The heralded, award-winning 28-year-old franchise will begin to chronicle not only American masters but also “emerging American masters,” Michael Kantor said in a New York Times interview — industry speak for “targeting younger viewers.” The franchise will stop emphasizing important cultural figures important to the baby boom generation, Kantor told NYT, which got first crack at the news. The series will redefine the word “masters” to include profiles of people in industry. Ditto science. That said, the series already has profiled Albert Einstein, as well as I.M. Pei, Billie Jean King, Walter Cronkite, etc. — in addition to more traditional subjects such as Arthur Miller, Georgia O’Keeffe, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Leonard Bernstein, Sidney Poitier, Judy Garland, John James Audubon, Bob Dylan, Ella Fitzgerald, Woody Guthrie, Jimi Hendrix, etc.
Susan Lacy, who created American Masters in 1986, left to join HBO in September.
Related: ‘American Masters’ Creator Susan Lacy Departs PBS For HBO
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After all the twists and turns on the Shane Salerno-directed docu Salinger that began with a January 2010 Deadline reveal that the film had been shot, how did the documentary do? The American Masters version totaled 2 million viewers, including repeat broadcasts and DVR viewers. This was strong considering the film had been released by The Weinstein Company and was in the top 10 of the year’s theatrical docus, and that it was viewable on Netflix at that time. The Simon & Schuster companion book written by David Shields and Salerno hit both the New York Times and LA Times bestseller lists. And Salerno more than made back the $2 million he invested to make the film, after he made three 7-figure deals with TWC, S&S and American Masters. It didn’t hurt the Salinger estate either, as Catcher In The Rye hit the bestseller charts again, 62 years after its publication in 1951.
“When combined with the incredible sales figures and national social media conversation, it demonstrates the true impact of public television,” said Stephen Segaller, the WNET programming veep in charge of Salinger. “The fact it was the 200th episode of American Masters makes the accomplishment even sweeter.” Read More »
Susan Lacy, creator and executive producer of PBS‘ American Masters series, has signed a multi-year deal to produce and direct documentaries for HBO. PBS said today it plans to continue the docu series Lacy created in 1986. She has produced a library of more than 190 titles in that stretch, exploring the lives and creative journeys of American writers, musicians, artists, filmmakers and actors. It just landed its latest Emmy nomination for its most recent profile Inventing David Geffen. “It’s exciting to have someone as talented as Susan Lacy bring fresh ideas to HBO,” said HBO Documentary Films president Sheila Nevins in a release today announcing the hire. “I’ve long admired her film portraits, which have been consistently stellar over the years. We look forward to great things from her.” Lacy is longtime PBS veteran, first with key roles in Great Performances and American Playhouse, and she later left to serve as head of the East Coast office of Robert Redford’s Sundance Institute. She rejoined NY pubcaster WNET in 1986 to launch American Masters, which has won a total of 14 Emmys in 67 nominations, 12 Peabody Awards, three Grammys, and a pair of Producers Guild Awards. The 200th film in the series, Shane Salerno’s biography of JD Salinger, is in theatrical release and slated to air early in … Read More »
2ND UPDATE, 9:23 AM: It has been quite a week for J.D. Salinger. The Shane Salerno documentary Salinger has been shown to only two parties so far, and in both cases, the result was a smashing deal. First to see it was the American Masters team, which quickly paid low-seven figures to license U.S. domestic TV rights and make it the 200th installment of the prestigious program in January. Second to see it were the Simon & Schuster editors, who quickly made a worldwide rights deal on the companion book, The Private War Of J.D. Salinger. Agency sources tell me that deal was closer to $2 million than $1 million for the sprawling book by David Shields and Salerno. It will be published in September, just ahead of the theatrical release.
Next up: the feature distribution deal. I don’t get the impression there will be a big gang bang screening and then an auction; it will be a subtler, more selective process than that. But the goal is to lock in a distributor who’ll give it a nice theatrical play in the months before the American Masters premiere next year, and figure out DVD and those other ancillaries excluding U.S. domestic TV rights. By the time all this is done, it should be a nice outcome for Salerno and the eight years and $2 million he invested to assemble both the film and the book. Read More »
The normally media-shy David Geffen gets the American Masters treatment on Tuesday on PBS. Here’s an exclusive clip from American Masters: Inventing David Geffen, when the media mogul talks about all the showbiz jobs he couldn’t keep when he first came to Los Angeles from Brooklyn — until a co-worker suggested he try a new line of work.
Related: David Geffen At TCA