MONTREAL: Although Gavin Scott, creator and executive producer of The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne, has been fascinated by the famous French visionary (born 1828) since the age of 10, it’s taken over a decade to get the project into production. After several attempts at developing the property as a feature film, over the course of a decade, Scott says he finally amassed enough material for an entire series.
Storylines for the 22 x one-hour family show, a Canada/U.K. co-production between Montreal’s Filmline International and London’s Talisman Crest, are based on the nearly 100 novels of science fiction and adventure penned by Verne, including Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and Around the World in Eighty Days. Verne, in a younger incarnation, takes viewers on a world-traveling jaunt that opens in Paris in 1861, but quickly moves on to early Victorian Europe, with episodic stopovers in Berlin, London and the English countryside, Italy, the southern U.S. during the Civil War, the Himilayas, Africa and the lost continent of Atlantis, inhabited by Captain Nemo and his infamous submarine.
Just wrapping production in Montreal, the US$35-million series is laden with gothic, digital special effects, and is being originated in the Sony HD format.
Financing for the series was an adventure in itself. The key is a major financing deal with a U.K. distributor that helped ensure creative control remained in the hands of the producers, and not a major market broadcaster, says Neil Dunn, series executive producer and one of two principals of London-based Talisman (along with Richard Jackson).
‘Just like the big American and big French broadcasters, [the BBC likes] to take control, but we’ve never been prepared to give them control,’ he says. ‘We wanted to keep it international because as soon as any one jurisdiction gets a hold of it, they turn it in to their product. . .and [that] kills it for the rest of the world.’
Additional financing on Jules Verne came from a pre-sale to Helkon for German-speaking rights. Helkon recently merged with The Netherlands-based Euro TV giant Endemol. The first broadcaster to actually license the show is the CBC in Canada, a decision apparently based entirely on the series’ scripts. International distribution for the show is handled by Classic Media Distributors, the copyright holder, and their appointed sales agent Global Programming Network, both based in London.
Dunn says Talisman is now carefully considering a major studio soundstage investment in Montreal in anticpation of new production.
A spokesperson with Filmline International says licensing deals in the U.S. and U.K. for The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne are expected shortly.