VH1 rocks music documentaries

Channel looking to pop with 'Monterey'

VH1 has signed on to produce and air “Monterey 40,” an original docu about the iconic Monterey Pop Festival.

Pic, for which documentarian D.A. Pennebaker has been enlisted as a consultant, looks at the 1967 concert that helped kick off the so-called Summer of Love and was notable as the first major U.S. appearance for Jimi Hendrix.

“Monterey 40” will be part of the net’s Rock Doc series; it’s set to air June 16, the 40th anniversary of the fest.

Paul McCartney, Jann Wenner and Bob Weir are among those interviewed in the pic.

Pennebaker, known for his movies about legendary ’60s musicians, directed “Monterey Pop,” the original concert film about the music fest.

Erik Himmelsbach will direct and produce “Monterey 40,” Mark Anstendig will serve as supervising producer, and Brad Abramson, Shelly Tatro and Michael Hirschorn are exec producers. Pennebaker’s son Frazer and Lou Adler are also consultants.

Movie reflects the beefing up of the Rock Docs line. Over the next few months, VH1 will bow a number of films from the series, including “Last Days of Left Eye,” about late TLC band member Lisa Lopes, and “1977,” a two-part, four-hour docu about a tumultuous year in New York history.

“Left Eye” will open the Atlanta Film Festival. Fest is creating an event in Lopes’ hometown, with her family and friends making rare public appearances at a special screening. Move is part of VH1’s larger plan to increase output and investment in the doc category. Execs say they are aiming to air a new film about once a month and hope to increase the awareness of Rock Docs among both consumers and the trade.

In addition to its production pipeline, net is also more aggressively working festivals for both acquisitions and as a marketing platform.

It has co-produced several theatricals, including Kiefer Sutherland starrer “I Trust You to Kill Me” and Focus political doc “The U.S. vs. John Lennon,” a Lionsgate co-production that played the Toronto and Venice film fests.

And it has broadened its source of funding with creative financing deals; the Sundance Channel, for instance, helped fund “The Drug Years” in exchange for a broadcast window.

While docs don’t usually draw the same aud as hit shows like “I Love New York,” execs hope serious longform programming is seen as a staple.

The Rocks Docs expansion mirrors “the broadening of the channel,” said exec veep of programming/production Hirschorn. “It’s important for us to show people there’s a lot of diversity on our channel and we’re not defined by the thing that happens to be getting the most attention at the moment.”

VH1 helped turn the music special into a household form with its “Behind the Music” series. But execs say that because the zeitgeist has changed, the mandate must shift too.

Net wants the scope of the movies to go beyond music and fit with net’s larger themes of culture; “1977,” for example, looks at creativity in a historical context

“Behind the Music” was “great for a long period of time, but the formula got old after a while. With Rock Docs, we want to do a wide variety of projects that have a sophisticated mix of storytelling and points of view,” said veep of production Abramson.