Kevin Costner’s Tig Prods. is teaming with Majestic Films and Italy’s RCS Video to produce two new projects that “take us one step beyond ‘Dances With Wolves,’ ” in the words of Majestic topper Guy East.

Costner, Tig partner Jim Wilson and East outlined details of the new project at a press conference yesterday in Milan.

Costner will make his TV debut as narrator of “500 Nations,” an $8 million, eight-hour documentary series on the history of the North American Indians. CBS will air this in-depth, accessible look at lost and endangered civilizations–spanning the Aztecs to the Iroquois–in prime time in 1994.

The docu series will use special effects created by Peter Lloyd (“Tron”) to take viewers through the streets of lost cities such as the Mayan capital of Patenque.

“I realize documentaries are usually not great moneymakers, but this project is like becoming a detective investigating our own existence. I think we’ll come close to breaking even, and that’s a lot for a documentary,” said Costner.

Costner’s other new project is “Rapa Nui,” a$ 20 million feature to be lensed by Kevin Reynolds (“Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves”) early next year.

Both projects attracted attention at Mifed last week, but negotiations for domestic and foreign distribution are still in the early phases. Tig is adopting the same attitude toward financing that worked with “Dances With Wolves”: Get the production rolling with a foreign partner and lock up a domestic distribution deal when the time is right.

Foreign partners, in this case, are RCS Video, co-producing “500 Nations,” and Majestic, partnering with Tig on “Rapa Nui.” Majestic has all foreign rights for both projects; Tig retains domestic rights for all media.

“Our association with Majestic on ‘Dances’ was so phenomenal that we’d like to continue working with European partners. The arrangement lets us enjoy a lot of freedom,” Wilson said.

Cameras start rolling on “500 Nations,” with Jack Leustig directing, in mid-November. The title refers to the 500 Native American tribes inhabiting North America before the first European settlers arrived, and their history will be told through interviews with members of the surviving 80 tribes.

Two camera crews will travel across the country on a 10-month shoot, followed by a year of post-production. The final eight-hour series will be delivered in July 1994.

“Rapa Nui,” produced by Tig and Majestic in association with Newcom, goes into production in February on locations in Easter Island and Chile. Based on a story treatment written by Reynolds in 1985, “Rapa Nui” (“center of the earth”) dramatizes the events on Easter Island prior to and following its discovery by Dutch explorers in 1722.

Barrie Osborne will line produce with two crews drawn largely from Australia and New Zealand.

Both projects grew out of Costner and Wilson’s interest in “telling stories about what America is, where it came from and how we fit into the world at large ,” per Costner.

The secret is picking a good script, like “Dances With Wolves.”

“You have to have the patience and confidence to wait for good material, and not move too quickly,” said Costner.

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