TCA ’21: Sustainability-themed series, Tom Petty doc highlight YouTube slate

YouTube Originals will be taking a deep dive into environmentally-themed programming with its fall slate, as well as ramping up content in its music vertical and programming from diverse creators. Global ...
September 24, 2021

YouTube Originals will be taking a deep dive into environmentally-themed programming with its fall slate, as well as ramping up content in its music vertical and programming from diverse creators.

Global head of programming for YouTube Originals, Susanne Daniels (pictured), unveiled the slate during the platform’s TCA Summer Press Tour presentation today (September 23), noting how the company’s “investment with intention,” as seen in the US$100 million Black Voices Fund, is being reflected in its content.

In the lead up to the UN’s Climate Change Conference, YouTube has slated several projects with a sustainability thrust. One of the key projects in this area is Dear Earth, a multi-hour event premiering on October 23 and modeled after last year’s Dear Class of 2020. Guests will include President Barack Obama, Pope Francis, Desmond Tutu and CEO of Google and Alphabet Sundar Pichai, as well as such musical acts and celebrities as Anitta, Billie Eilish, BLACKPINK and Jaden Smith. The “celebration of the planet” will also feature YouTube creators such as AsapSCIENCE and Mark Vins (Brave Wilderness) among others. The project is produced by produced by Done + Dusted, Strong Brew and Silverback Films.

Also premiering on that date is Climate Games, a two-episode special that follows content creators and well-known athletes as they “undertake spectacular challenges designed to deliver a key climate message.” It’s from Studio Silverback with Colin Butfield & Jonnie Hughes as executive producers, and series producer Ben Duncan.

October 28 sees the premiere of “live action and animation mash-up” Signals, which will provide what YouTube calls “an abridged story of our relationship with plastic.” Produced by artists and activists from around the world, each episode also takes on a different format — from stop-motion animation to photoreal CG to live-action comedy. It hails from director Mackenzie Sheppard and Kaz Firpo (Eternals), who co-produced with Airi Yamawaki.

On the music front, YouTube will be premiering Tom Petty, Somewhere You Feel Free: The Making of Wildflowers later this year. Documenting the making of one of the singer/songwriter’s most successful albums, the project from director/EP Mary Wharton features interviews with producer Rick Rubin and longtime bandmate Mike Campbell, as well as material culled from recently unearthed 16mm archive. It’s produced by Peter Afterman with executive producers Wharton, Dan Braun and Adria Petty and presented by Inaudible Films, Warner Music Entertainment, and Warner Records.

Also on tap is a new project from documentarian RJ Cutler, Supreme Models. The six-part limited series, based on Marcellas Reynolds’s book Supreme Models: Iconic Black Women Who Revolutionized Fashion, the series — which also has supermodel Iman on board as an executive producer — looks at Black women who broke down barriers in the fashion industry, as well as the work of Black designers, fashion editors, and entrepreneurs of the past several decades. Cutler, Reynolds, Jane Cha Cutler, Douglas Keeve, Rolake Bamgbose, and Donny Jackson also serve as EPs, as does Trevor Smith for This Machine (an Industrial Media Company). The series premieres in the fall.

The platform will also unveil a comedic competition series, Copy That, on November 8. The five-parter will see YouTube creators such as Sofie Dossi and Preston attempt to step out of their areas of expertise and match those of other YouTube creators. It’s produced by Sony Pictures Television and executive produced by Charles Wachter.

Other upcoming programming includes I Promise, a feature-length doc from Marc Levin following the efforts of sports icon LeBron James as he attempts to close the achievement gap in his hometown of Akron, Ohio (premiering September 28); Noted: Alicia Keys, The Untold Stories, produced by the Grammy-winning artist with involvement from Westbrook Studios and directed by TT the Artist (September 30); six-part docuseries The Outsiders?, a project hailing from YouTube’s Black Voices Fund which gathers together young Black actors, musicians, creators, artists, and personalities that are shaping popular culture and is helmed by Simon Fredericks (October 4); the five-day event series Will Smith: The Best Shape of My Life from Westbrook Studios and YouTube Originals, which follows the actor and activist as he embarks on a journey to heal his mind. body and psyche (November 8), and the Critical Content-produced special Home Courts, in which rapper and basketball lover Quavo explores the city of Atlanta through the lens of famous local streetball courts (coming later this year).

About The Author
Barry Walsh is editor and content director for realscreen, and has served as editor of the publication since 2009. With a career in entertainment media that spans two decades, prior to realscreen, he held the associate editor post for now defunct sister publication Boards, which focused on the advertising and commercial production industries. Before Boards, he served as editor of Canadian Music Network, a weekly music industry trade, and as music editor for As content director, he also oversees the development of content for the brand's market-leading events, the Realscreen Summit and Realscreen West, as well as new content initiatives.