ACADEMY AWARD ® WINNER ROGER ROSS WILLIAMS TO PRODUCE AND OVERSEE DOCUMENTARY SERIES BASED ON THE NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE AND NIKOLE HANNAH-JONES’ ‘THE 1619 PROJECT’
Williams Will Direct First Episode; Award-Winning Journalist Shoshana Guy Will Serve as Showrunner
Docuseries Will Be First Offering From Lionsgate Collaboration With The New York Times, Oprah Winfrey and Nikole Hannah-Jones on Pulitzer Prize-Winning Project
SANTA MONICA, Calif.,/PRNewswire/ — Academy Award®-winning filmmaker Roger Ross Williams will produce and oversee a documentary series based on materials drawn from The New York Times Magazine and Nikole Hannah Jones’ acclaimed “The 1619 Project,” slated to debut in the U.S. on the premium streaming service Hulu as part of a distribution agreement between Lionsgate (NYSE: LGF.A, LGF.B) and Disney General Entertainment Content’s BIPOC Creator Initiative led by Tara Duncan, the companies announced today.
Williams will direct the first episode and produce the series under his One Story Up production banner with producing partner and co-executive producer Geoff Martz in collaboration with Lionsgate Television, The New York Times and Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Films. Williams, an award-winning director, producer and writer, is the first African American director to win an Academy Award when he was awarded it for his short film “Music by Prudence.” His other notable projects include the Emmy® Award-winning documentaries “Life, Animated” and “The Apollo”; the documentary “God Loves Uganda”; “American Jail”; and the Emmy-nominated, Webby Award-winning virtual reality experience “Traveling While Black.”
Emmy-nominated and Peabody Award-winning journalist and showrunner Shoshana Guy will serve as showrunner. Guy most recently was showrunner for Vice TV’s late-night series “Cari and Jemele: Won’t Stick to Sports.” She spent more than a decade as an anchor producer for Tom Brokaw and Brian Williams at NBC News. Her work at NBC focused on issues of race and justice, including coverage of the defunding of the Camden Police Department, which earned her a Peabody Award. Her work has also been recognized with two Emmy nominations for her coverage of President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign and her in-depth reporting on a year in the life of Black high school students in Jackson, Mississippi.
One of the most impactful and thought-provoking works of journalism of the past decade, The New York Times Magazine’s “The 1619 Project” was a landmark undertaking that connected the centrality of slavery in U.S. history with an unflinching account of the brutal racism that endures in so many aspects of American life today. It was launched in August 2019 on the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in the English colonies that would become the United States. It examines the legacy of slavery in America and how it shaped nearly all aspects of society, from music and law to education and the arts, and including the principles of our democracy itself.
Oprah Winfrey, Lionsgate and The New York Times announced the wide-ranging partnership to develop “The 1619 Project” into an expansive portfolio of feature films, television series and other content for a global audience in July 2020.
“‘The 1619 Project’ is an essential reframing of American history. Our most cherished ideals and achievements cannot be understood without acknowledging both systemic racism and the contributions of Black Americans. And this isn’t just about the past—Black people are still fighting against both the legacy of this racism and its current incarnation,” said Williams. “I am thrilled and grateful for the opportunity to work with The New York Times, Lionsgate Television, Harpo Films and Hulu to translate the incredibly important ‘The 1619 Project’ into a documentary series.”
“I could not ask for a more gifted and committed storyteller to entrust “The 1619 Project” to than Roger Ross Williams,” said Ms. Hannah-Jones. “I have long admired the impact and authenticity of his filmmaking, and the fact that we’re working with Disney and Hulu aligns with our vision of partnering with the world’s greatest Black storytellers to bring this project to a global audience.”
“We worked hard to get everything right with our first offering,” said Ms. Winfrey. “Adding the reach of Disney and its powerful brand to our collaboration, launching on a great premium platform like Hulu, and bringing together the creative resources of our friends at Lionsgate and The New York Times to support Nikole Hannah-Jones’ narrative and Roger Ross Williams’ vision is the perfect start to our partnership.”
