Wilshire Studios & Buzzfeed News to Develop Crime Investigation Docu-Series
Wilshire Studios, the unscripted production arm of NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment, and BuzzFeed News today announced plans to develop an active crime investigation docu-series based on the mysterious death of Jessica Chambers, the Mississippi teen who was doused with gasoline and set on fire in December of 2014. The series is inspired by the investigative reporting of BuzzFeed News' Senior National Reporter Katie J.M. Baker, who reported Chambers' story, uncovering developments and helping raise awareness about the case, which remains unsolved. Academy Award® nominated, two-time Emmy® and Peabody winner Joe Berlinger ("Brother's Keeper" and the "Paradise Lost Trilogy") is set to executive produce.
"Tragic in its own right, the story of Jessica Chambers speaks to all of us, from erupting racial tensions to the growing entanglements of rural poverty and drug use to the weakening of authorities in the face of a media-consuming culture," said Joe Berlinger. "The opportunity to partner with Wilshire Studios and Buzzfeed with the goal of digging into the case and hopefully providing some answers for THE FAMILY and community still struggling in its aftermath is the reason I got into this business."
"Jessica's heartbreaking story continues to spark tremendous public interest largely due to the groundbreaking reporting by Buzzfeed News," said Dawn Olmstead, Executive Vice President, Development, Wilshire Studios. "We look forward to re-examining this very gruesome and controversial murder through Joe Berlinger's creative lens, and bring to life his unparalleled vision in the true crime documentary genre."
"This is the perfect example of how BuzzFeed can extend the life of its content - be it serious journalism or entertaining videos - beyond the original social platforms where it was created," said Matthew Henick, Head of Development for BuzzFeed. "We're excited to partner with Wilshire Studios and Joe Berlinger to bring Katie Baker's impactful reporting to a new audience through this docu-series."
Due in part to Baker's reporting, the mystery and unanswered questions surrounding Chambers' death has made it one of the most-talked about stories on the Internet, with amateur online sleuths still trying to help solve it. Buzzfeed News Editor-In-Chief Ben Smith said, "Katie's reporting is representative of what we do at BuzzFeed News -- telling complex stories with an open mind, and deeply understanding the intersection of -- in this case -- social media and a dark and unsolved mystery."
In 2016, a grand jury indicted Quinton Tellis, 27, charging him with capital murder. Tellis has pled not guilty to the charge. A trial date has been set for July of 2017, which Wilshire Studios plans to cover as part of its development.
About Joe Berlinger: Academy Award®-nominated and Emmy® and Peabody-winning filmmaker Joe Berlinger has been a leading voice in nonfiction film and television for two decades, with a particular emphasis on the criminal justice system. Berlinger's films include the landmark documentaries Brother's Keeper (PBS), a Sundance audience award winner; THE PARADISE Lost Trilogy (HBO), which helped lead to the release of the wrongfully-convicted West Memphis Three after 18 years of incarceration; and most recently, Whitey: United States of America vs. James J. Bulger, a searing investigation into law enforcement corruption at the highest levels (CNN). Six of Berlinger's documentary features have premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, earning three Grand Jury Prize nominations. Berlinger has been a creator on numerous nonfiction television series, including six seasons of the critically-acclaimed sundance CHANNEL series Iconoclasts; the Emmy®-winning Ten Days That Changed America for The History Channel; the Emmy®-nominated series Oprah's Master Class and The System with Joe Berlinger for Al Jazeera America. Tony Robbins: I Am Not Your Guru premiered on Netflix in July 2016. Berlinger's most recent TV series was Judgment Day: Prison or Parole? for ID, in which he and his team were granted unprecedented access to parole board hearings.
About BuzzFeed: BuzzFeed is a global media company that produces and distributes original news, entertainment and video. BuzzFeed is redefining online advertising with its social, content-driven publishing technology and reaches a global audience of over 7B content views.
About Wilshire Studios: Wilshire Studios develops and produces engaging and innovative non-scripted, original programming for all media platforms. A division of NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment, Wilshire is invigorating its slate with a focus on attracting high caliber producing talent and diversifying its content strategy with thought-provoking docu-series, news programming, reality and competition formats. Most recently, the studio has signed a first-look deal with rapper Iggy Azalea to create content designed to reach a millennial audience, a first-look deal with TV personality and media entrepreneur Amy Palmer, whose first project will be the docu-series "Making Madison" about Youtube star Madison Beer, and overall deals with Emmy-nominated producer and showrunner Aliyah Silverstein, and with veteran television producer and showrunner Troy Vanderheyden. Wilshire produces E!'s signature "Live from the Red Carpet" series, which provides in-depth coverage of Hollywood's biggest nights. The studio also produces "Syfy Presents Live from Comic-Con," a three-night telecast which broadcasts live from one of the biggest fan conventions, San Diego Comic-Con. Wilshire has also produced 300 episodes of the dating game show "Baggage" for the Game Show Network.