EXCLUSIVE: Michael Ellenberg’s Media Res, the independent studio behind high-profile scripted series such as Apple TV+’s The Morning Show and upcoming Pachinko, is expanding into nonfiction. The company has launched a new division, focused on premium nonfiction content, including docuseries, documentary films and unscripted programming.
The new unit will be headed by veteran film and television producer/executive Sarba Das, most recently Head of Creative for Documentaries at A24, and has lined up its first project, Humankind, a docuseries based on Rutger Bregman’s bestelling book. Emmy-winning Boys State directors/producers Amanda McBaine and Jesse Moss are attached to direct. They also will executive produce the project through their Mile End Films shingle, along with Ellenberg and Das through Media Res, and author Bregman.
With The Humankind, Ellenberg is extending the strategy he has employed in scripted — optioning bestselling books and developing them into series — to the non-scripted side. His first moves after launching Media Res included optioning bestsellers “Top Of the Morning” and “Pachinko”. That led to the Apple TV+ series The Morning Show and Pachinko, the former headed to its third season and the latter premiering March 25.
The Humankind docuseries makes the case for a radical idea in today’s world: what if human beings aren’t the jerks we are made out to be? What if we are wired to be good but stuff gets in the way. Challenging the conventional wisdom that we are innately selfish creatures, the series is an exploration of the counterargument in favor of the human race, showing how kindness and compassion are at the essence of our nature – and why our better selves often struggle to break free. The docuseries will travel the planet in search of answers to the biggest questions about who we are, exploring history, archaeology, psychology, biology, economics and anthropology to yield a visually stunning and groundbreaking survey of human nature.
“We are thrilled to be launching Media Res Nonfiction with Sarba Das at the helm,” said Ellenberg. “Her intelligence, experience, passion, curiosity and savvy make her the perfect person to lead this new division. We look forward to expanding our storytelling reach into this vital arena.”
Das was most recently Head of Creative for documentaries at A24 where she was Co-Executive Producer on Critics Choice Award winner Val, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival 2021 and sold to Amazon Studios. She was also Executive Producer on the series Home, for AppleTV+ and at A24, developed and oversaw the upcoming Underrated, about NBA star Stephen Curry, with Ryan Coogler producing alongside Unanimous Media and A24.
Das was formerly VP/Head of Documentaries at Pilgrim Media Group, a Lionsgate Company, where she served as executive producer on the NAACP Image Award-winning series High on the Hog for Netflix. She has served in prior roles as an unscripted development and production executive at ABC and Sony Pictures Television. She is also a Film Independent Fellow, who co-wrote, produced and directed the independent feature film Karma Calling.
“I’m delighted to be working alongside Michael and the exceptionally bright and talented team at Media Res who have been behind some of the most resonant narratives in scripted storytelling,” said Das. “We look forward to building a spirited nonfiction slate that will feed our culture’s limitless curiosity for the world and for one another.”
McBaine and Moss have been filmmaking partners for 20 years, co-directing Boys State, which won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival and was released by Apple Original Films and A24. The film won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Non-Fiction Film and the duo received received Emmy and DGA nominations for Outstanding Directorial Achievement. Their previous film The Overnighters won the Special Jury Prize for Intuitive Filmmaking at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival and was released by Drafthouse Films and Netflix. Moss also directed The Family, a five-part series for Netflix, as well as the “Payday” episode of the Netflix series Dirty Money. Mayor Pete, their film documenting Pete Buttigieg’s campaign for President was recently released by Amazon Studios.
Ellenberg founded Media Res in 2017 and has developed high-profile, elevated scripted content for multiple streamers and networks. In addition to The Morning Show and Pachinko, its roster includes limited series Scenes from a Marriage on HBO. Media Res is currently in production on Scott Z. Burns’ Extrapolations, a climate change anthology series at AppleTV+, and Boots Riley’s absurdist comedy I’m a Virgo, set up at Prime Video.
Subscribe to Deadline Breaking News Alerts and keep your inbox happy.