- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Documentary spirit

Documentary features are no longer relegated to PBS and premium cable channels .

They’re the new calling cards for art-house studios and budding filmmakers, Reuters news agency reports.

Indie theatrical distributors such as ThinkFilm have used documentaries as varied as “Born Into Brothels” and “Murderball” to carve out a distinct niche in the marketplace.

HBO has long used a mix of politically engaged work from filmmakers such as Babara Kopple and Rory Kennedy as well as sexually titillating titles in its “America Undercover” series to boost its profile.

Even former Vice President Al Gore is getting into the act with his global-warming manifesto “An Inconvenient Truth,” scheduled for release next month by Paramount’s specialty film division.

The Independent Film Channel also is getting into the documentary spirit. About 18 months ago, IFC, which had been producing documentary specials that aired twice a year on the cable channel, decided to develop a full slate. This week, at the National Cable & Television Association Convention in Atlanta, IFC has been touting the results — a schedule of films, most made for $1 million or less.

One such film is “Wanderlust,” a look at the cultural significance of road movies, directed by the “American Splendor” team of Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini. A more provocative release is Kirby Dick’s “This Film Is Not Yet Rated,” a critical look at the movie rating system.

IFC’s current commitment to documentaries represents “a change in business philosophy,” Evan Shapiro, general manager and executive vice president of IFC TV, told Reuters. “We went from using documentaries as a way to augment original productions on the network to a different kind of financing and business model.”

Casting calls

This fall’s new shows are taking shape, thanks to some last-minute casting decisions.

According to Reuters, Wayne Brady is being teamed with Tamala Jones and Bree Turner on his new CW comedy, “Flirt.” The series follows the only man working for a women’s magazine. Miss Jones (“Head of State”) and Miss Turner will play Mr. Brady’s co-workers.

In other casting news:

• Jake Sandvig (“Sky High”) and Heather Burns have come on board for “20 Good Years,” the new NBC sitcom about two fiftysomething New York men (John Lithgow, Jeffrey Tambor) who decide to make the most of the next 20 years of their lives.

• Andrew Walker (“Sabrina, the Teenage Witch”) has been added to ABC’s untitled comedy about two sisters (Marisa Coughlan, Kaley Cuoco) who live together despite having grown up under different circumstances.

• Nadia Dajani has joined ABC’s comedy pilot “Welcome to the Jungle Gym,” which centers on three young mothers (Teri Polo, Jennifer Aspen and Miss Dajani).

• Finally, Kyle Kaplan has been added to CBS’ comedy pilot “You’ve Reached the Elliotts,” playing star Chris Elliott’s son.

Denver’s new ‘World’

The creators of MTV’s long-running reality series “The Real World” are taking their show to the Mile High City, Associated Press reports.

The series’ 18th season will be shot in Denver, the erstwhile music network announced this week,

“Real World,” which features seven young strangers living and working together in a lavish home, is in its 17th season in Key West, Fla.

MTV said the Denver installment would be shot and aired later this year. The show already has been cast.

“Denver has absolutely everything we could hope for, diversity, activities, energy and nightlife,” Lois Curren, executive vice president of MTV Series Entertainment, told AP.

Both Colorado Gov. Bill Owens and Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper voiced support for the series.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for Denver to showcase our cultural and recreational vibrancy to a very large, young audience,” Mr. Hickenlooper said.

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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