EXCLUSIVE: Renowned documentarian Lisa Cortés has entered into a first-look development agreement with the Museum of the City of New York, the goal being to hone documentary IP based on the museum’s exhibitions.
News of the deal — initiated by producer Jon Sechrist — follows the Sundance world premiere of Cortés’ latest critically acclaimed feature doc, Little Richard: I Am Everything, which was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize in U.S. Documentary Competition and sold to Magnolia Pictures.
Cortés will now look to build a creative pipeline from MCNY’s 100 years of exhibitions to the screen, with plans for projects on food, social justice, music, and more. The first being made under the deal is a docuseries based on Gingerbread NYC: The Great Borough Bake-Off, an exhibition inviting bakers from every borough to design New York City-inspired gingerbread creations.
Cortés will develop and produce all projects through her New York-based production company Cortés Filmworks, in partnership with Blue Ant Studios, where the filmmaker has a preexisting deal.
“The Great Borough Bake-Off inspired our first collaboration with MCNY,” Cortés told Deadline. “Cortés Filmworks is so excited to launch a Borough Bake-Off series to celebrate the global food traditions of our five boroughs, and the singular personalities behind the bakers.”
Continued Cortés: “As a long-time New Yorker, I know this city generates the best stories in the world. MCNY, with its 100-year legacy of capturing the city’s most vibrant qualities – from its street life and liberation struggles to its vast artistic triumphs – is the ideal partner for developing content that will entertain and inspire.”
“The Museum of the City of New York has been NYC’s storyteller for nearly a century. With the treasure trove of incredible content, we are excited to embark upon this new venture,” added MCNY Vice President Sheryl Victor Levy. “Cortés Filmworks makes perfect sense as our partner in extending MCNY’s mission and content beyond the museum’s walls. Lisa’s talents as a storyteller, and her unflagging commitment to exploring the hidden histories that shape our lives, guarantee that the museum’s legacy is in the right hands.”
Cortés is an Emmy-winning producer and director whose documentary Little Richard: I Am Everything, on the transgressive rock ‘n’ roll icon of the same name, opened this year’s Sundance Film Festival. The film tells the story of the Black queer origins of rock ‘n’ roll, exploding the whitewashed canon of American pop music to reveal the innovator – the originator – Richard Penniman. Among other forthcoming projects from Cortés is The Empire of Ebony, which explores the Black publishing powerhouse that forever changed American culture.
Cortés previously co-directed and produced the Emmy-nominated voter suppression doc All In: The Fight for Democracy, released on Prime Video. Additional credits as a producer or EP include Roger Ross Williams’ Emmy-winning HBO documentary The Apollo, the doc Invisible Beauty on fashion revolutionary Bethann Hardison, and Lee Daniels’ Precious, to name a few.
Cortés in April of last year began working with Blue Ant Studios to develop and produce scripted and unscripted properties spanning documentary, music, history and biography, and narrative. Her company, Cortés Filmworks, is committed to telling complex, powerful stories from new perspectives, and to elevating the talent often overlooked by the mainstream.
Named “Best Museum” in Time Out New York’s “Best of the City 2021,” The Museum of the City of New York aims to foster understanding of the distinctive nature of urban life in the world’s most influential metropolis. The museum, which has also won multiple American Alliance of Museums awards, engages visitors by celebrating, documenting, and interpreting the city’s past, present, and future.
Cortés is repped by Black Box Management.
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