CNN could try to break some news of its own at the Sundance Film Festival.
The Time Warner-owned cable network is best known for its regular schedule of news programs that enlist the talents of everyone from Chris Cuomo to Don Lemon, but has in recent years made a name for itself by showcasing interesting documentaries. Executives will be on hand at Sundance to see if any of the offerings fit its needs, said Amy Entelis, CNN’s executive vice president for talent and content, who also oversees CNN Films.
“We go there to show our own films, but we also go to look at other people’s films,” she said.
CNN has in recent months placed more emphasis on commissioning its own projects, she said, then working to secure a theatrical release for them in hopes of boosting interest in the content when it runs on air. At the same time, some of CNN’s most successful documentaries have been found at Sundance. Entelis cited “Blackfish,” a project about the treatment of a captive killer whale at SeaWorld that was acquired at Sundance in 2013, or “Dinosaur 13,” which followed the discovery of a Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton in South Dakota, and was acquired from the festival in 2014.
“People watch CNN for those kinds of stories, and our goal is to find those kinds of stories at Sundance,” she said. “We will actively be looking as well as showing our own work.” She declined to say if any particular titles slated to be shown had already piqued her interest.
CNN intends to show two projects slated to run on its air in the not-too-distant future. “Legion of Brothers” focuses on the fate of U.S. special operations forces that were present in Afghanistan after the terrorist attacks on America on September 11, 2001. “We tell their story, and we also seem them 15 years after and how they reflect back on their singular experience. Peter Bergen, a CNN contributor who has a specialty in journalism about and analysis of terrorism, is one of the producers. Among his accomplishments over the years was a 1997 television interview with Osama bin Laden that was broadcast by CNN.
The cable-news network will also preview its coming eight-part documentary series, “The History of Comedy,” slated to launch February 9. CNN will screen two episodes in the series, Entelis said, having noticed some good response when it pre-screened episodes of “United Shades of America,” an original series featuring comedian W. Kamau Bell, last year in advance of its debut on the network. Executive producers of the series are Sean Hayes and Todd Milliner and Mark Herzog and Christopher G. Cowen.
People interested in other CNN Films efforts can watch CNN Wednesday night when it screens an ambitious project, “The End: Inside The Last Days of the Obama White House.” CNN negotiated with the current administration to gain access to White House staffers from the day after Election Day through President Obama’s farewell speech in Chicago last week, Entelis noted. “We approached them with this idea of a fly-on-the-wall documentary, and it took quite a while to figure out how that could be done,” she noted. Because of the need to show the documentary around the end of Obama’s term as President, editing was as much of a challenge as the logistics, she said. “I don’t think there’s been a time to get to see and hear all of the people around the President in this time frame with the degree of candor they offered us,” she added.