“‘The 1619 Project’ is a revelatory master class in the power of history,” stated Duncan, “Nikole Hannah-Jones’ extraordinary work speaks to contemporary America and reveals how our past is ever present, but more importantly, why engaging in a much-needed dialogue about our origins has the power to create healing and a meaningful positive impact on our collective future. It’s an honor to join forces with Nikole, the enormously gifted Roger Ross Williams, Oprah Winfrey and our partners at Lionsgate and The New York Times to bring this new chapter of ‘The 1619 Project’ to life.”
“Our goal has been to find the right creative voices to translate Nikole Hannah-Jones’ vision into memorable television, film and other new forms, and just the right partners to champion our work,” said Caitlin Roper, executive producer, Scripted Film & TV at The New York Times. “Roger Ross Williams is an iconic documentary filmmaker, and alongside our incredible partners at Hulu, we’ll really be able to expand the scope and reach of the project.”
Kathleen Lingo, editorial director for film and TV at The New York Times, will also executive produce for The Times.
“We’re thrilled to bring aboard world-class Black storytellers and platform partners who can do justice to Nikole Hannah-Jones’ powerful journalistic masterpiece,” said Lionsgate Senior Vice President and Head of Alternative Programming Alice Dickens-Koblin. “It takes content as special as ‘The 1619 Project’ to bring singular talents like Roger Ross Williams, Nikole Hannah-Jones and Oprah Winfrey together, and we’re delighted to partner with our friends at Disney and Hulu to share this compelling story with a global audience.”
“‘The 1619 Project’ has helped frame our understanding of U.S. history and contemporary society, elevating an under-reported, systemic story of vital importance,” said Kelly Campbell, president of Hulu. “We’re honored to be the exclusive streaming home to this transformative documentary series along with our partners at The New York Times, Lionsgate Television and Harpo Films.”
The docuseries will be the first offering from Lionsgate’s collaboration with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, staff writer at The New York Times and one of the nation’s foremost investigative journalists. The New York Times and media titan Oprah Winfrey will develop Ms. Hannah-Jones’ landmark issue of The New York Times Magazine, “The 1619 Project,” and hit New York Times podcast, “1619,” into an expansive portfolio of feature films, television series, location-based exhibitions and other content for a global audience.
Hulu is the leading premium streaming service offering live and on-demand TV and movies, with and without commercials, both in and outside the home. Launched in 2008, Hulu is the only service that gives viewers instant access to current shows from every major U.S. broadcast network; libraries of hit TV series and films; and acclaimed Hulu Originals like Emmy® and Golden Globe®-Award-winning series “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “The Act;” Golden Globe® Award-winning, the Emmy Award-nominated and Peabody-winning series “Ramy;” and Emmy Award-nominated series including “Wu-Tang: An American Saga” and “Pen15;” alongside hit series “Little Fires Everywhere” from Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington; “Normal People,” “The Great,” “Hillary,” “Shrill,” “Solar Opposites” and the Oscar® and Emmy-nominated documentary film “Minding The Gap;” and critically acclaimed Hulu Original films “Palm Springs,” “Run,” and “Happiest Season.” The service also streams live news, entertainment and sports from 21st Century Fox, the Walt Disney Company, NBCUniversal, CBS Corporation, the CW, Turner Networks, A&E Networks, and Discovery Networks – available all in one place. Upcoming Original releases include “The Dropout,” based on the ABC News investigative podcast, and the book-to-screen adaptation of “Nine Perfect Strangers,” starring Nicole Kidman and Melissa McCarthy.
Combining the STARZ premium global subscription platform with world-class motion picture and television studio operations, Lionsgate (NYSE: LGF.A, LGF.B) brings a unique and varied portfolio of entertainment to consumers around the world. Its film, television, subscription and location-based entertainment businesses are backed by a 17,000-title library and the largest collection of film and television franchises in the independent media space. A digital age company driven by its entrepreneurial culture and commitment to innovation, the Lionsgate brand is synonymous with bold, original, relatable entertainment for the audiences it serves worldwide.
