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Showtime options four Discovery training pix

The eighth year of the Discovery program for first-time directors has received a greenlight thanks to Showtime cable reupping its option to broadcast four half-hours in 1995.

“It was right down to the wire as to whether we would continue,” said program co-founder and producer Jana Memel.

“There aren’t a lot of places that people can get a shot at directing, or venues where their work can be seen. That’s what really makes it so significant and vital.”

Conceived as a training ground with palpable benefits to the film industry, Discovery got its lease on life with backing from Columbia Pictures in 1987. In its first year of operation, the program produced six shorts, including the Oscar-winning “Ray’s Male Heterosexual Dance Hall.” Last year’s crop brought home three CableAce prizes including best series.

In subsequent years, five films have been nominated in the Academy’s dramatic category with “Session Man” taking home the statuette in 1991. “Partners,” directed by Peter Weller and part of the offshoot Directed By program, is nominated for achievement in live-action shorts at Monday’s Oscars.

Though the efforts have received some theatrical exposure over the years, Showtime and broadcast TV have provided its primary financial life blood. Brian Gordan, Jessie Nelson, Robbie Fox and Rupert Wainwright are among its first-timers to land feature assignments and Jobeth Williams and Christine Lahti have been among the actors behind the camera.

Open to industry professionals, project deadline for submissions is May 31 and initial production is to begin in September. Applications and information are available from the Discovery office at suite 1212, 1680 N. Vine, L.A., CA 90028.

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