SOUTHERN VOICES
An Anthology Series of
Television Dramas Based on
Contemporary Southern Fiction

 


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SOUTHERN VOICES ( working title) An Anthology Series of Sixty to Ninety Minute Television Dramas Based on Contemporary Southern Fiction.A Production of Jonathan Donald Productions, Inc. in association with South Carolina Educational Television and The ETV Endowment of South Carolina

Description:

We propose to produce an anthology series of 60 to 90 minute dramatic programs or movies for television based on contemporary Southern fiction in partnership with South Carolina Educational Television. The working title of the series is SOUTHERN VOICES.

Although the works of classic southern writers: Faulkner, Welty, Williams, O'Connor and certain others have occasionally been produced for television, the generation of Southern writers that began their work roughly thirty to forty years ago is scarcely known at all on television. Yet like its forebears its work has the unmistakable stamp of America's best known regional literature, a literature built on language, custom, a penchant for eccentricity, good humor and the cruel dilemmas of race relations. However, this generation is distinctly more worldly. Its South has boundaries that go beyond geography. It is also a generation less absorbed in questions of class. It is more open, familiar in its language, and inclusive. It's subjects include groups unknown in the older literature: Cajuns, Vietnamese, Native Americans. It also embodies a whole new phalanx of important African-American authors who have provided among other things their own experience of race relations.

If American literature had its beginnings in New England, it found its most distinctive voice in the South. Southern writers include the greatest number of important authors identified by region in America. Contemporary southern literature boasts such names as Pat Conroy, James Burke, Shirley Ann Grau, Clyde Edgerton, Ernest Gaines, Ellen Gilchrist, Lewis Nordan, Ellen Douglas, Tim Gautreaux, Lee Smith, Walker Percy, Reynolds Price, Dorothy Allison, Barbara Kingsolver... the list goes on. SOUTHERN VOICES will bring much of this new richness to a national television audience.

We want the series to be popular: one that will reach a general as well as a PBS audience including young people at the higher elementary school levels, high school, college and in the society at large - a broad range of viewers who might otherwise never turn to literature for entertainment. Contemporary southern literature is democratic; it was written for everyone but because too few Americans read it has never reached most people. It can reach them, however, through television and thereby instill an appetite not only for good television but, through our web site and teaching aids, also instill an interest in reading good books.

Series Packaging:

To heighten our appeal we will call our productions movies and give the series a new title and a title sequence that evokes a sense of going to the movies - an evening out - entertainment.

The Relevance of the Series:

Behind the window dressing, we have a more important task - to help fill the alarming void in popular culture, the absence of humanity, the emphasis on material belongings and fascination with gratuitous violence that have become the preoccupations of too many Americans, especially young people. There is a great civilizing effect to good literature that can help fill that void, especially if it is of the tempting southern variety which is almost always funny, timely and reinforces many of society's traditional themes. These include...

Family: The family is a primary setting for much southern writing: families as clans, as communities, as the symbol and core of society, families coming apart and coming together. Even when they are coming apart, they are never lost to us. Southern writers are seldom so misanthropic. Their irony is more humorous than cynical.

Hope: Even in the darkest stories, there is an element of hope. Our storytellers find it in the individual, in music, in the land and in their faith. Perhaps because the South was first a rural landscape, this yearning toward hope comes naturally to a people tuned to what Providence and the Earth will provide

Home, A Sense of Place: There is always a home in Southern writing, always a place to return to. No other part of the country has quite the sense of place as the South. Again as first a rural people, the hearth has always been a magnet in the life of Southerners.

Race: Many would say Race is what the South is all about. With the advent of a whole generation of new African-American writers, race is being re-examined with blinders off. The black-white dichotomy of the South is either central or never far away in the stories of this new Southern literature.

However important these ideas may be, this is not a literature based on themes or social issues. Our stories are first and foremost works of literary merit, rooted in the history and traditions of the South but also highly original, very contemporary and exciting in their different ways. Like all true art they spring from the depths of the creative human psyche.

