EXCLUSIVE: Lisa Cortés, co-director of Amazon’s voter suppression documentary All In: The Fight for Democracy, is set to direct The Empire of Ebony, a documentary that explores the rise and impact of the first black media empire Ebony magazine and its sister publication, Jet. Cortés will produce the pic with Alyse Shorland and Roger Ross Williams under his One Story Up banner. Cortés and Williams previously collaborated on the Emmy-winning doc, The Apollo.
Currently in production, the doc will focus on the Johnson Publishing Company, the first home to Ebony and Jet. It will explore the media empire’s beginnings as a small publishing company, started by John H. Johnson and Eunice W. Johnson with a five hundred dollar loan, to its incredible growth into a publishing juggernaut with an unparalleled cultural impact. The film will chart the rise of Ebony and Jet and their growth into a brand with a readership base in the millions which has had an undeniable effect on American culture. This will include the important role these publications played in illuminating key moments in American history that went unreported by the mainstream media.
UTA Signs Oscar & Emmy Winning Filmmaker Roger Ross Williams & His Production Company One Story Up
“The lasting impact Ebony and Jet has is undeniable. With these publications, the Johnson Publishing Company changed the entire American press landscape and completely revolutionized the way Black Americans were able to see themselves in popular culture, media, and advertising,” said Williams. “We’ve seen numerous documentaries about other publications like Rolling Stone, Playboy, and The New York Times, but have yet to see something about such dynamic magazines like Ebony and Jet. I’m thrilled to be able to collaborate with Lisa, Linda, and Brenda through One Story Up to bring this project to life and shine a well deserved spotlight on this influential and powerful media empire.”
“Growing up, Ebony and Jet were in every Black household and they were everything!,” said Cortés. “You could start reading at home and finish at the beauty parlor, barbershop, or at your Auntie’s house. In the pages of these magazines I saw Black people who inspired me to dream and create. I’m so excited to be working with the incredible team at One Story Up anchored by Roger Ross Williams, and honored that Linda Johnson Rice has entrusted me to tell this story for the first time. Through a visual archive spanning seventy-five years of the most important moments of African American life, The Empire of Ebony will be a revelatory story of entrepreneurship, innovation and Black love.”
Linda Johnson Rice, chairman and CEO of Johnson Publishing Company, will serve as an executive producer along with Brenda Robinson and One Story Up’s Geoff Martz.
“I am thrilled and honored to work with these stellar filmmakers to share my family’s legacy and showcase the impact that Ebony and Jet have had and continue to have on African African culture and the world at large. I trust Roger, Lisa, and Brenda to tell this story that is both a deeply personal account of what my parents built together and a sweeping history of Black America,” said Rice.
The project presented by One Story Up and Impact Partners, in association with Chicago Media Project, MACRO, The Lagralane Group, and Artemis Rising Foundation.
Additional exec producers include Regina K. Scully, Patty Quillin, Nion McEvoy, Leslie Berriman, Julie Parker Benello, Chaz Ebert, Jason Delane Lee, Yvonne Huff Lee, Jenny Raskin, Geralyn White Dreyfous, Jenifer Westphal, Joe Plummer, Charles D. King, Poppy Hanks, Steve Cohen, Paula Froehle, Jim Swartz, Susan Swartz, David Fialkow, Nina Fialkow, Barbara Dobkin, Eric Dobkin, and Katrina vanden Heuvel.
Subscribe to Deadline Breaking News Alerts and keep your inbox happy.