January 22, 2018 11:36 am
Starz, a Lionsgate company, today announced the premium cable network has acquired the unscripted 10-part docu-series America to Me, created by award-winning filmmaker Steve James (Hoop Dreams, The Interrupters, Life Itself), and produced by Participant Media and Kartemquin Films.
America To Me follows students, teachers and administrators in suburban Chicago’s Oak Park and River Forest High School, one of the country’s most exemplary and diverse public schools, over the course of a year as they grapple with decades-long racial and educational inequities – in addition to the challenges that today’s teenagers face. Digging deep into the experiences of a racially diverse student population, America to Me sparks extremely candid conversations about what has succeeded and what has failed in the quest to achieve racial equality and overcome bias in our education system. Part observational character story and part high school confessional, James captures critical moments within this vibrant high school ecosystem.
“We are thrilled to acquire this compelling docu-series from Participant Media and Steve James who, as a filmmaker, is truly one of the best,” said President of Programming for Starz Carmi Zlotnik. “America to Me is extremely socially relevant and timely which exemplifies our diversity strategy. Steve’s ability to bring the real and honest portrait of these students and the complex and compelling issues they face through this series is admirable.”
Participant’s CEO David Linde said, “As Participant continues to expand its global footprint with exciting new content opportunities, we are thrilled to announce this distribution partnership with Starz bringing America to Me, our first documentary television series, to audiences everywhere.”
The docuseries will premiere in Fall 2018 on Starz and will also be available for download or streaming via the Starz app which offers subscribers access to more than 7,000 selections including Starz Originals “Power,” “Outlander,” “American Gods,” “Counterpart,” among others; as well as movies and television series.
America to Me is Participant Media’s first unscripted series which aligns with the company’s overall mission of telling compelling and impactful stories across multiple platforms. The series and accompanying social impact campaign aim to spark and guide a national conversation around race, education, opportunity and agency.
“In creating America to Me, we were encouraged every day by the kids and their families, some truly dedicated teachers, and so many others featured in the series. Their passion and insights inspired us and we believe their stories will resonate with people everywhere,” said James. “I am so excited to have found a distribution partner in Starz that shares the same dedication we have for this series and will help it finds its way into the world.”
“Steve and his incredible team of field directors have created a series with extraordinary intimacy that shows the complexities and nuances of being a teenager in an American high school,” said Diane Weyermann, President of Documentary Film and Television for Participant Media. “We are thrilled to partner with Starz and look forward to audiences falling in love with ‘America to Me’ just as we have.”
James directed and executive produced the 10 hour-long episode docuseries via his longtime production home, Kartemquin Films. The series is executive produced by Gordon Quinn (Hoop Dreams, The Trials of Muhammad Ali, Unbroken Glass), Betsy Steinberg (Edith + Eddie, Keep Talking, Stranded by the State) and Justine Nagan (Minding the Gap, All the Queen’s Horses, “P.O.V.”), with Participant Media’s Jeff Skoll (The Help, The Kite Runner, Lincoln) and Diane Weyermann (An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, Human Flow and CITIZENFOUR).
Kevin Shaw (The NFL Season: A Biography, The Street Stops Here), Rebecca Parish (Radical Grace) and Bing Liu (Minding the Gap) served as story directors. John Condne served as series producer, along with producer Risé Sanders-Weir (“Wrath of God”, Biography, “American Justice“ Mobsters,” “American Greed,” “Perilous Journeys”), co-producer Janea Smith (“Chicagoland”) and associate producer Stephanie Smith. Film editing by Leslie Simmer (Raising Bertie, The Homestretch) and David E. Simpson (Life Itself, Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise); associate editor, Alanna Schmelter (“Bizarre Foods: Delicious Destinations,” “Young Marvels,” Live Free or Die”); and assistant editor, Rubin Daniels (Standing on Common Ground: New Orleans Ten Years Later).
Kartemquin Films received a grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to contribute to the production of the docuseries.
America to Me will make its world premiere tonight with the first five episodes at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival in the new “Indie Episodic” category (get tickets and information).
Starz retains all domestic multiplatform pay TV and SVOD rights to the series. Lionsgate, which represents international rights to Participant’s feature film and select documentaries, will retain all international and domestic distribution and home entertainment rights to the series as well.
