EXCLUSIVE: R.J. Cutler will direct and produce the documentary series Big Vape, an adaptation of Jamie Ducharme’s upcoming nonfiction book about the rise of the controversial e-cigarette company Juul. Cutler just directed the Showtime docu Belushi and has upcoming Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry which will be released February 26 on Apple TV+.
Cutler’s This Machine is teamed on the series with Amblin Television and Time Studios to chronicle the rise of Juul from a scrappy tech start-up to a multibillion-dollar tobacco company that at one point controlled 72% of the market. This will be no puff piece: Juul’s rise, and the high nicotine concentration and flavored products, helped spark what top health authorities labeled an epidemic of youth addiction.
Amblin optioned the book last year. Executive producing with Cutler are Amblin Partners’ co-presidents of television Darryl Frank and Justin Falvey (The Americans), This Machine’s Trevor Smith (Belushi) and Elise Pearlstein (American Factory, Food, Inc.). Time Studios’ Mike Beck, Rebecca Teitel and Ian Orefice will serve as co-executive producers. Todd Cohen and Clint LaVigne will work with Frank and Falvey to oversee day-to-day development of the project for Amblin.
The book Big Vape will be published in June this year by Henry Holt. A Time staff writer, Ducharme covers health, science and medicine and has written almost 40 articles on vaping since joining the publication three years ago. Her cover story, “The New American Addiction: How Juul Hooked Kids and Ignited a Public Health Crisis,” became one of the magazine’s most read stories of 2019.
Cutler’s won Emmys and has been Oscar nominated for his work that includes The War Room, A Perfect Candidate, The September Issue, Listen to Me Marlon, The World According to Dick Cheney and Thin. He has created such nonfiction TV programs as the Emmy-winning American High, Freshman Diaries and 30 Days. He also hatched and directed Nashville, and the Chloe Grace Moretz-starrer If I Stay, as well as the podcast The Oval Office Tapes.
Becky Sweren of Aevitas Creative Management handled the book deal, selling Ducharme’s book to Holt in a major pre-empt; Cutler is represented by Lighthouse Management + Media, CAA and Jeanne Newman at HJTH.