April 16, 2009
Documentary makes History
High-profile ‘People’ to power project
By JON WEISMAN
History — a cabler not normally known for its celebrity quotient — is rolling out the red carpet for “The People Speak,” a star-driven multiplatform project from Matt Damon and Chris Moore (“Project Greenlight”).
The long-gestating doc, an adaptation of the Howard Zinn book “A People’s History of the United States,” weaves together archival footage and interviews with dramatic readings by Damon, Josh Brolin (also an exec producer), Don Cheadle, John Legend, Viggo Mortensen, Bruce Springsteen, David Strathairn, Marisa Tomei, Eddie Vedder and Kerry Washington, among others.
History will supplement the two-hour film with interstitial material that the channel will distribute online, on demand and in schools.
“It is probably the biggest cross-platform initiative we’ve done to date,” said History exec VP-general manager Nancy Dubuc. “Everybody is using ‘cross-platform’ because it’s the word of the moment, but we’re really putting the substance behind it.”
The “People” adaptation has been in the works for more than a decade. Moore expressed satisfaction that History will provide a means of “getting this material out to people we couldn’t reach on our own, even with Matt Damon and Josh Brolin.”
Different approaches over the years finally led to the current version of “People,” which got under way in August 2007 and is designed to transcend political party lines.
“You’ve got Howard Zinn and Matt Damon and me and others. I don’t think anybody denies that we lean toward the left, as they say,” Moore said. “But the point of the piece is really to make people feel like they can make a difference … that when you see something wrong in America, you can actually change that — and here are these examples of things that have been changed by everyday people.
“So it’s not very controversial,” he said. “It’s very much more designed to be inspiring and moving. It’s an emotional piece; it’s not an academic piece.”
Dubuc said there is potential for History to repurpose the “People” content beyond 2009, such as re-editing footage from the centerpiece film and the interstitials into chapters.