either the u.k., u.s. or Germany.

Insectia is very much inspired by Georges Brossard, the founder of Montreal’s Insectarium and a tireless promoter of popular entomology. Brossard was recently asked by the American Audubon Society to design a $55 million insectarium in New Orleans.

Clearly, bugs are no small things, at least in terms of their place on the living planet. They’ve been around for 225 million years and more, and no doubt will outlast humans. And they’re incredibly diverse, says Barro, making up 80% of all animal species on Earth, with a total biomass exceeding all categories of mammals.

Production is set for spring ’97 at $275,000 an episode.

Topics range from the insect pecking order to bug engineering, war, sex and living art. Visuals include extensive archival films, some 2D animation and original material to be shot mainly in eco-rich South America and Africa.

Insectia will be produced in both French and English based on scripts from Denis Blaquiere and Jean-Philippe N’el and is being developed in association with La Cinquieme, France’s educational network, tsr in Switzerland, Discovery Canada, Canal D, tfo, tvontario’s French-track network and Telefilm Canada.

Pixcom founder Jacquelin Bouchard, who’s also chairman of the apftq, and Cineteve president Fabienne Servan Schreiber earlier coproduced a two-hour miniseries doc called L’Etreinte du Samouri, chronicling Japan’s rise to economic superstardom.

Pixcom’s international slate will grow quickly in ’97, says the producer.

In addition to developments at the company’s Jakarta office, headed by producer Louise Ranger, Pixcom has a four-hour documentary coproduction in development with Cineteve. La Guerre des Sexes is a comparative anthropological look at the edges/extremes of feminist expression in four countries ­ Sweden, the u.s., Japan and Turkey.