×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’ Plans Documentary Film Festival (EXCLUSIVE)

If Chuck Todd has his way, NBC’s “Meet the Press” will be as known for political documentaries within five years as it is for snaring exclusive interviews with senators and Cabinet members.

The venerable Sunday public-affairs mainstay is joining forces with the American Film Institute for a film festival to be held in November in Washington D.C. Submissions for what is expected to be a slate of seven short-length documentary films are now being accepted. It’s a surprising extension of a TV mainstay that is in the midst of its 70th year on the air.

“’Meet the Press’’ is the long-form of TV-news programs,” said the seemingly ubiquitous political-news anchor, holding forth from a makeshift office Tuesday in NBC’s New York headquarters. “Why should we not be the place to do this?”

He’s not trying to compete with places like Vice Media or CNN, both of which have gained notice in recent years for documentaries. Instead, he’s vying with the shifting attention span of a rising generation of viewers, whose desire for on-demand video renders obsolete the concept of so-called appointment television.  “Everyone is trying to figure out how to get in front of millennials. I think the millennial generation learns as much visually as they do the old-fashioned way, by the book,” said Todd. “We are no longer in the business of telling people how they should consume information. Our job is to provide depth and information in any way they want to consume it.” Under Todd, “Meet the Press” also fuels a weekday show on MSNBC as well as a regular podcast.

The “Meet the Press” film festival will feature contemporary documentaries of 40 minutes in length or less that focus on untold stories of American politics. Films selected for the festival will be eligible for up to $5,000 in finishing support from NBC News for post-production costs, including licensing of third‐party material, and are likely to get some sort of nod during “Meet the Press” on Sundays or during the week on MSNBC.

The anchor is open to a wide array of potential topics. Could a documentary illustrate how consumption of the media has changed, or explore the rise of partisan media through history? Might a film analyze how earlier American forays into Afghanistan have affected the U.S. presence there today, or how politics became so linked to celebrity? “I wish I could tell you the perfect documentary. If I knew the perfect documentary, I’d be making it,” said Todd. He hopes to curate a slate that is diverse in subject matter and political leanings and hails from a wide range of places.

The American Film Institute, celebrating its 50th anniversary, has politics in its background as well. It was established in 1967 after President Lyndon mandated a program to bring together artists, educators and young people eager to make film their life’s work.

Todd, who got his start in journalism at The Hotline, a daily political briefing often considered must-have in congressional offices and the Washington, D.C. operations of major news outlets, has been eager to push “Meet the Press” to new venues so as to stay relevant to younger audiences. He may be closer to them than others. At 45, he is a few years younger than CNN’s Jake Tapper or CBS’ John Dickerson, and from a different generation than ABC’s George Stephanopoulos or Fox’s Chris Wallace.

Other Sunday hosts have faced similar challenges. Todd points to Tim Russert, who pushed an expansion of “Meet the Press” from 30 minutes to an hour. “He realized there was too much to try and do in 30 minutes. It was clear the viewers wanted that.”

He cites ESPN’s critically acclaimed “30 for 30” documentaries as a potential model for what he hopes a “Meet the Press” effort – he used the phrase “MTP Docs” – might become. That ESPN franchise has broadened to include everything from hour-long films to shorts to the critically acclaimed miniseries “O.J.: Made in America.” “I hope in two years what we are doing with documentaries and how we are doing it is compared to ESPN,” he said. “’30 for 30’ is the gold standard of how to do this in the 21st century.”

He thinks “Meet the Press” fans will embrace the documentary format. “You could make the argument that documentaries are the new books,” Todd said. “When it comes to public policy and history right now, I think the most talked about conversations that we are having seem to be generated by documentaries as much as they might be by a great new book. ‘Meet the Press’ belongs in that space. This is step one.”

More TV

  • Netflix - Apple TV

    Netflix Turns in Record Q4 Subscriber Gains, Price Increase Weighs on U.S. Forecast

    Netflix is beating Wall Street expectations on international subscriber growth — but its recently announced price increase in the U.S. may have put a damper on its momentum in the States. For the fourth quarter of 2018, Netflix reported 1.53 million paid net adds in the U.S. and 7.31 million internationally, to end the year [...]

  • vudu-free-movies-tv-shows

    Walmart Brushes Off Reports of Streaming Development Halt

    Walmart isn’t ruling out options for a potential streaming video service, a company spokesperson says. Responding to a CNBC report that the mega-retailer had decided not to launch its own streaming entertainment service after all, Walmart would not confirm that there was any halt in development of such a platform, and did not have anything definitive [...]

  • THE KOMINSKY METHOD

    'Kominsky Method' Renewed for Season 2 at Netflix

    Netflix has picked up “The Kominsky Method” for a second season. The comedy stars starring Michael Douglas and Alan Arkin recently won two Golden Globe Awards, one for best comedy series and the other for Douglas in the best actor in a comedy series category. Arkin was also nominated in the supporting actor category. Season 2 [...]

  • Crackle Latin America

    Sony Shuts Down Crackle Latin America Business

    Sony Pictures Television is folding the Crackle Latin America subscription VOD service, which has 400,000 subscribers across 17 countries, after concluding the business isn’t economically viable. Crackle Latin America first launched in April 2012 as an ad-supported streaming service — like the U.S. version of Crackle — before switching in 2016 to a subscription video-on-demand [...]

  • Empire of Sand Book

    Kronicle Media, Amyale, Rebel Maverick Option YA Novel 'Empire of Sand' for TV (EXCLUSIVE)

    Production companies Kronicle Media, Amyale and Rebel Maverick have partnered to develop the YA fantasy novel “Empire of Sand” by Tasha Suri as a TV series, Variety has learned exclusively. The novel by first-time author Suri is centers on Mehr, the illegitimate daughter of an imperial governor and an exiled Amrithi mother–a member of a race of [...]

  • 'NYPD Blue' Sequel Pilot Casts Fabien

    'NYPD Blue' Sequel Pilot Casts Fabien Frankel in Lead Role

    The “NYPD Blue” pilot at ABC has cast newcomer Fabien Frankel in the role of Theo Sipowicz, Variety has confirmed. Theo is the son of Andy Sipowicz, who was played in the original series by Dennis Franz. Like his father he is described as a hard-drinking, hard-headed, and quick-witted cop. Frankel is a recent graduate of the London Academy of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content