First-Person Stories Gathered on Web Shape New Nonfiction TV Series from Veteran Producers

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P.O.V. creator Marc Weiss teams up with former Peter Jennings colleagues to launch two websites inviting vivid personal stories about Internet dating and end-of-life dilemmas. Some stories will be used for a prototype episode of a new TV series to be directed by Food, Inc. director Robert Kenner.

As we've seen in just the last few weeks, with events ranging from the protests in Iran to the death of Michael Jackson, the Internet has become a vital force for sharing information and connecting people.

Kayce Freed Jennings, the wife of late ABC newsman Peter Jennings, and Marc N. Weiss, creator of P.O.V., the award-winning PBS series, have teamed up to create a unique new TV series that will couple the power of the Internet as a story-gathering medium with the power of TV as a story-telling medium. The series, tentatively titled "Stories," breaks new ground in the relationship between new media and quality nonfiction television programming.

The producers have launched two websites to gather stories on two very different topics. Stories from one of the topics will be chosen for production of a prototype that will be used to pitch the series. Robert Kenner, producer/director of Food, Inc., a feature documentary now in theatrical release, has been engaged to direct the prototype.

Weiss commented, "As we've seen in just the last few weeks, with events ranging from the protests in Iran to the death of Michael Jackson, the Internet has become a vital force for sharing information and connecting people. "Stories" will both reflect and take advantage of this profound and far-reaching cultural shift."

On meeting-stories.org, the producers are looking for stories illustrating how the Internet has transformed how many people look for love and relationships. Whether people found each other through a dating site, social networking, Craigslist, or chat rooms, the site explores this contemporary phenomenon through life-altering stories that surprise and delight, as well as some that confront the "darker side" of Internet-enabled relationships.

How-we-die.org is collecting first-person stories on what is possibly the most difficult dilemma many of us will ever face: Do we have anything to say about when and how we die? The site welcomes stories from patients, their families, loved ones, and health professionals about experiences that have tested or challenged their values and beliefs about who decides, and what role, if any, the government should play in those decisions.

"For more than a dozen years," said Weiss, "Web Lab has used the Web to collect powerful, often surprising, inspiring, often provocative stories recounting experiences that have challenged and often changed people's attitudes. We've found that these first-person accounts of lived experience provide unique perspectives on a range of topics. I'm very excited to partner with The Documentary Group to bring some of these stories to television."

How-we-die.org includes a story from a 31-year old woman who begins by saying, "If my family had listened to the doctors 12 years ago, I wouldn't be here to tell you my story."

She recalls that, after an automobile accident that severed her spine, the doctors suggested that her parents take her off life support. "The doctor informed [my parents] that I was going to be in a veggie state for the rest of my life. First of all, who uses the word "veggie"? Anyway, my dad asked what veggie I was going to be because I hated green beans and would be mad if I was one."

The site also features several first-person stories from terminally ill patients who are taking advantage of Oregon's controversial "Death with Dignity" (physician assisted suicide) law to plan the time and place of their deaths.

Meeting-stories.org features stories ranging from a man who recounts a series of sexual flings enabled by Internet chat rooms over the course of several years, finally culminating in a chance online encounter with the woman who became his wife, to "UtahMom," a divorcee who came to believe that "men from on-line dating services tend to fall into three categories -- liars, cheaters, and thieves."

About The Producers: This multimedia project was created by Web Lab, an online laboratory founded in 1997 to use the Web to engage people in new ways on a wide range of public and private issues, in collaboration with The Documentary Group, a production company founded by Tom Yellin and Kayce Freed Jennings, the core members of PJ Productions, following the death of their colleague and partner, legendary broadcaster Peter Jennings. Web Lab was founded by Marc N. Weiss, creator of P.O.V., the acclaimed TV series that has won every major broadcast award, now in its 22nd season on PBS.

Interviews with the producers -- and with some of the people who have submitted stories -- can be arranged.

Contact:
Hannah Rosenzweig
347-529-6276
http://www.weblab.org
http://www.meeting-stories.org
http://www.how-we-die.org

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