BuzzFeed is partnering with Universal Cable Productions’ Wilshire Studios to develop a nonfiction series about the 2014 murder of a Mississippi teenager. Inspired by the reporting of BuzzFeed News’ Katie J.M. Baker, the series will explore the killing of Jessica Chambers, who was doused in gasoline and lit on fire in December of that year. Documentary filmmaker Joe Berlinger will serve as executive producer.
The project marks a first foray by BuzzFeed into producing television programming. UCP parent NBCUniversal invested $200 million in BuzzFeed in 2015 and last November pumped another $200 million into the company.
“Jessica’s heartbreaking story continues to spark tremendous public interest largely due to the groundbreaking reporting by BuzzFeed News,” said Dawn Olmstead, executive vice president, development, Wilshire Studios. “We look forward to re-examining this very gruesome and controversial murder through Joe Berlinger’s creative lens, and bring to life his unparalleled vision in the true crime documentary genre.”
Distribution for the docu-series has not been set, but the producers say they will consider all TV networks and outlets, including NBCU broadcast and cable properties.
A grand jury indicted 27-year-old Quentin Tellis with Chambers’ murder last year. A trial for Tellis has been set for July. Wilshire Studios plans to cover the trial for the series.
“This is 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,” said Matthew Henick, head of development for BuzzFeed. “We’re excited to partner with Wilshire Studios and Joe Berlinger to bring Katie Baker’s impactful reporting to a new audience through this docu-series.”