'Free Solo' Directors Sign First-Look TV Deal at National Geographic

Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin will develop series projects and feature documentaries for the Disney-owned cable network.
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Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin

Free Solo directors and producers Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin are making National Geographic their TV home.

The filmmakers and their company, Little Monster Films, have signed a first-look deal with the Disney-owned cable network to develop unscripted series and specials for Nat Geo in addition to more feature documentaries. The deal includes a green light for the duo's next feature doc, with details to be revealed later.

The announcement comes on the heels of Free Solo winning seven Emmy Awards, sweeping every category in which it was nominated — including directing honors for Vasarhelyi and Chin. The film, chronicling climber Alex Honnold's unassisted ascent of Yosemite National Park's El Capitan, also won the Oscar for best documentary feature earlier in the year.

"Chai and Jimmy are extraordinary filmmakers and tremendous partners, and we are thrilled to be expanding our relationship with them," Courteney Monroe, president, National Geographic Global Television Networks, said Monday in a statement. "The success of Free Solo surpassed even our wildest expectations, and we cannot wait to embark on this exciting new chapter with the incredibly talented team behind it."

Said Vasarhelyi and Chin: "National Geographic offered unconditional support and enthusiasm for Free Solo from day one, and we truly could not have asked for better partners. We are excited to have an outlet to grow our production company's work in television, expanding the stories we are able to tell, as well as a partner for our next feature doc."

The Nat Geo deal is the first expansion beyond feature documentaries for Little Monster Films. Vasarhelyi and Chin have hired former Cinetic Media executive Anna Barnes as vp development and production for the company. She will oversee growth of the company and work with the principals to identify and develop new projects.

Free Solo premiered on Nat Geo in March and became the channel's most-watched unscripted special ever with 1.45 million viewers in the three days after its debut.  

WME negotiated the deal on behalf of the filmmakers.