Development Slate: Documentaries including Scorsese’s CLINTON film

By Jef Dinsmore on Feb 8, 2013 to Documentaries


It is time for another round in HBOWatch’s Development Slate. This is our ongoing look at what projects and deals HBO is considering for future entertainment choices on our favorite premium network. This particular installment focuses on Documentary programming that is being made for or purchased by HBO’s Sheila Nevins. OK, OK, calm down. I know how you clamor for and adore anything about the latest non-fiction fare on HBO.  They always offer  us unique and diverse choices but the latest batch seem to be of the biographical variety.  Here are the latest acquisitions.

  •  Martin Scorsese Directs Clinton Documentary

HBO seems to love delving into political matter with movies like RECOUNT, GAME CHANGE and even the comedic series VEEP. It Clinto_Scoresesehas also covered the theme with biographical documentaries of the likes of George H. W. Bush, Ronald Reagan and the current POTUS. And HBO is not done. It has not only green lit DOUBLE DOWN on the movie front but another biographic doc as well.

Acclaimed filmmaker Martin Scorsese will produce and direct a film spotlighting the 42nd President of the United States, William Jefferson Clinton. Made with Clinton’s full cooperation, the film will explore his perspectives on history, politics, culture and the world. The director said of his subject matter –

“A towering figure who remains a major voice in world issues, President Clinton continues to shape the political dialogue both here and around the world. Through intimate conversations, I hope to provide greater insight into this transcendent figure.”

Upon learning of the project and who was behind the lens President Clinton stated –

“I am pleased that legendary director Martin Scorsese and HBO have agreed to do this film. I look forward to sharing my perspective on my years as president and my work in the years since, with HBO’s audience.”

The Clinton documentary marks Scorsese’s fourth collaboration with  HBO, following the documentaries PUBLIC SPEAKING and the Emmy-winning GEORGE HARRISON: LIVING IN THE MATERIAL WORLD and the hit series BOARDWALK EMPIRE, for which he serves as an executive producer. HBO Watch will watch for it.


  •  Music Maestro Stephen Sondheim is Documentary Subject  

You might not know the subject of this documentary by name but you will recognize some of his accomplishments. Stephen Sondheim is one of the most successful Rich&Sondheimcomposers and lyricists to make the Broadway stage. Have you heard of West Side Story, Gypsy, A Funny thing Happened On The Way To The Forum, Company, Follies, A Little Night Music, Sweeney Todd, Pacific Overtures, Anyone can Whistle, Merrily We Roll Along, Sunday In the Park With George, Assassins, Into The Woods, or Road Show.  I bet you have. At some point you will be able to learn about the man behind the music of these works with this future documentary.

The man behind the film is Frank Rich who knows his subject and the stage. He is a former New York Times chief theatre critic. His current job as producer, which came around when he signed a development deal with HBO in 2008, has given him the opportunity to chronicle Sondheim’s career and also create other content for the cable network. Rich is also one of the producers of the Washington satire VEEP. And just maybe, we will see more from him.  Here, Sondheim is seated left; Rich on right.


  • From Sundance Festival comes a Pussy Riot film

Pussy_riotAlright, this is a test to see how many times I can use the words Pussy Riot in this piece. No, not really. But, I do want to tell you of an already made documentary that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival this year. It is entitled PUSSY RIOT – A PUNK PRAYER and HBO has now obtained the television rights to it.

But, for now, we got to ask, what is the subject matter here? Pussy Riot is a Russian feminist punk rock group comprised of up to eleven different performers. They stage “guerrilla performances” in public places. The film, directed and produced by Mike Lerner and Maxim Pozdorovkin, tells the story of three of the young members of the group who were arrested on charges of religious hatred after they performed a “punk prayer” inside Russia’s main cathedral last year. The performance reverberated around the globe. The controversy landed them on trial and in jail and soon on HBO.


  • Whatever happened to THE LADY FROM RANGOON?

No real news here but the documentary THE LADY FROM RANGOON has gone AWOL.

Here is a small blurb we reported that the show was expected to air in 12.12.

It profiles Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the opposition movement for democracy in Burma, who was under house arrest for 15 of the last 21 years. The film features an interview that was filmed covertly before her release. The film was directed by Angus MacQueen.

HBOWatch will watch for it and all the upcoming films to surface at some point.





  • Robbie Moraes

    New Media; HBO gives people the choice and opportunity to make a film about anything. It is far above Reality TV. It is not full of pompus interviews and ideas that you often see on most PBS documentary films.
    They are made with the style of effort that goes into fictional feature films, and they are often better for it.

  • Jef Dinsmore

    What ? Nobody wants to type the words PUSSY RIOT?
    Sometimes juvenile humor just feels right.

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