SOUTHERN STORYTELLERS, a New Documentary Series Exploring Southern Identity Through the Eyes of Contemporary Creatives, Premieres July 18 on PBS
The Duffer Brothers, Brittany Howard, Lyle Lovett, Qui Nguyen, Angie Thomas, Billy Bob Thornton, Mary Steenburgen and Jesmyn Ward Among Featured Writers From the Worlds of Literature, Music, Film and Television
January 17, 2023
ARLINGTON, VA (January 17, 2023) -- The American South is known for its boundless creativity, absorbing personalities and evocative landscapes. SOUTHERN STORYTELLERS, a new three-episode series from PBS, Arkansas PBS and award-winning filmmaker Craig Renaud, follows some of the region’s most compelling and influential contemporary creators to the places they call home — the communities that fertilize the stories they tell in books, songs, poems, plays and on screens large and small. The documentary series premieres Tuesday, July 18, 10:00-11:00 p.m. ET (check local listings) on PBS, PBS.org and the PBS App.
“SOUTHERN STORYTELLERS comes from our desire, as native Southerners, to show the South in an authentic light,” says Courtney Pledger, executive director and CEO of Arkansas PBS. “And we can think of no better way to do that than through the experiences of the region’s writers and creators who are able to engage us, move us and take us to a deeper understanding of such a dynamic place and its people.”
With major funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), SOUTHERN STORYTELLERS traverses the South, from the mountains of Appalachia to the Gulf of Mexico, revealing a vivid patchwork of diverse American stories that celebrate the resilience and joy of Southern people — and the magnitude of gifts from the region’s writers. Among the featured creatives are some of the most recognized storytellers from the worlds of literature, music, television and film, including novelists Jesmyn Ward, Angie Thomas and David Joy; country music artist Lyle Lovett; poet and memoirist Natasha Trethewey; poet Jericho Brown; musician/songwriter, screenwriter and actor Billy Bob Thornton; singer-songwriters Brittany Howard, Jason Isbell, Amanda Shires, Thao Nguyen and Adia Victoria; songwriter and actress Mary Steenburgen, screenwriter Qui Nguyen; author and culinary historian Michael Twitty; and “Stranger Things” series creators, Matt and Ross Duffer.
“We are thrilled to partner with Arkansas PBS and Craig Renaud, a talented and deep-rooted storyteller himself, to explore the breadth and depth of Southern art and culture,” says Bill Gardner, vice president of multiplatform programming and head of development at PBS. “SOUTHERN STORYTELLERS gives our audiences the opportunity to hear creators from across the region as they share, in their uniquely Southern voices, the places and histories that inspire them to honor and preserve traditions and to create new ones for the future.”
In addition to the three-part broadcast series, SOUTHERN STORYTELLERS includes a six-part series on PBS Digital Studios that explores the powerful role of place in the lyrics of Southern songwriters. Go-Valley’s Keith Maitland (“Dear Mr. Brody,” “Tower”) and Terry Lickona (AUSTIN CITY LIMITS) direct and produce the digital series. Indie music artist Thao Nguyen hosts.
“SOUTHERN STORYTELLERS is a good example of how public media elevates stories by local storytellers, allowing people to define themselves rather than being defined by others,” says Kathryn Washington, CPB senior vice president, television content. “CPB is pleased to support this collaboration that amplifies Southern voices across broadcast and digital platforms.”
SOUTHERN STORYTELLERS is created and executive produced by Courtney Pledger and filmmaker Craig Renaud. Known for his intimate approach with his documentary subjects, Renaud has spent the last two decades telling human-centered, verité stories from around the globe, often in partnership with his late brother, Brent. The partnership between the Renaud brothers and Arkansas PBS began in 2018 with the PBS documentary STATE OF THE ART, capturing the personal stories of artists at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art who are redefining the aesthetic of contemporary art in America. Renaud has won numerous major awards, including a Peabody and multiple duPont-Columbia Awards.
A diverse team of filmmakers and producers join Renaud Films and Arkansas PBS in the overall effort, including Keith Maitland, Terry Lickona, Juan Arredondo, Jamal Hodge, Nathan Willis, Denise Godoy, Andy Sarjahani and Héctor Tapia. Bill Gardner is the executive in charge for PBS.
Funding for SOUTHERN STORYTELLERS was provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Rosalind P. Walter Foundation, and the Willard and Pat Walker Charitable Foundation, Inc.
About Arkansas PBS
For more than 50 years, Arkansas PBS has served as Arkansas’s statewide public media network. An inventive and award-winning multiplatform producer of local and national public media content, Arkansas PBS empowers learners of all ages and drives conversations, inspiring people and communities to reach their full potential. Arkansas PBS creates and celebrates Arkansas stories, informs through in-depth public affairs content and shares valued PBS programs as an essential service to all Arkansans, deepening connections to communities and the larger world, and changing lives for the better. More information about Arkansas PBS’s broadcast, online, educational, and on-demand services and resources is available at myarkansaspbs.org.
About Renaud Brothers Films
Renaud Brothers Films is led by Craig Renaud, best known for his character-driven, cinema verité documentaries such as “Dope Sick Love,” “Last Chance High,” “Off to War” and “Meth Storm.” In 2018, Renaud Brothers Films produced STATE OF ART for PBS. Renaud’s work has often been in partnership with his brother Brent Renaud, who died 2022 while documenting the refugee crisis in the Ukraine, the first American journalist killed in that conflict. The Renaud Brothers’ work has won a Peabody Award, two du-Pont-Columbia Awards, two Overseas Press Club Awards, an IDA Documentary Award, a Webby Award and an Edward R. Murrow Award.
About PBS Digital Studios
PBS Digital Studios produces original, digital programming for YouTube and Facebook, designed to engage, enlighten, and entertain online audiences. The PBS Digital Studios network has more than 29 million subscribers, generating an average of 50 million views a month and has acquired more than three billion lifetime views. Currently, the Studio has 20 original series streaming online, including eight series from PBS member stations. Series include the Webby Award-winning IT’S OKAY TO BE SMART, SOUND FIELD and CRASH COURSE, the Daytime Emmy-award winning PRIDELAND, as well as popular series such as TWO CENTS, EONS and PBS SPACE TIME.
PBS, with more than 330 member stations, offers all Americans the opportunity to explore new ideas and new worlds through television and digital content. Each month, PBS reaches over 120 million people through television and 26 million people online, inviting them to experience the worlds of science, history, nature, and public affairs; to hear diverse viewpoints; and to take front row seats to world-class drama and performances. PBS’s broad array of programs has been consistently honored by the industry’s most coveted award competitions. Teachers of children from pre-K through 12th grade turn to PBS for digital content and services that help bring classroom lessons to life. Decades of research confirms that PBS’s premier children’s media service, PBS KIDS, helps children build critical literacy, math, and social-emotional skills, enabling them to find success in school and life. Delivered through member stations, PBS KIDS offers high-quality educational content on TV — including a 24/7 channel — online at pbskids.org, via an array of mobile apps, and in communities across America. More information about PBS is available at PBS.org, one of the leading dot-org websites on the internet, or by following PBS on Twitter, Facebook or through our apps for mobile and connected devices. Specific program information and updates for press are available at pbs.org/pressroom or by following PBS Communications on Twitter.
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