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Posts Tagged ‘Tom Yellin’

CNN is a Buyer at Sundance

CNN Films, a production and acquisition unit of CNN Worldwide, has acquired another film at the Sundance Film Festival. Partnering with Magnolia Pictures, CNN has acquired the U.S. rights to the documentary “Blackfish,” about the history of killer whales in captivity leading up to the 2010 incident at Sea World that resulted in the death of a trainer by the whale Tilikum. The film will be released in theaters this Summer and shown on CNN in the Fall.

Established last year, as first reported by TVNewser, CNN Films is the result of a reorganization of two documentary units, combined into one department focusing on acquiring documentaries from outside production companies.

CNN Films isn’t just dipping its toe in the documentary water. It dove in at Sundance, hosting a party Friday in Park City to announce other acquisitions and three new projects from filmmakers.

CNN has acquired the U.S. broadcast rights to a documentary about the life of Roger Ebert, based on his memoir, Life Itself. “Girl Rising,” a documentary about nine girls from around the world struggling to get an education, will make its theatrical debut in March followed by a broadcast premiere on CNN in June. “Girl Rising” is produced by former ABC News executive producer Tom Yellin. A sneak preview was given last night at Sundance.

“CNN is proud to announce these production agreements at this festival which has done so much to support independent storytelling,” says Mark Whitaker, managing editor of CNN. “Our aim at CNN Films is to showcase the work of exceptional documentary filmmakers and to build conversations around the issues they raise across our global platforms.”

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It’s Official: CNN Creates ‘CNN Films’ Banner

As TVNewser first told you back in April, CNN is launching its own feature film banner, CNN Films. The company officially announced the banner today, along with its first film, and development deals with two directors.

The first non-fiction film CNN has acquired is Girl Rising, which tells the story of several girls across the globe. It will debut on CNN in early 2013. CNN has also signed development deals with directors Alex Gibney (Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room, Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer) and Andrew Rossi (Page One: Inside the New York Times). Senior VP of talent Amy Entelis and senior VP of development Vinnie Malhotra will oversee acquisitions.

The new banner was created after CNN reorganized its long-form documentary units in March. The new model focuses on acquiring documentaries produced from outside the company, with a few tentpole features developed in-house by well-known directors.

Two CNN staffers familiar with the reorganization tell TVNewser than one of the driving forces behind the reorg was Tom Yellin, the president of The Documentary Group, which produces non-fiction programming for theatrical release and television, and would benefit from another TV network to sell content to. Yellin is an executive producer on Girls Rising.

Update: CNN says that the network held meetings with Yellin specifically to acquire his documentary, and was not related to the decision to move toward acquired programming. The decision to launch CNN Films was obviously made well-before I reported the news back in April.

“CNN Films will bring distinguished, thought-provoking documentary programming to our global audiences on all our television, online and mobile platforms,” said CNN Worldwide managing editor Mark Whitaker. “We want these documentaries to tell compelling stories and stimulate important discussions across CNN’s other programs and websites.”

More information below.

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Bob Woodruff Almost His Old Self

ABC News this morning gave reporters a sneak peak of the documentary about Bob Woodruff‘s near-death and recovery and how his family — as well as the other soldiers and Marines who’ve been through the same, usually with much less positive results — have dealt with it. Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)– what Woodruff suffered — is a big part of the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, because as helmets and other protective gear improve, as well as medical techniques for keeping military men and women alive, more of those who come back end up living with brain trauma.

After screening the documentary, “To Iraq and Back,” which airs tomorrow evening, Woodruff, ABC News president David Westin and executive producer Tom Yellin spoke to a room of about two dozen people(including reporters David Bianculli, Howard Kurtz, and mediabistro’s Dylan Stableford and Dorian Benkoil), acknowledging that even six months ago he probably wouldn’t have been able to handle such a conversation. With his once-shattered skull rebuilt with a plastic, he looked his old self — the same sparkle in his blue eyes, quick wit, a full head of his own dark black hair, and just a few small scars on his face.

But he also sometimes had trouble finding a word, for example once saying “news” when he meant “knowledge” and not being able to come up with the word “intestines” — signs that he has not completely recovered; he said he probably never will fully. He doesn’t know if he’ll ever anchor again — something he says was never his main goal — but is eager to report on the story of soldiers’ injuries and recovery, and then other stories down the line.

Woodruff, fluent in Chinese, speaking privately, also threw out a few sentences in Chinese and also in Japanese, a sign of how far he has come since only about a year ago when, as shown in the documentary, he had trouble identifying “scissors” from a picture card.

More to come …