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Participant Media Reteams with Academy Award®-nominated Filmmaker Steve James and Kartemquin Films on documentary Chicago Story

Chicago Story

LOS ANGELES, CA (December 10, 2018) – Participant Media announced today that it has commenced production on the feature documentary film Chicago Story, the newest project from two-time Academy Award®-nominated filmmaker Steve James and his longtime production home, Kartemquin Films. Participant Media will finance the project which will be produced by James and Zak Piper. Participant’s Jeff Skoll and Diane Weyermann will executive produce with Alex Kotlowitz and Gordon Quinn. James, Piper and Kotlowitz previously collaborated on The Interrupters.

Chicago Story (working title) will be a mosaic portrait of Chicago today, captured at this crucial juncture in the city's history – the upcoming mayoral election in February 2019. Principal photography is already underway.

“This is a film I’ve wanted to do for years, and right now seems the perfect time to make it.  Chicago finds itself at a significant crossroads in so many ways as its citizens grapple with its future and who will lead them,” says Steve James. “I’m thrilled to be partnering with Participant again after our wonderful collaboration on America to Me.”

Diane Weyermann, President of Documentary Film and Television for Participant Media, commented: “We’re incredibly proud to be working again with Steve James. He truly is one of the most prolific, revered and compassionate filmmakers of our time. Chicago Story directly follows his recent, highly acclaimed unscripted series, America to Me, and we are excited by his creative vision for this deeply human, contemporary story.”

America to Me, which James directed and executive produced, marked the first in a growing slate of acclaimed television content from Participant Media. Acquired and released by Starz, the ground-breaking unscripted series, recently named one of the “Ten Best TV Shows of 2018” by The New York Times, follows students, teachers and administrators in Chicagoland’s Oak Park and River Forest High School, one of the country’s most exemplary and diverse public schools, over the course of a year as they grapple with decades-long racial and educational inequities. Digging deep into the experiences of a racially diverse student population, America to Me, in tandem with a nationwide social impact campaign from Participant Media and Starz, sparked thousands of local conversations around issues of race, education and equity today.

In addition to America to Me, Steve James has several acclaimed directing and producing credits. He was nominated for an Academy Award® for Best Documentary for Abacus: Small Enough to Jail, and for Best Editing for Hoop Dreams. He has directed three Emmy Award®-winning films: The Interrupters, Life Itself and Abacus: Small Enough to Jail. His other credits include Stevie, At the Death House Door, The New Americans and No Crossover: The Trial of Allen Iverson.

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Participant MediaAbout Participant Media

Founded in 2004 by Jeff Skoll, Participant Media’s (www.participantmedia.com) content combines the power of a good story well told with opportunities for real world impact and awareness around the most pressing global issues of our time. As an industry content leader, Participant annually produces up to six narrative feature films, five documentary films, three episodic television series, and more than 30 hours of digital short form programming, through its digital subsidiary SoulPancake—all aimed at entertainment that inspires social awareness and engaging audiences to participate in positive social change. Participant’s content and social impact mandate speaks directly to the rise of today’s “conscious consumer,” representing over 2 billion consumers who are compelled to make impactful content a priority focus. Through its worldwide network of traditional and digital distribution, aligned with partnerships with key non-profit and NGO organizations, Participant is positioned uniquely within the industry to engage a rapidly growing audience while bringing global awareness and action to today’s most vital issues.

Participant’s more than 100 films, including Spotlight, Contagion, Lincoln, The Help, He Named Me Malala, The Look of Silence, CITIZENFOUR, Food, Inc. and An Inconvenient Truth, have collectively earned 73 Academy Award® nominations and 18 wins, including Best Picture for Green Book and Spotlight and Best Foreign Language Film for Roma and A Fantastic Woman. Participant’s digital entertainment division, SoulPancake (www.soulpancake.com), is an award-winning provider of thought-provoking, joyful, and uplifting digital content including such widely popular series as Kid President and The Science of Happiness and reaches an audience of nearly 9 million fans. Follow Participant Media on Twitter and on Facebook and Instagram. Follow SoulPancake on Twitter and on Facebook and Instagram.


Participant Media became a Certified B Corporation in 2018. B Corps are a new type of company that uses the power of business to solve social and environmental problems. B Corp certification is to business what Fair Trade certification is to coffee or USDA Organic certification is to milk.