Vice President of Original Programming Patrick McDonald is the Starz executive overseeing this docuseries. Negotiations were brokered by Brett Marottoli, Head of Program Acquisitions for Starz, along with Gabriel Brakin and Krista Wegener for Participant and Endeavor Content on behalf of Participant/Kartemquin.
“America to Me” docuseries is part of the previously announced unscripted programming added to the larger portfolio of STARZ Originals including the docuseries “Wrong Man,” “Warriors of Liberty City,” “In Fashion” and “The Field.”
Starz (www.starz.com), a Lionsgate company (NYSE: LGF.A, LGF.B), is a leading global media and entertainment company that provides premium subscription video programming on domestic U.S. pay television networks and produces and distributes content for worldwide audiences, including its investment in the STARZ PLAY Arabia OTT service. Starz is home to the flagship STARZ® brand and STARZ ENCORE channels and provides high-quality, entertaining premium subscription video programming with 17 premium pay TV channels and associated on-demand and online services, including the STARZ app. Sold through U.S. multichannel video distributors, including cable operators, satellite television providers, telecommunications companies, and other online and digital platforms, STARZ offers subscribers more than 5,000 distinct premium television episodes and feature films every year and up to 1,500 every month, including STARZ Original series, first-run movies and other popular movie and television programming.
About Participant Media
Founded in 2004 by Jeff Skoll, Participant Media’s (www.participantmedia.com) content combines the power of a good story well told with opportunities for real world impact and awareness around the most pressing global issues of our time.
As an industry content leader, Participant annually produces up to six narrative feature films, five documentary films, three episodic television series, and more than 40 hours of digital short form programming, through its digital subsidiary SoulPancake—all aimed at entertainment that inspires social awareness and engaging audiences to participate in positive social change.
Participant’s content and social impact mandate speaks directly to the rise of today’s “conscious consumer,” representing over 2 billion consumers who are compelled to make impactful content a priority focus. Through its worldwide network of traditional and digital distribution, aligned with partnerships with key non-profit and NGO organizations, Participant is positioned uniquely within the industry to engage a rapidly growing audience while bringing global awareness and action to today’s most vital issues.
Participant’s more than 75 films, including Spotlight, Contagion, Lincoln, The Help, He Named Me Malala, The Look of Silence, CITIZENFOUR, Food, Inc., and An Inconvenient Truth, have collectively earned 52 Academy Award® nominations and 11 wins, including Best Picture for Spotlight. Participant’s digital entertainment division, SoulPancake (www.soulpancake.com), is an award-winning provider of thought-provoking, joyful, and uplifting digital content including such widely popular series as Kid President and The Science of Happiness and reaches an audience of nearly 9 million fans. Follow Participant Media on Twitter at @Participant and on Facebook and Instagram. Follow SoulPancake on Twitter @soulpancake and on Facebook and Instagram.
About Kartemquin Films
Kartemquin Films is a collaborative community empowering documentary media makers who create stories that foster a more engaged and just society. In 2016, Kartemquin celebrated 50 years of sparking democracy through documentary. The organization has won several major critical and journalistic prizes, including multiple Emmy, Peabody, duPont-Columbia and Robert F. Kennedy journalism awards, Independent Spirit, IDA, PGA and DGA awards, and an Oscar nomination. Kartemquin is recognized as a leading advocate for independent public media, and has helped hundreds of artists via its filmmaker development programs that help further grow the field, such as KTQ Labs, Diverse Voices in Docs, and the acclaimed KTQ Internship.
Recent productions include the Emmy-winning Life Itself (directed by Steve James, distributed by Magnolia Pictures) and The Homestretch (directed by Kirsten Kelly and Anne de Mare, distributed by The Orchard); and the duPont-Columbia award-winning Al Jazeera America series Hard Earned. 2017 releases include Steve James’ Abacus: Small Enough to Jail (PBS Distribution); Margaret Byrne’s Raising Bertie (Gunpowder & Sky); and Laura Checkoway’s Edith+Eddie, winner of the IDA Award for Best Documentary Short.
Kartemquin is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization based in Chicago. www.kartemquin.com