Dangerous liaisons

British documaker finds outlet with U.S. TV

LONDON — As its name might suggest, U.K. factual producer Dangerous Films has something of a reputation for taking risks.

“Very often when you hear about the kind of shows we’re making you think, that’s a bit out there, a bit risky,” says co-founder-director Richard Dale.

When Dale first pitched the idea of a docudrama about 9/11 to a U.S. network, for example, he was told that no one would touch the project with memories of the terrorist attacks still so fresh. “Inside the Twin Towers,” aired on Discover in 2006; it was Emmy nommed and picked up a BAFTA award.

“These are difficult projects, but when they work they’re great,” says Dale. “One of the reasons why they do work is they are the kinds of stories that excite that energy of response.”

The company’s latest TV movie, “Moonshot,” is no less ambitious even though big drama docs aren’t in vogue among U.K. broadcasters. The feature-length drama, which will air on the History Channel and the U.K.’s ITV next summer, tells the story of the Apollo 11 space mission and the race to put the first man on the moon.

“We have approached ‘Moonshot’ as a drama, in terms of who we’ve hired to make it,” says managing director Mike Kemp.

Combining dramatic reconstructions with CG effects and NASA archive footage, the production’s cast including James Marsters playing Buzz Aldrin, Australian Daniel Lapaine as Neil Armstrong and Brit Andrew Lincoln as Michael Collins.

Even though “Moonshot” is an American story, David McKillop, senior VP of programming and development of the History Channel, says the net was attracted by Dangerous’ “spectacular reputation.”

“We’re excited to work with Dangerous Films and if it works well we’ll try something else.”

As with most of the company’s previous shows, the $5 million budget has been shared by international partners, including Germany’s ProSieben and TF1 in France.

“We like to get these things commissioned through a factual model,” says Dale. “The financing model works very well because it means a broadcaster can get a £2 million ($4 million) film for a fraction of that investment.”

The company has also moved into blue-chip factual series, such as its latest Discovery commission, “Inside the Super Dino,” and the critically acclaimed “When We Left Earth: The NASA Missions,” which aired in June.

“From a business standpoint that was critical for us to make that transition from doing one-off shows to three-parters, six-parters,” says Dale.

Indeed, for all the talk of creative risk-taking, the company is commercially focused and the next step in its strategy will be to ramp up its business in the U.S.

“We’ve made one big leap — we no longer do just one-off shows,” Dale says. “Now we can focus much more on our next target, which is t

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