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Participant Announces Unscripted Series ‘America To Me’ From Acclaimed Filmmaker Steve James

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.


About Participant Media

Participant Media (http://www.participantmedia.com/) is a leading media company dedicated to entertainment that inspires and compels social change. Founded in 2004 by Jeff Skoll, Participant combines the power of a good story well told with opportunities for viewers to get involved. Participant’s more than 75 films, including SpotlightContagion, Lincoln, The Help, He Named Me Malala, The Look of Silence, CITIZENFOUR, Food, Inc., and An Inconvenient Truth, have collectively earned 50 Academy Award® nominations and 11 wins, including Best Picture for Spotlight. Participant’s digital hub, TakePart (http://www.TakePart.com), serves millions of socially conscious consumers each month with daily articles, videos and opportunities to take action. Follow Participant Media on Twitter at @Participant and on Facebook.

The company’s 2016 film slate includes Morgan Neville’s The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble (The Orchard); Alex Gibney’s Zero Days (Magnolia Pictures); Derek Cianfrance’s The Light Between Oceans (DreamWorks Pictures/Disney); Peter Berg’s Deepwater Horizon (Lionsgate); Denial starring Rachel Weisz, Tom Wilkinson, and Timothy Spall (Bleecker Street); Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life, based on James Patterson’s best-seller series (CBS Films); J.A. Bayona’s A Monster Calls (Focus Features); and Pablo Larrain’s Neruda (The Orchard).


About Kartemquin Films

Kartemquin is a collaborative center for documentary makers who seek to foster a more engaged and empowered society. In 2016 Kartemquin celebrates 50 years of sparking democracy through documentary.

A revered resource on issues of fair use, ethics, storytelling and civic discourse, Kartemquin is internationally recognized for crafting quality documentaries backed by innovative community engagement, and for its filmmaker development programs and media advocacy. The organization has won every major critical and journalistic prize, including multiple Emmy, Peabody, duPont-Columbia and Robert F. Kennedy journalism awards, Independent Spirit, IDA, PGA and DGA awards, and an Oscar nomination.

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); Brent E. Huffman’s Saving Mes Aynak (Icarus); Joanna Rudnick’s On Beauty (Women Make Movies); Aaron Wickenden and Dan Rybicky’s Almost There (Factory 25); Maria Finitzo’s In the Game (Grasshopper Films); and the duPont-Columbia award-winning Al Jazeera America series Hard Earned. 2016 releases include Steve James’ Abacus: Small Enough to Jail; Margaret Byrne’s Raising Bertie; and Dinesh Das Sabu’s Unbroken Glass.

Kartemquin is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization based in Chicago. www.kartemquin.com



Ileen Reich

Participant Media



Alice Zou

Participant Media