MIPCOM: 'Life Itself' Director Steve James to Make Doc Series 'America to Me'

Steve James, "The Interrupters"
Aaron Wickenden/Courtesy of Kartemquin Films

James' "The Interrupters" is about Chicago's CeaseFire, a group of activists who step in to stop street violence -- one trigger-happy hothead at a time -- by talking with them before they kill. The documentary topped Indiewire's 100-critic poll in June and is up for a Gotham Award on Nov. 28.

The series, which follows a year in the life of a Chicago public school, will be the first nonscripted TV show from 'Spotlight' producer Participant Media.

Documentarian Steve James, director of Life Itself and Hoop Dreams, will direct and produce America to Me, a nonfiction series looking at a year in the life of a Chicago public school.

Participant Media, whose production credits include Oscar-winners Spotlight and Citizenfour, will produce America to Me as the company's first nonscripted TV series.

James will direct and executive produce the series with Kartemquin Films. Gordon Quinn, Betsy Steinberg, Justine Nagan and Jeff Skoll and Diane Weyermann of Participant will executive produce.

America to Me will focus on Chicago’s Oak Park and River Forest High School, one of the country's most diverse and exemplary public schools. In addition to James, the series will feature story directors Kevin Shaw, Rebecca Parish and Bing Liu. John Condne will act as series producer.

Participant CEO David Linde announced the project at international TV market MIPCOM in Cannes on Tuesday, saying the show “further demonstrates and perfectly represents our commitment to producing socially relevant entertainment. Expanding into the unscripted realm with this vibrant and compelling series with a filmmaker of Steve’s caliber and creative vision is incredibly exciting for us.”

In a statement, James said Participant “made it possible for us to do a series I’ve wanted to do for over 10 years. I truly believe the story of Oak Park and River Forest High School can be, in many ways, the story of race and education for young people in America today.”