By Indiewire | Indiewire March 5, 2003 at 2:00AM
Doc "All-Stars" Join Forces with Discovery and Camera Planet For Slate of New Theatrical Documentaries
by Eugene Hernandez
An illustrious group of filmmakers will join forces with Discovery and Camera Planet to create a slate of new documentaries that will be released in movie theaters. Calling the group of participating filmmakers a doc "dream team," execs from Discovery Communications and Camera Planet introduced the filmmakers on Tuesday and detailed plans for what is being called a landmark initiative.
Discovery Communications and Camera Planet are launching a joint venture that will create a series of documentaries, dubbed "Discovery Docs," that will fuel new films by Barbara Kopple ("Harlan Country USA"), Michael Apted ("7 Up"), Peter Gilbert (producer, "Hoop Dreams"), Nanette Burstein ("The Kid Stays in the Picture"), and Chris Hegedus & D.A. Pennebaker ("The War Room," "Startup.com"). Camera Planet will distribute the films theatrically before the docs air on one of Discovery's fourteen cable networks that reach more than 800 million subscribers around the world.
The principals in the new venture are Discovery Networks president Billy Campbell, Camera Planet co-presidents Steve Carlis and Steve Rosenbaum, and Camera Planet's documentary manager Peter Gilbert who brought together the acclaimed group of filmmakers.
Execs hope to greenlight the first crop of docs over the next two months and the intention is to bring films to domestic movie theaters as early as January of next year. The partners are not offering a quota on the number of films that will be produced by the joint venture, but up to six new docs in the first year seems likely.
"We will do as many as we possibly can," explained Discovery's Billy Campbell in a teleconference yesterday. Budget ranges on the pictures were not specified, but Campbell added, "We will spend whatever it takes to do it the right way."
Citing the recent success of Michael Moore's "Bowling for Columbine" and the continued growth of reality television programming, the partners agreed that there is an increasing demand for documentary films in movie theaters and on TV.
"There is more of a hunger for audiences to go to a movie theater and see a documentary film," said Nanette Burstein, during Tuesday's announcement. "Nonfiction (films) can be both enlightening and entertaining."
"We can't help but be passiontate about the fact that the stories that they want to tell are the stories that the audiences are desperately anxious to have access to," offered Camera Planet co-president Steve Rosenbaum during the teleconference.
In a conversation with indieWIRE, Camera Planet's Rosenbaum and co-president Steve Carlis indicated that their company will ramp up the theatrical distribution arm through additional alliances that are yet to be announced. The expectation is that the company will partner with a film chain. The new documentaries will hit theaters in at least five cities.
Films from the group of participating filmmakers will jumpstart the venture, but all parties agreed that they will work with a wider group of documentary filmmakers and also mentor emerging directors.