3net Begins Production on 3D Civil War Series (Exclusive)

Stereoscopic period stills help create "a new way to do history programming," Tom Cosgrove, president/CEO of the new 3D network from Sony, Discovery and Imax, tells THR.

3net, the new 3D network from Sony, Discovery and Imax, has taken its first step into scripted 3D production with an ambitious four-part series about the Civil War.

The program, which will be shot in 3D, is slated to debut on 3net in the fall and is a departure from most of the 3DTV content being produced at this point -- sports or other live event coverage.

Under the working title The Civil War 3D, principal photography on the four-hour program is under way. The program will combine digitized stereoscopic archival imagery from the period, scripted re-enactments and character narrative. It ties in with the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War.

"This is based on stereoscopic stills that were taken during the time -- those were really the impetus for the idea," 3net president and CEO Tom Cosgrove told The Hollywood Reporter. "For me, the stills really take you into the place in a way that I hadn't seen before. It started the idea of looking at a new way to do history programming.

"We started looking at telling the story through stills, then decided to use the stills to supplement re-creations and really create this world in 3D and use the stills as a touch point to get back to the original feel and look of the Civil War."

More such programming may be on the way.

"There are thousands of (3D) stills from the time of the Civil War all the way through the end of the century and into the next," Cosgrove related. "There is a big archive that we'll tap into to tell these stories, and the rest will probably be re-enactments."

3net also plans to extend beyond history programming. "We are working on several different scripted projects, scripted dramas particularly," Cosgrove said.

David W. Padrusch will direct and co-write the Civil War series as well as executive produce with Jonathan Towers through Towers Prods. Tim Pastore will executive produce for 3net.

The narrative will include personal stories from soldiers in opposing regiments, the Union's 20th Massachusetts and the Confederate's 1st Virginia.

Padrusch said the series would "bring the prism of 3D technology to first-person accounts of battlefield experiences as a way of exploring the humanity and the complexity of motivations of soldiers on both sides of the war."

"The 1st Virginia and 20th Massachusetts regiments participated in nearly every major battle in the Easter Theater, and the men in these units gave us authentic and haunting first-hand insights into America's darkest days." said Patrick Brennan, author of Secessionville: Assault on Charleston, who serves as historical consultant and co-writer with Padrusch.

3net, which has been on the air since mid-February, plans that this Civil War production and all 3net original programs will be lensed in 3D, rather than converted, as 3net believes this offers the highest-quality 3D, Cosgrove said.

For the Civil War series, re-enactments will in some cases be shot at the actual locations and battlefields, such as Gettysburg. The series also will be shot on location in Illinois.

With 3D content for TV still limited, 3net and other young channels in overseas territories have been exploring participation in co-productions or licensing content from one another. Cosgrove acknowledged that America's Civil War is "obviously not as global a title as some of the natural history (programming), but we definitely have interest. We are not going to always find something that is going to resonate around the world. Sometimes we want to do things we believe in passionately that we think is going to resonate here. This is one of those."

He added: "We already have pretty significant interest in the U.K."