Sisterhood and diversity reign in Wark Clements’ The Sleepover Club
The secret life of teen girls gets its due in The Sleepover Club, a 26 x half-hour, live-action co-pro from London-based Wark Clements and Australia’s Burberry Productions. Adapted from a same-name HarperCollins book series by British author Rose Impey that has sold more than a million copies since rolling out in 1996, Sleepover focuses on five gal pals from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds who comprise a secret cabal that meets to do girl stuff like dressing up, watching scary movies and dealing with their fears. Constantly threatening to undermine the club, however, are the girls’ parents, a rival chick clique and a gaggle of boys who call themselves The M and Ms – all of whom are dying to find out what the girls are up to.
To infuse Sleepover with a more upbeat and fun tone (and to lower production costs), Wark Clements’ head of children’s drama Richard Langridge opted to change the books’ setting from Leicester, England to the fictional oceanside town of Crescent Bay, so shooting can take place somewhere along the more affordable Gold Coast of Australia. Though Langridge says Sleepover will have its own sensibility, the show will be stylistically similar to Malcolm in the Middle as far as its use of voice-over, flashbacks and fast-paced editing techniques goes.
CiTV commissioned Wark Clements to produce the first 26 episodes of Sleepover, which have also been presold to Nick UK and Australia’s Nine Network. Additional funding for the series, which is budgeted at US$160,000 per ep, will come from Aussie distributor Southern Star. As per its agreement, CiTV will have an 18-month exclusive window in the U.K. before Nick can add Sleepover to its sked.
DEOS warms up a Wompkee Christmas special
If you’re not a Disney or Warner Bros., trying to crack into the ultra-competitive kids holiday specials market with a relatively unknown property is next to impossible. But the rather grim odds haven’t deterred Lawrence, Massachusetts-based CGI studio/software developer DEOS from giving it a whirl with A Very Wompkee Christmas.
Based on a character concept created by New England-based TV producer/musician Con Fullam, the 50-minute CGI special centers around the benevolent Wompkees, a race of magical, big-eared, Smurf-like creatures that live in the idyllic village of Wompkee Wood. But as Christmas approaches, the creatures realize that they’re desperately low on Wompberries (the magical resource that powers their village) and must gather more before a major storm hits. The problem is that the only known bush sits outside the cave of an evil ice witch who is hell-bent on putting the deep freeze on the Wompkees with one of her all-powerful freezing machines.
Initially launched in 1995 as a book-and-tape combo in Maine, where it sold 8,000 copies, the property has been stuck in development purgatory at a succession of studios for several years.
To cover the bulk of the special’s US$1-million budget, DEOS has taken a 50% stake in the film, and the remaining financing will come from a New England investment group. North American TV and DVD distribution will be handled by Sony Wonder, with Whamo Entertainment managing international territories. Fullam has also tapped New York-based licensing agent Red Sky Entertainment to assemble a Wompkee merch program that will launch in tandem with the film’s DVD release in late October or early November.
Shaftesbury gets paranormal with The Strip
What would you do if you had a double that was trying to harm you? That’s the question posed by The Strip, a new live-action/2-D series being produced by Toronto, Canada-based Shaftesbury Productions in association with Canadian kidnet YTV. Targeting tweens, the show stars twins Lance and Cally, who discover a cryptic-looking comic book about a brother-and-sister duo that looks eerily familiar. The highly dangerous adventures the comic book twins have in print end up playing out in real life, so although they are polar opposites, Lance and Cally must join forces to prevent their evil doppelgängers from killing them off.
Shaftesbury is currently trying to secure money from the Canadian Television Fund for the 13 x half-hour series, which is budgeted at US$326,000 per episode. According to Suzanne French, the company’s executive producer of children’s and family programming, Shaftesbury will be scouring for a French co-production partner for The Strip, which, given its supernatural flavor, might end up airing in YTV’s Saturday night fright block The Dark Corner.