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DEC
19
9 MOS

Xbox's First Original Show: Docuseries From Oscar Winner

The first installment from Oscar winner Simon Chinn and Emmy winner Jonathan Chinn will explore the fabled Atari mystery directed by Zak Penn as the Nancy Tellem studio launches into original programming.

Jonathan and Simon Chinn - H 2013
Jonathan Chinn, left, and Simon Chinn

Nancy Tellem's Xbox Entertainment Studios has picked up its first original show, ordering a documentary series from Oscar winner Simon Chinn and Emmy winner Jonathan Chinn.

The untitled series will feature a string of original installments exploring the digital revolution, including new and different topics that have yet to be examined. The series, which will debut exclusively on Xbox in 2014, will launch with an episode examining the "great video game burial of 1983" when Atari -- faced with negative response to the E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial video game -- buried millions of unsold game cartridges in a small New Mexico town.

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The landfill in Alamogordo will be excavated by Fuel Entertainment and documented by Lightbox, the newly launched multiplatform media company from Simon Chinn (Man on WireSearching for Sugar Man) and Jonathan Chinn (30 Days, American High). Avid gamer/filmmaker Zak Penn (Avengers) will direct the episode. "When Simon and Jonathan Chinn approached me about this story, I knew it would be something important and fascinating," Penn said. "I wasn’t expecting to be handed the opportunity to uncover one of the most controversial mysteries of gaming lore."

Shooting will begin in January, and the series will air exclusively on Xbox One and Xbox 360 next year. It will be available globally in all markets where Xbox Live is supported.

The documentary series comes as Xbox Entertainment Studios president Tellem has been ramping the studio up to create original content for the 40 million customers worldwide who subscribe to Xbox Live, which already features fare from Netflix, ESPN, HBO Go, Amazon Prime and other providers. The company is also prepping a live-action TV series based on popular video game Halo, with Steven Spielberg attached as an executive producer. Tellem, who took the Microsoft job in 2012, has noted the process of adding original programming has thus far been a slow one as the company creates a template and carves out its foothold in an increasingly crowded landscape. 

"Jonathan and Simon Chinn are the perfect team to spearhead this series for Xbox. They are consummate storytellers and they plan to match their creative sensibility with the best talent in the industry," Tellem said. "These stories will expose how the digital revolution created a global democracy of information, entertainment and commerce, and how it impacts our lives every day."

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In a January interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Tellem said she was looking at all forms of content for XES, including live events, reality, game shows, documentaries and scripted comedy or drama. "We'll cover it all. We're figuring this out as we go. But we certainly intend to produce things with high production value, with the same breath of storytelling that you see on traditional TV."

Cousins Jonathan and Simon Chinn's Lightbox is a multiplatform company focused on creating high-quality nonfiction programming for the small screen. The documentary series marks its first project.

"Our careers have taken different paths, but we have always had a strongly shared sensibility and approach to nonfiction -- mine at the more commercial end of feature documentary, Jonathan’s at the more thoughtful end of reality. I am incredibly excited by the creative opportunities that exist to break new ground and find new audiences for our content," Lightbox co-founder Simon Chinn said. "Being able to work with top industry talent is what will set us apart."

Added co-founder Jonathan Chinn: "With so many new distribution opportunities now available, our ability to combine the highest-quality content with broad commercial appeal will, we hope, make us stand out for a whole array of buyers hungry for the best in non-fiction programming."

Based in Los Angeles and London, Lightbox is currently developing projects for broadcast, cable, on-demand subscription services and online platforms in the U.S. and U.K.

Lightbox is repped by CAA and Hansen Jacobson.

E-mail: Lesley.Goldberg@THR.com
Twitter: @Snoodit