HBO Shares Documentary Plans

Issa Rae
(Image credit: HBO)

HBO announced the production of documentary Seen & Heard, a two-parter exploring the history of Black television “as seen through the eyes of trailblazers who wrote, produced, created and starred in groundbreaking series of the past and present,” said HBO. 

The documentary is produced and directed by Phil Bertelsen and executive produced by Issa Rae and Montrel McKay of Issa Rae Productions, the team at 3 Arts Entertainment, including Jonathan Berry and David Becky, and the team at Ark Media, including Rachel Dretzin and Esther Dere. 

"Black people have such a rich, but often unacknowledged history in Hollywood," said Rae. "We have defined American culture and influenced generations time and time again across the globe. I'm honored to pair with Ark Media to center and celebrate the achievements of those who paved a way for so many of us to tell our stories on television."

The project will offer cultural commentary about representation in black storytelling and feature interviews with actors, showrunners, writers, celebrities and other notable influencers.

HBO shared its projects during WarnerMedia’s virtual TCA presentation. 

HBO also mentioned The Lady and the Dale, a documentary series from Mark and Jay Duplass that explores “an audacious 1970s auto scam centered around a mysterious entrepreneur,” according to the network. 

Nick Cammilleri and Zackary Drucker direct. 

The project tells the story of Elizabeth Carmichael, who rose to prominence when she released a fuel-efficient three-wheeled vehicle during the 1970s gas crisis. As she wins over carmakers and investors, a web of mystery unfolds regarding the car’s technology and Carmichael’s surprising past. “A portrait of an extraordinary entrepreneur’s rise and eventual fall, the series explores a one-of-a-kind story of fraud, family and identity,” said HBO. 

The series is expected to air in 2021.

"We are excited to be collaborating yet again with HBO in the docu-series space, and for the chance to bring the complex story of Liz Carmichael and her three-wheeled car to life," said Mark and Jay Duplass, who produce Room 104 for HBO.

The brothers executive produce, along with Mel Eslyn, through their production company Duplass Brothers Productions. Andre Gaines, Allen Bain, Nick Cammilleri, Alana Carithers and Zackary Drucker will also exec produce. 

Other documentary projects for later this year from HBO include Yusuf Hawkins: Storm Over Brooklyn, directed by Muta’Ali. Debuting Aug. 12, it’s about Hawkins, a Black teenager who was murdered in 1989 by a group of young white men in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. 

The Vow, a series from Jehane Noujaim and Karim Amer, looks behind the headlines of the self-improvement organization NXIVM. That starts Aug. 23. 

Siempre Luis, a portrait of Luis A. Miranda Jr. bringing his son Lin-Manuel Miranda’s production of Hamilton to his home island of Puerto Rico, airs later this year. 

Starting in November, HBO will feature a weekly anthology of crime-focused documentary films. Those include Crazy, Not Insane, directed by Alex Gibney. That profiles forensic psychiatrist Dr. Dorothy Otnow Lewis, who has spent her life investigating the interior lives of violent people, working with numerous serial killers, including Ted Bundy. 

Baby God, directed by Hannah Olson, is an examination of a Las Vegas fertility specialist, the late Dr. Quincy Fortier, who assisted hundreds of couples struggling with difficulty conceiving. Decades later, many children born from his interventions discover through DNA and genealogical websites that Dr. Fortier had used his own sperm to impregnate their mothers without their knowledge or consent.

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.