CANNES/LOS ANGELES– (October 18, 2016) – Participant Media announced today that it is in production on the unscripted series “America to Me,” created by renowned filmmaker Steve James and Kartemquin Films. As Participant’s first unscripted series, “America to Me” follows a year in suburban Chicago’s Oak Park and River Forest High School, one of the country’s most exemplary and diverse public schools, as students, teachers and administrators grapple with decades-long racial and educational inequities – in addition to the challenges that today’s teenagers face.
James is series director and executive producer via his longtime production home, Kartemquin Films, along with Gordon Quinn, Betsy Steinberg, and Justine Nagan. Participant’s Jeff Skoll and Diane Weyermann are also executive producers. Kartemquin received a grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to contribute to the production. Participant Media holds the worldwide rights to the series.
David Linde, CEO of Participant stated, “’America to Me’ further demonstrates and perfectly represents our commitment to producing socially relevant entertainment. Expanding into the unscripted realm with this vibrant and compelling series with a filmmaker of Steve’s caliber and creative vision is incredibly exciting for us.”
“Having collaborated with Steve many years ago, and continuing to follow his career, I have tremendous respect and admiration for him and his ability to tell powerful stories,” said Diane Weyermann, Participant’s EVP of Documentary Films. “It is inspiring to partner with him once again on this timely series.”
“I am thrilled to be working with Diane and her team at Participant. They’ve made it possible for us to do a series I’ve wanted to do for over 10 years. I truly believe the story of Oak Park and River Forest High School can be, in many ways, the story of race and education for young people in America today,” said James.
In 1994, James directed, produced and co-edited the critically lauded documentary, Hoop Dreams. The film was nominated for multiple awards, including an Academy Award® nomination for Best Editing. His other acclaimed works include Stevie, The New Americans, The War Tapes, At the Death House Door, The Interrupters, and most recently, Life Itself.
For “America to Me,” James is joined by a talented group of filmmakers including story directors Kevin Shaw, Rebecca Parish and Bing Liu. Other “America to Me” credits include: John Condne, series producer; Risé Sanders-Weir, producer; Janea Smith, co-producer; and Stephanie Smith, associate producer. Editors are Leslie Simmer and David Simpson; associate editor, Alanna Schmelter; and assistant editor, Rubin Daniels.