What’s developing in kids production

Reality cheque
What would you do with US$30,000? Buy a car? Clothes? Or try to get a head start on your dreams? Eight young people (17 to 22) win US$30,000 from a multinational banking corporation under the condition that they use...
September 1, 2000

Reality cheque

What would you do with US$30,000? Buy a car? Clothes? Or try to get a head start on your dreams? Eight young people (17 to 22) win US$30,000 from a multinational banking corporation under the condition that they use it to realize a near-and-dear dream project. Forty one-hour eps of Head Start document these efforts.

The new youth drama series from Australia-based Gannon Television, the producer of Heartbreak High, has been commissioned by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and is set to debut in spring 2001. Carlton International has secured the international rights to the series, with Foxtel obtaining the pay cable rights for the repeat window. There has also been a presale deal with France 2. Head Start, with an estimated budget of US$7.5 million, is the result of a partnership between Gannon, Carlton International and Australia’s Enroache Productions.

So, you wannabe a popstar?

With the blend of voyeuristic TV and pop music still clicking with kids, the hugely popular series Popstars, out of New Zealand and Australia, is taking its show on the road. Aussie producer Screentime and U.K.-based Target are distributing the docusoap format in Germany, Italy, the U.K. and the U.S., with interest in Latin America as well. Popstars, the highest-rated show in Australia for 11 weeks (aired in February 2000), documents the latest and greatest of hopeful girl bands vying for a contract with Warner Music (Universal in Canada)-a good deal if Bardot, the winning band Down Under, is any example. The group’s single and album, ‘Poison,’ went to number one in Australia its first week, and the girls are now touring in Asia.

The 13 x half-hour series appeals to a broad age range. The characters themselves are approximately 18 to mid-20s, drawing viewers from just about any age group according to Target’s head of sales Kate Bourne. But realistically, tweens, teens and young adults are most likely to tune in. The budget for Popstars compares with traditional docusoap programming, landing somewhere between US$100,000 and US$120,000 per ep. Lone Eagle out of Toronto is handling the Canadian version for Global, and auditions are running now with an approximate delivery date of early next year.

Initial Kids sprints to deliver sporty slice-of-life series

GMG Endemol Entertainment prodco Initial Kids is working on a live-action reality series that delves into the trials and tribulations of seven teen athletes juggling social lives and family obligations, all the while training to compete in the illustrious English Schools Championship track and field event. Among Run For Your Life’s eclectic cast of characters is hammer-thrower Richard Greene, a 210-pound 15-year-old who has been banned from his local Pizza Hut for over-indulging at the all-you-can-eat buffet in an effort to bulk up. The 13 x 25-minute series will debut in the U.K. on Channel 4 at the end of October, occupying a 4:30 p.m. Saturday afternoon slot. With a budget of US$310,000, Run For Your Life’s primary target demo is teens ages 14 to 19, but the series could also get a ratings boost from Olympics-lovers looking for something to fill the void after the Games are over.

Tele Images returns to live action

Since French networks have not been overly enthusiastic about youth live-action drama over the last few years, production company Tele Images, headed by Simone Harari, had also given the genre a pass and focused on animation. Today, as networks such as France 2 and France 3 announce new intentions in that arena, Philippe Alessandri, head of Tele Images Creation children’s department, jumps back into live action with a pair of projects in development.

Most advanced is 26 x 26-minute Door to Door (for kids eight to 12), co-produced with Canadian partner Telescene. The focus is the life-in-transition of a 12-year-old boy who juggles his time between two reconstructed families. Budgeted at US$7 million, the series will be a mixture of 2-D animation (handled by Tele Images) and live sequences shot in Canada (by Telescene). The co-pro also includes Canal Famille in Canada, Canal J and Tele Images International. Delivery is set for January 2001.

Meanwhile, for a slightly older audience, Tele Images Creation is working with Australian producer Southern Star on La Villa. Written by French author Vincent Macherasse along with writer and producer Chris Roache, this 26 x 26-minute series (targeting the 15 to 20 set) features a group of first-year university students who cohabit a house. The series will be shot in English and French on location in Aix-en-Provence (South of France). Tele Images is still looking for French co-producers.

He said, she said

Girl Stuff, Boy Stuff, a new 2-D tween-targeted series from Toronto’s Decode (Angela Anaconda), is in development with YTV and Fox Family Worldwide for launch in fall 2001. Co-produced with U.K.-based Animus Productions, Girl Stuff, Boy Stuff (26 half hours) combines (or pits) boys’ and girls’ POVs and deals with tween social issues. The show should run between US$300,000 and US$325,000 per episode, with Decode handling worldwide distribution. A companion website is in development for next year, featuring chatrooms where discussions can take place between viewers.

More mystical tweens: Carlton’s chime child

Elizabeth Arnold’s children’s trilogy (The Parsley Parcel, Gold and Silver Water and A Riot of Red Ribbon) has birthed Gypsy Girl, a CITV live-action series for 11- to 15-year-olds, delivered by Film and General out of London.

Gypsy Girl tells of a young girl named Freya, a gifted ‘chime child’ with a magical crystal. For those who don’t know (and KidScreen didn’t!), a chime child is a Romany girl, born at midnight on the eve of Good Friday, whose powers tend towards healing and intuition.

Gypsy Girl is budgeted at US$1.5 million and is being produced by Clive Parsons and Davina Belling. The seven x half-hour series is slated for delivery this November, with international rights handled by Carlton.

Tracey invents her way onto TV

Tracey McBean’s Stretching Machine, a book by Mary Small and Arthur Filloy, has spawned a new 2-D series called Tracey McBean-a US$2.5-million (approximate) co-production with Australia’s Southern Star, Egmont Imagination Denmark and Shanghai Animation of China. The series targets six- to 10-year-olds.

Tracey’s an inventor, someone for whom everything is possible. Needless to say, she has a lot of imagination that she uses to solve the problems that pop up each ep. Southern Star has worldwide distribution rights for the 26 x 11-minute series, except for Europe, which will be covered by Egmont. The show should air in late 2001 or early 2002 on ABC in Australia and Fox Kids UK.

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