×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

How Embracing Premium Content Early Led to Decade of Docs for Part2 Pictures

As indie production outlet Part2 Pictures celebrates its first 10 years, the company’s approach to documentary storytelling — premium content with high production values — has moved more into the mainstream.

“We have been doing what people now call ‘premium’ from the beginning,” says Amy Bucher, Part2 senior vice president of programming and content. “It’s as natural to us as air and water. We just think that’s the way you should tell stories.”

Lisa Ling has worked with Part2 for the better part of a decade, first with five seasons of “Our America With Lisa Ling” that aired on OWN, and now with “This Is Life With Lisa Ling” for CNN. She believes the audience for such premium content in which Part2 specializes has always been there, but the current real estate between traditional networks and streamers have helped provide a larger platform.

“Netflix and its documentary vertical has opened up the market for more substantive storytelling, and when CNN departed from what it did and explored this whole series route and the success it had has helped to open the market, too,” she says.

Over the past decade, Part2 has been responsible for OWN’s “Belief With Oprah Winfrey,” PBS’ “Nova” production of “Engineering Ground Zero,” National Geographic Channel’s “Hard Time,” Showtime’s “Dark Net” and Discovery’s “Dixie Mafia” as well as co-producers on the feature films “An Honest Liar,” “Bronx Obama” and the narrative feature “I’ll See You in my Dreams.”

Current Part2 programs include MSNBC’s “Breaking Hate” and “Story of Cool”; Investigation Discovery’s “Scene of the Crime With Tony Harris”; the aforementioned “This Is Life With Lisa Ling,” which is about to premiere season five but in production on the sixth season; and the upcoming “Chasing Life” with Dr. Sanjay Gupta. There are also plans to expand into the podcast space.

Part2 president David Shadrack Smith founded the full-service production company in his native Brooklyn following a globetrotting career that included seven years as a journalist in China and a stint as a director-producer at National Geographic Channel during its startup phase. What he learned in his years conducting interviews, Smith brought to the ethos of Part2.

“As much as you can, let people be the voice behind their own story,” he says, noting the Internet has made the world smaller but his approach to bringing the world to viewers remains constant. “The core thing I was drawn to was exploring our curiosity for one another. … From being out in the field, I knew it was about, ‘How can we explore the human experience in all its richness and diversity and universality?’ Bringing that into Part2 was the animating force behind all the stories we choose to tell and became our tagline, ‘stories through a human lens.’”

This year also marks the 10th anniversary of Part2 working with Ling, which began on the five-season OWN series “Our America” before segueing to the current CNN show “This Is Life,” returning for its fifth season Sept. 23 (season six has already been ordered). Episodes this season are devoted to MS-13, the scourge of methamphetamines and what it’s like for fathers to lose custody battles.

Part2 Pictures has produced Americana documentary series “This Is Life With Lisa Ling” for CNN since 2014.
Courtesy of CNN

Ling first got to know Smith in 2002 when he was at Nat Geo and was assigned to help accustom her to the company after her stint on “The View.” They bonded over an order of Chinese food and Ling’s fortune cookie with an apt fortune that read, “Now is the time to explore.”

“I’ve worked in this industry for more than 25 years and I’ve worked with some great producers but it’s always about the sell: ‘How are we going to sell this project?’ ” Ling says. “But with David, it’s always, what’s the story we want to tell? What is the meaning behind this? What does this mean for us? What does this mean for the audience? It goes beyond just the idea of the sale.”
Bucher, who is also an executive producer on “This Is Life,” says Part2 brings a similar sensibility to all of the company’s projects — put people front and center.

“Whether it’s a show about prison or a mystery about a reform school in the South or a crime series, we are really helping people be vulnerable and open and share their story maybe in a deeper way than they might have before providing the platform for them that is a safe place to share their experiences, their emotions, their points of view,” she says.

More TV

  • Sky and Warner Bros. Alums Join

    Sky and Warner Bros. Alums Join ITV-Backed Production Company Possessed

    Former Sky One and Sky Living programming chief Adam MacDonald has joined Possessed, and will be the ITV-owned production banner’s first chair. The U.K.-based unscripted producer has also hired Lesley Davies, former head of international production at Warner Bros. She will head up production. The double hires follow a recommission  of gameshow “5 Gold Rings,” [...]

  • China’s CGTN Boards ‘Drowning in Plastic’

    China’s CGTN Boards ‘Drowning in Plastic’ Documentary

    China Global Television Network, the English-language news channel that is part of China Central Television, has come on board high profile environmental documentary “Drowning in Plastic.” The show is represented by all3media international, and the agreement is the first between the two companies. CGTN comes on board as co-producer alongside Raw, and BBC One. The [...]

  • Operation Red Sea review

    Chinese Entertainment Industry Braces for a 'Cold Winter' in 2019

    Winter is here for the Chinese entertainment industry, a half-dozen top-tier industry professionals concurred in Beijing at the launch last week of Tencent Entertainment’s annual data-filled white paper. China’s box office hit new heights in 2018, raking in about $9 billion, but it was also a year of drastic regulatory changes and a government tax [...]

  • Cocain Grandmother Catherine Zeta Jones

    A+E Networks Sets Program Sales in Latin America and U.S.

    A+E Networks has clinched a raft of new programming sales to top TV outlets in Latin America and NBC’s Universo Spanish-language cabler in the U.S. On the eve of the annual NATPE programming market in Miami this week, A+E said it has set new licensing agreements for scripted and factual content with Direct TV (Latin [...]

  • Outlander 412

    'Outlander' Recap: Brianna Confronts Her Rapist in 'Providence'

    SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched “Providence,” the 12th episode of “Outlander” Season 4. There were two competing narratives on “Outlander” this week — one that was largely invented for the show but was a very clever way to keep a certain character involved, and another that was also changed [...]

  • Gillian AndersonX-Files press conference, Century City,

    Gillian Anderson to Play Margaret Thatcher in Season 4 of 'The Crown' (Report)

    “The Crown” has found its Iron Lady. Gillian Anderson is said to have signed on to play British prime minister Margaret Thatcher in the fourth season of the much-praised Netflix drama series. Anderson’s casting was first reported by the Sunday Times. A Netflix rep declined to comment on the report. Anderson is the latest notable [...]

  • FICG Names Estrella Araiza As New

    Estrella Araiza To Head Up Guadalajara Intl Film Festival

    The Guadalajara Intl. Film Festival (FICG) has announced that Estrella Araiza, until now the festival’s head of industry and markets and director of the Guadalajara IntL. Film Festival in Los Angeles, has been promoted to the position of general director of the prominent Mexican festival. She replaces Ivan Trujillo, appointed director of TV UNAM. Araiza [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content