SOUTHERN VOICES will paint a picture of that world, a world not found in sitcoms, blockbuster movies, Tom Clancy novels, or video games. But it is here that all of humanity's ennobling greatness takes root and grows. It is here that Southern writers have put down their own roots to create a literature that anyone can enjoy for it speaks so clearly to universal human needs

The Relevance of SOUTHERN VOICES to America Under Attack:

In these difficult times we need something to ground us, to bind us together and provide a sense of our own worth. It is not enough to rally to the flag. People need to be connected in other ways. Human experience sharply etched through literature and in turn through television can provide that connection fully and deeply. Our series is a looking glass in which the audience can witness triumph over loss, self discovery, the pleasure of ordinary things, love, courage, escape from fear, and the fears we must face: madness and evil. This is surely the purpose of Art, to provide a mirror which reflects the depths of life's experiences, a mirror that will give us vision.

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Follow this link for our choices for the first seven programs.
They are representative of the significant range of this literature. In tone, some are light, some dark but most are a mix of both. Some are designed to be 90 minutes, others 60 minutes. They are so marked.

Education, Promotion, Outreach and On-Line Components:

SCETV is one of the nation's more community focused public television services. It is highly experienced in the use of promotional tools including email, conferencing, mailings, press kits and media platform applications. The station also has a long track record of good teacher relations and of providing exemplary educational materials. The producers will work with SCETV's nationally recognized educational web-site staff to create the series site. We will also create educational supplements to the series such as teacher's guides, videos and written materials. These are part of a traditional focus at SCETV and one of its great strengths. Our entire effort from the movies themselves to the web-site and the ancillary materials will be designed to meet the new national standards for education now being set among the states.

 

Follow this link to explore our ideas for the Southern Voices Interactive Website:

Our website will expand upon our programming to stimulate further reading by our audience; provide exciting follow-up materials for classroom use; entertain and educate users through games and puzzles; and lay the groundwork for further exploration of the literature and themes of southern writing.

The Reach of the Series:

Altogether we estimate that our initial broadcasts, web site activities and school materials will bring the subject matter to between one and two million people. Once the series is established, its reach can be expanded to reach wider audiences.

Key Personnel:

Series Producer: JONATHAN DONALD PRODUCTIONS, INC.

Jonathan Donald or his company has produced over 200 documentary and dramatic programs for network, cable and Public Television including major series like the dramatized documentaries of REDISCOVERING AMERICA (Discovery), FACES OF JAPAN (PBS), THE AFRICANS ( Time-Life Television and PBS), CONSERVING AMERICA ( PBS) , WILD, WILD WORLD OF ANIMALS (Time-Life Television/ ABC), WILDERNESS ALIVE ( Time-Life Television ). Single programs include ALVIN TOFFLER'S THIRD WAVE ( PBS ) THE INTER-RACIAL MARRIAGE ( CBS), LET US NOW PRAISE FAMOUS MEN. ( CBS ), MAYDAY! AIR RESCUE IN VIETNAM (ABC) THE CROCODILE'S REVENGE ( ABC), BRAZIL, THE GATHERING MILLIONS ( PBS), CAPE YORK PENINSULA ( NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC ). He has written and directed most of these programs, has won an EMMY for CONSERVING AMERICA, a GOLDEN EAGLE for THE SALEM WITCH TRIALS in the REDISCOVERING AMERICA series, another GOLDEN EAGLE for INDIANS AMONG US in the same series and two prizes at the New York Festivals: a Gold and a Finalist. He began his career in television at an ABC documentary unit. His first job in broadcasting was as Public Affairs Director at WBAI, the radical/avant-garde New York city radio station.

Jonathan Donald holds a Bachelor's degree from Yale in history and a certificate in art history from the Sorbonne at the University of Paris. He was born of southern parents and his early childhood years were spent in Louisiana and Mississippi.

He co-produced and directed TRIFLES, a dramatic hour which is offered here as a work sample for SOUTHERN VOICES. He will executive produce and direct the pilot program of SOUTHERN VOICES.

Bodil Bergmann will be the Research Associate for SOUTHERN VOICES. She is the veteran of many productions in which she served variously as Researcher or Production Manager

Craig Nelson will be the Director of Photography for the pilot of SOUTHERN VOICES. A commercial cinematographer he has been the lighting director/ gaffer on many features. He has worked on several major television films for Jonathan Donald Productions including the Cine Eagle Award winning SALEM WITCH TRIALS. He also was the DP for TRIFLES.

Kathy Sweeney will serve as Production Manager / Art Director for the pilot of SOUTHERN VOICES. A motion picture and still photography art director she is a veteran of several productions with Jonathan Donald where she has served as either Art Director or Production Manager.