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Hillary Rodham Clinton and Chelsea Clinton’s HiddenLight Productions has its eyes on a new scripted project based on the Maisie Dobbs series of novels, the former U.S. presidential candidate told the Royal Television Society’s Cambridge Convention on Wednesday.
The firm said it has acquired the film and TV rights to the series of 16 books, which has sold millions of copies worldwide, as its “inaugural fiction option.”
Speaking at the Cambridge event along with her daughter via video link, Hillary Clinton unveiled the news. “One of our favorite books that Chelsea and I have shared over many years is a book about a character called Maisie Dobbs, which is a series about a WWI field nurse who turns into a detective, and we just optioned it,” she said. “It’s an international bestseller by Jacqueline Winspear, and we love the character. It goes from WWI to the Spanish Civil War to WWII. She comes of age in a time of great social upheaval.”
The Clintons, alongside Sam Branson, launched HiddenLight in December with the goal of creating documentary, unscripted and scripted content for film, TV and digital platforms that focuses on the human spirit. The company’s first project is an event docuseries based on their 2019 bestseller, The Book of Gutsy Women: Favorite Stories of Courage and Resilience. It landed at Apple with a straight-to-series order following a bidding war.
Hillary Clinton said on Wednesday that, under the terms of the project deal, she couldn’t yet share specific names appearing in the series, but said, “I can guarantee there are some names you know” and others people will be glad to have learned about after watching.
“We have been having an amazing time” shooting the series and done “some incredible things,” she teased, again saying she couldn’t share details. Drawing laughs, Chelsea Clinton explained though that her mother has at times said during production that “Chelsea would love to do that, and I would love to just sit right here and cheer her on.”
Earlier this year, the duo set their sights on their first scripted TV series by acquiring rights to best-selling author Gayle Tzemach Lemmon’s The Daughters of Kobani: A Story of Rebellion, Courage, and Justice. It is based on hundreds of hours of interviews and on-the-ground reporting about the all-female Kurdish militia who took on ISIS in Northern Syria and won. Following the unlikely showdown emerged a fighting force who spread their own political vision and established gender equality in their corner of the Middle East and beyond. In the process, they earned the respect — and significant military support — of U.S. Special Operations Forces.
Chelsea said HiddenLight won’t choose projects based on limited genres or target audiences. “We want to break down those silos” of kids versus serious or other genres, she said. Her mother added: “We are trying to reach a very broad audience. … Some of the stories are worthy, some are fun, some are entertaining, some are informative.”
Asked about their approach to people whose stories they want to tell, Chelsea said: “I never want anyone to feel awkward or feel as if there is any hidden agenda despite us being called HiddenLight. We are very candid, transparent, inclusive for what we hope to do.” She added that this was “at least partly because I haven’t always felt that way when I have been the subject.”
Added Hillary Clinton: “We are interested in really letting people tell their stories.” She also shared that “we have had to park our biases at the door” before some interviews.
Asked about the basic idea behind HiddenLight, Hillary Clinton said: “We came up with the name … because we really do want to cats a light on those who are often overlooked or forgotten characters to try to demonstrate there is hope and resilience and gutsiness in the darkest of times and places.” She added: “For too long, I think it’s fair to say, attention has been paid primarily to the loudest voices in the room, yet lying under the radar there are generations of change makers in every place across the globe who are making a difference.”
The TV industry conference, held at King’s College in Cambridge through Thursday, also includes such speakers as HBO and HBO Max chief content officer Casey Bloys, DAZN chairman (and former Disney and TikTok top executive) Kevin Mayer, ITV CEO Carolyn McCall, BBC boss Tim Davie, Sky CEO Dana Strong and YouTube chief business officer Robert Kyncl. The theme of this year’s convention is “Broadcast Britain: Reshaping Britishness on the Global Stage.”
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