Doc house thrives in a new dimension

French producer Gedeon cuts teeth on 3D

LA ROCHELLE, FRANCE — European documentary filmmakers have jumped into 3D technology, with Gedeon 3D leading the charge.

Gedeon, the label created by French veteran documentary producer Stephane Milliere two years ago, unveiled a slate of ambitious stereoscopic docus at Sunny Side of the Doc, which wrapped June 24 here, including “Paris Over the Ages,” in development, “Makay, the Lost World’s Raiders” in post and “The Coasts of France From Above” in production.

Milliere, who has a passion for archeology and history, launched Gedeon Programmes, parent company of the 3D arm, in the 1990s and quickly gained international recognition with “The Seventh Wonder of the World,” a historical adventure docu co-produced with BBC and PBS. Millier credits “Wonder” with opening up a path for more international collaborations for the company. “Today, about one-third of the financing for our 3D documentaries come from international partners,” he says.

Producing 3D docs was a natural step for Gedeon Programmes, Milliere says.

“In the 90s, we started shooting with Super 16 mm, and when HD became available, we switched to it immediately,” he says. Today, it makes sense for us to use 3D technology for spectacular documentaries that take viewers into places where few people have been; it enhances their viewing experience and gives them an exclusive access.”

Helmed by Xavier Lefebvre, “Paris Over the Ages” is a sprawling docudrama following a contemporary character who travels back to ancient times and revisits key events relating to the architecture and urbanism of Paris’ monuments over more than 3,000 years.

Carlo De Boutiny (“Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky”) and Alain Zenou are finalizing the script, says Gedeon producer Marie-Pierre Aulas. “The challenge for us was to condense the breadth of historical details and characters into a 90-minute format,” she adds. “We did a lot of work on the editorial content and the script.”

Adds Aulas, “It was important to have two writers from different backgrounds: Carlo (De Boutiny) comes from the world of fiction and has been a collaborator of Jan Kounen, while Alain (Zenou) is a seasoned nonfiction writer who specializes in scientific documentaries.”

Gedeon is producing a one-hour format of “Paris” in 3D, as well as a 90-minute and a four-part series in 2D HD. The 2D version is budgeted at €2.9 million ($4.1 million).

The one-hour 3D format was commissioned and is co-produced by French docu network Planete, which is part of Canal Plus Group. Planete exec Olivier Stroh said at Sunny Side of the Doc that Planete had invested about $1 million in “Paris,” making it the net’s largest investment in a documentary.

The 3D program has also been pre-bought by Italy’s RAI, and Aulas says Gedeon is in negotiations with multiple international broadcasters.

Gedeon has teamed up with a flurry of French institutions, including the City of Paris and French 3D software pioneer Dassault Systemes, which is in charge of the stereoscopic reconstruction of monuments.

Aulas added Gedeon was in talks with a high-profile French museum to organize an exhibit centering on “Paris.”

Meanwhile, “Makay” follows a large international team of scientists led by a young explorer, Evrard Wendenbaum, who embark on a two-month exploration of the Makay Valley in the southwest region of Madagascar.

Gedeon is selling two versions: a 90-minute 3D film directed by Pierre Stine, and a 2D, HD two-parter helmed by Wendenbaum.

Skedded to bow on Canal Plus before the end of the year, “Makay” is the first 3D doc commissioned by the paybox. American 3D network 3D-Net is co-producing along with Canal Plus and Planete. Doc was pre-bought by NDR (Germany), SBS (Scandinavia), RAI (Italy) and Kultura TV (Poland), among others.

“The Coasts of France From Above” is a 90-minute film directed by Charles-Antoine De Rouvre and Jerome Scemla. “Coasts” was commissioned by Arte and has been pre-bought by Discovery U.K.

Arte has planned to broadcast the program in January 2012.

Gedeon is working with Binocle, a French shingle specializing in live-action 3D lensing, for both “Coasts” and “Makay.”

Gedeon Programmes also owns various affiliated companies run by Milliere, notably Biloba Films, producer of 3D family adventure “Amazonia.”

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