BuzzFeed Developing True-Crime TV Series With NBCU's Wilshire Studios

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Joe Berlinger

The docuseries will look at the unsolved death of Mississippi teen Jessica Chambers, who was set on fire in 2014.

Wilshire Studios, the unscripted production arm of NBCUniversal, is developing a true-crime docuseries based on a BuzzFeed News investigation into the mysterious death of a Mississippi teen, The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed. 

The series will be inspired by the reporting of BuzzFeed News senior national reporter Katie J.M. Baker, who reported on the still-unsolved death of Jessica Chambers, who was set on fire in December 2014. Joe Berlinger (Brother's Keeper) will executive produce.

"Tragic in its own right, the story of Jessica Chambers speaks to all of us, from erupting racial tensions to the growing entanglements of rural poverty and drug use to the weakening of authorities in the face of a media-consuming culture," said Berlinger. "The opportunity to partner with Wilshire Studios and Buzzfeed with the goal of digging into the case and hopefully providing some answers for the family and community still struggling in its aftermath is the reason I got into this business."

Added Dawn Olmstead, executive vp development at Wilshire Studios: "Jessica's heartbreaking story continues to spark tremendous public interest largely due to the groundbreaking reporting by BuzzFeed News. We look forward to re-examining this very gruesome and controversial murder through Joe Berlinger's creative lens, and bringing to life his unparalleled vision in the true crime documentary genre."

     

The forthcoming series will focus in part on the trial of Quinton Tellis, who was charged with Chambers' murder but has pleaded not guilty to the charges. 

Matthew Henick, BuzzFeed's head of development, called the the series "the perfect example of how BuzzFeed can extend the life of its content — be it serious journalism or entertaining videos — beyond the original social platforms where it was created." 

The project comes a year and a half after NBCUniversal invested $250 million in BuzzFeed. The entertainment company has since doubled down on the investment, seeding BuzzFeed with an additional $200 million last year.

Since the investment, the two companies have worked closely together, with BuzzFeed developing Snapchat content with NBC during the Olympics. 

The partnership has yielded other development opportunities, too. THR reported last July that NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment was developing web series Mom vs. Chef for broadcast. Now, The Voice producer Lee Metzger has signed on to the project. The two companies are also working together to develop a series based on BuzzFeed's popular Try Guys videos.  

On the film side, meanwhile, BuzzFeed has teamed with Warner Bros. to adapt its Brother Orange editorial series into a feature-length project starring Jim Parsons. 

The Wall Street Journal first reported on the news.

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