WASHINGTON & LOS ANGELES--(BUSINESS WIRE)--National Geographic Channel announced today the start of preproduction on Saints & Strangers (working title), the epic, untold story behind the founding of America and the men, women and children in search of a new life in an unexplored land. The four-hour miniseries, produced by Sony Pictures Television with Little Engine Productions, will air in fall 2015. Grant Scharbo, Gina Matthews, Teri Weinberg and Eric Overmyer are executive producers.
Saints & Strangers is a story that goes beyond the familiar historical version of the founding of America, revealing the trials and tribulations of the first American settlers: 101 men, women and children who sailed on a chartered ship called the Mayflower for a place no one had ever seen.
Half of these “pilgrims” were religious separatists who had abandoned their prior lives for religious freedom and an opportunity to create a new social order built on their values. The other half, “adventurers,” were mostly single males seeking financial opportunity and a rapid acquisition of wealth in a new land, or trying to escape their old identities or criminal pasts.
These two groups — the spiritual and the mercenary — continue to define the American character to this day. Both groups display dauntless courage and true belief, along with fanaticism, racism, and deplorable injustice and violence. The personal struggles endured while working to establish their new way of life in America shaped the early DNA of our nation.
And intertwined with their complex inner struggles is the relationship with the Native Americans, and the conflicting allegiances among these groups, culminating in trials of assimilation, faith and compromise that to this day define our country.
“Given our early success with our scripted fare, further strengthened by the recent record ratings of Killing Jesus, we wanted to find our next brand-definitional scripted television event. And we found that in Saints & Strangers, which is the ultimate story of adventure and exploration,” said Courteney Monroe, CEO, National Geographic Channels. “We couldn’t be more thrilled to join with Sony Pictures Television and Little Engine Productions to help weave the storytelling of these courageous people who sailed on the Mayflower seeking a better life in a completely unknown land.”
“Sony Television is excited to be producing Saints & Strangers for National Geographic Channel, as they are the perfect venue on which to tell this authentic, epic adventure that depicts the founding of our nation,” said Helen Verno, Executive Vice President, Movies and Miniseries, Sony Pictures Television. “Our excellent producing team, Little Engine and our great writers will give the audience a vivid, never-before-seen perspective of the origins of our nation.”
“This is about exploring human endeavor, creating powerful emotional connections, giving this historical event a little bit of heart,” added Grant Scharbo and Gina Matthews, executive producers and founders of Little Engine Productions. “This story deserves an authentic, gripping narrative, which is a hallmark of National Geographic, and we can't wait to bring this epic event to life.”
Saints & Strangers will be produced for National Geographic Channels US by Sony Pictures Television. For Little Engine Productions, executive producers are Grant Scharbo and Gina Matthews; Teri Weinberg is executive producer; Eric Overmyer is executive producer/writer; Seth Fisher is writer. Original script was written by Chip Johannessen with revisions by Walon Green. For Sony Pictures Television, executive in charge of production is Helen Verno. For National Geographic Channels, president of original programming and production is Tim Pastore; vice president of production is Matt Renner.
National Geographic Channels
Based at the National Geographic Society headquarters in Washington, D.C., the National Geographic Channels US are a joint venture between National Geographic and Fox Networks. The Channels contribute to the National Geographic Society’s commitment to exploration, conservation and education with smart, innovative programming and profits that directly support its mission. Launched in January 2001, National Geographic Channel (NGC) celebrated its fifth anniversary with the debut of NGC HD. In 2010, the wildlife and natural history cable channel Nat Geo WILD was launched, and in 2011, the Spanish-language network Nat Geo Mundo was unveiled. The Channels have carriage with all of the nation’s major cable, telco and satellite television providers, with NGC currently available in more than 90 million U.S. homes. Globally, National Geographic Channel is available in more than 432 million homes in 171 countries and 45 languages. For more information, visit www.natgeotv.com.
Sony Pictures Television
Sony Pictures Television (http://www.sonypicturestelevision.com), a Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) company, is one of the television industry’s leading content providers. It produces and distributes programming in every genre, around the world and for a multitude of platforms. In addition to one of the industry’s largest libraries of award-winning feature films, television shows and formats, Sony Pictures Television (SPT) boasts a current program slate that includes top-rated daytime dramas and game shows, landmark off-network series, original animated series and critically acclaimed primetime dramas, comedies and telefilms. In addition to its U.S. production business, SPT has 18 wholly owned or joint venture production companies in 13 countries and also maintains offices in 32 countries. SPT’s worldwide television network portfolio includes 126 channel feeds available in 168 countries, reaching more than 980 million cumulative households worldwide. SPT also creates original content for and manages SPE’s premium video website, Crackle. Additionally, SPT owns U.S. production company Embassy Row and is a part owner of cable channel Game Show Network (GSN), 3D channel 3net and national U.S. media sales company ITN Networks, Inc. SPT advertiser sales is one of the premier national advertising sales companies and handles the commercial inventory in SPT’s syndicated series as well as in the Rural Media Group and DrOz.com.
Little Engine Productions
Little Engine Productions is a Los Angeles-based production company and studio dedicated to the development, financing and production of high-end television and feature films. Headed by the Emmy award-winning husband and wife team of Gina Matthews and Grant Scharbo, Little Engine, founded in 2007, has produced over 100 hours of network television, most recently the USA drama “Rush,” written and directed by filmmaker Jonathan Levine, and the ABC thriller “Missing,” starring Ashley Judd (for which she received an Emmy nomination). They have also produced a number of hit films, including “What Women Want,” starring Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt, and “13 Going on 30,” starring Jennifer Garner and Mark Ruffalo.
Matthews and Scharbo are known for their hands-on approach to the creative process, as well as their high-end talent and film and network contacts. In addition to continued work within the studio system, Little Engine recently secured financing from Toronto-based Aver Media and The Bank of Montreal, allowing them to function as a studio in the straight-to-series television model. They will distribute their content through Sony Distribution.
Also, as EU passport holders, Matthews and Scharbo are uniquely positioned to take full advantage of the lucrative international tax credits, subsidies and treaties available, as well as higher EU content license fees. As a result, they can produce high-end content at a lower deficit, and put their creative partners closer to back-end participation.
Other notable television projects from Little Engine include: ABC’s straight-to-series “The Gates,” starring Frank Grillo and Rhona Mitra; the WB series “The Mountain,” with Oliver Hudson; the sci-fi drama “Jake 2.0” for UPN; the WB hit series “Popular,” starring Leslie Bibb and Carly Pope; and “The Chronicle” for the SyFy Network.
Little Engine currently has a number of high-profile TV projects in the works, including “Shadows,” a co-venture with Sony for ABC; “Wasteland” a co-venture with Sony for NBC; and the four-hour miniseries Saints & Strangers, which they will begin production on this summer for National Geographic Channel and Sony.