About Nikole Hannah-Jones
Nikole Hannah-Jones is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter who covers civil rights and racial injustice for The New York Times Magazine. Her work has also earned three National Magazine Awards, two George Polk Awards, a Peabody, the John Chancellor Award for Distinguished Journalism from Columbia University and a MacArthur Fellowship, known as the “Genius Grant.” Hannah-Jones is also the co-founder of the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting.
Prior to joining The New York Times, she worked as an investigative reporter at ProPublica in New York City, where she spent three years chronicling the way official policy created and maintains segregation in housing and schools.
Before that, she reported for the largest daily newspaper in the Pacific Northwest, the Oregonian in Portland, Oregon. She started her journalism career covering the majority-Black Durham Public Schools for the News & Observer in Raleigh, North Carolina.
She has said, “I see my work as forcing us to confront our hypocrisy, forcing us to confront the truth that we would rather ignore.”
About The New York Times Company
The New York Times Company is a trusted source of quality, independent journalism whose mission is to seek the truth and help people understand the world. With more than 7 million subscriptions across a diverse array of print and digital products — from news to cooking to games — The Times has evolved from a local and regional news leader into a diversified media company with curious readers, listeners and viewers around the globe. The Times is extending that mission by developing and producing nonfiction and fiction feature films and series including feature documentaries: Time (Amazon), which was recently nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, Some Kind of Heaven (Magnolia Pictures) and Father Soldier Son (Netflix), the scripted series Modern Love (Amazon) and nonfiction series, The Weekly and The New York Times Presents (Hulu/ FX), as well as Diagnosis (Netflix). Follow news about the company at NYTCo.com.
About Oprah Winfrey
Oprah Winfrey is a global media leader, philanthropist, producer and critically acclaimed actress. She has created an unparalleled connection with people around the world, making her one of the most respected and admired figures today. Winfrey currently hosts a variety of series that tackle issues and concerns facing Black lives, featuring candid and in-depth conversations that create real dialogue to inspire systematic change. Recent specials include “Oprah Talks: COVID-19 — The Deadly Impact On Black America” on Apple TV+ and the two-part “OWN Spotlight: Where Do We Go From Here” that aired worldwide across the Discovery family of networks, featuring Nikole Hannah-Jones.
Through her company’s film division, Harpo Films, Winfrey has produced acclaimed feature films and scripted television programming. Past features include the Academy Award-nominated “Selma” starring David Oyelowo and Golden Globe-nominated “The Hundred-Foot Journey” starring Helen Mirren and the Black List script “The Water Man” alongside David Oyelowo’s Yorubo Saxon and ShivHans Pictures. Harpo Films is producing the musical film “The Color Purple” with Warner Bros. and “An American Marriage,” adapted from the 2018 Oprah’s Book Club title of the same name by Tayari Jones. Recent television projects include OWN’s critically acclaimed series “Queen Sugar,” “David Makes Man,” “Cherish the Day” and “Delilah” with Warner Bros., and the Emmy®-nominated HBO film “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” starring Oprah Winfrey.
Winfrey is also a dedicated philanthropist. She has contributed more than $200 million toward the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa and has donated $20 million to Morehouse College. In 2020, Winfrey committed $12 million to COVID-19 relief efforts focusing on underserved communities in her “home cities” of Chicago, Nashville, Milwaukee, Baltimore and Kosciusko, Mississippi. Additionally, Winfrey is a founding donor of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.
About One Story Up
Founded by Oscar and Emmy® Award-winning director Roger Ross Williams and Emmy Award-winning producer Geoff Martz, One Story Up specializes in creating documentary films, television, streaming series and specials, animation and VR. One Story Up has produced a variety of projects including two limited documentary series for Netflix and a screen adaptation of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ bestseller, Between the World and Me for HBO. Presently, One Story Up is producing numerous projects and series including an untitled Netflix feature documentary about civil rights lawyer Ben Crump; The Empire of Ebony, about the first black media empire Ebony & Jet, to be directed by Lisa Cortes; a short film series with Topic and First Look Media; and a doc feature on music group TLC for A&E; as well as an additional doc feature titled Master of Light. Through the One Story Up banner, Williams is additionally set to direct and produce Ibram X. Kendi’s Stamped from the Beginning as well as its counterpart Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You for Netflix, which will be aimed at the YA audience.
