Discovery Dives Into Documentaries

Forging an unusual partnership, Discovery Communications Inc. is teaming up
with award-winning filmmakers to create documentaries that will be released
theatrically, then air on the programmer's networks, mainly Discovery

Officials at DCI and CameraPlanet, a veteran film producer and distributor,
unveiled details Tuesday of their joint venture for "Discovery Docs."

The feature-length films will be produced by a group of documentary makers
who Billy Campbell, president of Discovery Networks U.S., described as his
"dream team."

That team includes: Barbara Kopple, two-time Academy Award winner for
Harlan County USA and American Dream; Michael Apted, director of
7 Up and Coal Miner's Daughter; Peter Gilbert, producer of Hoop
; Nanette Burstein, director of The Kids Stays in the Picture
and On the Ropes; and the team of Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker,
the producers and directors of and The War Room.

As part of the deal, CameraPlanet will distribute the Discovery Docs
theatrically in at least five cities before they premiere on a Discovery

The filmmakers are eager for their documentaries to get into theaters and
then be exposed to even wider audiences on television. Officials also said they
are hopeful that some of the movies will break out and wind up getting fairly
widely distributed, the way Bowling for Columbine did.

DCI expects to green-light several films in the next month or so, and under
that timetable, the first one would probably get to theaters early next year,
according to Campbell. It's envisioned that these films would actually air on a
Discovery service perhaps six months after their release.

"We'll do as many as we possibly can," Campbell said.

During a conference call with the press, he added that it hasn't been set in
stone what kind of budget these documentaries will have, and it will vary
project by project.

"There is no minimum budget or maximum budget," Campbell said.

Although DCI hasn't approved any projects yet, the filmmakers are full of

For example, Kopple said he is looking to do a film that would be "the
Hoop Dreams of hockey," looking at young men struggling to play that
sport. And Apted and Gilbert want to pursue a project looking at the death
penalty and wrongful convictions in this country.