About Roger Ross Williams
Roger Ross Williams is an Oscar® and Emmy® Award-winning director, producer and writer and the first African American director to win an Academy Award®, with his film Music By Prudence.
“Beautiful,” “Uplifting,” “Extraordinary,” “Triumphant,” “Rich with insight,” “Searing,” “Remarkable,” and “Inspirational” are accolades Williams’ films have received from the New York Times, Vanity Fair, Hollywood Reporter, Variety, Forbes, Stephen Colbert, and Entertainment Weekly
Williams has directed a number of acclaimed films including Life, Animated, which won the Sundance Film Festival Directing Award, was nominated for an Academy Award and won three Emmys in 2018, including the award for Best Documentary. He also directed God Loves Uganda, which was shortlisted for an Academy Award and American Jail, which examined the U.S. prison system and premiered on CNN. Williams’ Traveling While Black, a VR documentary made for Facebook’s Oculus, premiered at Sundance Film Festival and was nominated for a Primetime Emmy and won a Webby Award. His film The Apollo, a documentary about Harlem’s legendary Apollo Theater, was the opening night film of the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival and won the Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Documentary. He recently directed three hours of The Innocence Files, which premiered on Netflix in their top ten. Williams is currently set to direct and produce (under his One Story Up banner), Ibram X. Kendis Stamped From The Beginning as well as it’s counterpart Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You, which will be aimed at the YA audience.
His production company, One Story Up, creates documentary films, series, specials, animation and VR. It specializes in providing opportunities for filmmakers from underrepresented communities. One Story Up has produced a variety of projects including two limited documentary series for Netflix and a screen adaptation of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ bestseller, Between the World and Me for HBO. They are currently producing numerous projects and series including an untitled Netflix feature documentary about civil rights lawyer Ben Crump; The Empire of Ebony (Roger to EP), and a short film series with Topic and First Look Media; and a feature documentary for A&E titled Master of Light.
Williams is currently in pre-production on his first narrative feature, Cassandro, based on the real life story of an openly gay, cross-dressing, Lucha Libre wrestler. The film will star Gael Garcia Bernal, and is produced by Bernal and Diego Luna’s production company La Corriente Del Golfo.
Since 2016, Williams has been on the Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences representing the Documentary Branch and is also Chair of the Documentary Diversity Committee. Williams serves on the advisory board of the Full Frame Film Festival, and the boards of Docubox Kenya, None On Record, and the Zeitz Museum Of Contemporary Art Africa. He resides in New York and Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
About Shoshana Guy
Shoshana Guy is a journalist and showrunner. Most recently she was the showrunner for Vice TV’s late-night series ‘Cari and Jemele: Won’t Stick to Sports.’ Shoshana holds a master’s degree from Columbia School of Journalism and cut her journalistic teeth in the halls of NBC News. She went on to work as an anchor producer for more than a decade producing for Tom Brokaw and Brian Williams. Her work at NBC focused on issues of race and justice, including coverage surrounding the defunding of the Camden Police Department, which earned her a Peabody award. Additionally, her work has been recognized with two Emmy® nominations for her coverage of President Obama’s re-election campaign and her in-depth reporting focusing on a year in the life of Black high school students in Jackson, Mississippi.
Outside of her work for NBC, Shoshana has partnered with PBS, MTV, CTV, National Geographic, EPIX, A&E, Netflix and Apple TV, and has worked extensively overseas. Shoshana is based in Brooklyn, NY.
About Geoff Martz
Geoff Martz is a four-time Emmy® Award winning producer. He left a long career at ABC in 2018 to join Roger Ross Williams in starting One Story Up. Since then, he has executive produced two limited series for Netflix (The Innocence Files, and an as-yet-to-air project), as well as a feature for HBO (Between the World and Me, based on the book by Ta-Nehisi Coates), The Empire of Ebony (directed by Lisa Cortes) and a series for Topic that features short films by under-represented filmmakers. One Story Up is currently in production on two more doc features for Netflix, as well as developing a true crime series for HBO, and producing a doc feature for A&E (Untitled TLC Project).
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