National Geographic announced today that it has entered into a first-look deal with the award-winning documentary team of Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin and their company, Little Monster Films. The deal covers all unscripted projects, including series and specials as well as feature documentaries. Additionally, the network has greenlit their next feature documentary, with details to be announced at a later date. The announcement follows the extraordinary wins by FREE SOLO at this year’s Emmys, where the documentary swept the seven categories for which it was nominated, including directing honours for Vasarhelyi and Chin, making it the most Emmy-winning documentary in history.
“Chai and Jimmy are extraordinary filmmakers and tremendous partners, and we are thrilled to be expanding our relationship with them,” said National Geographic Global Television Networks President Courteney Monroe. “The success of FREE SOLO surpassed even our wildest expectations, and we cannot wait to embark on this exciting new chapter with the incredibly talented team behind it.”
“National Geographic offered unconditional support and enthusiasm for FREE SOLO from day one, and we truly could not have asked for better partners,” said Vasarhelyi and Chin. “We are excited to have an outlet to grow our production company’s work in television, expanding the stories we are able to tell, as well as a partner for our next feature doc.”
The deal encompasses development of unscripted ideas for all of National Geographic’s television platforms. This marks the first expansion of Little Monster Films beyond feature documentaries. Vasarhelyi and Chin have tapped former Cinetic Media executive Anna Barnes to serve as Vice President of development and production under the new venture. Barnes will be responsible for overseeing the growth of the company, and will work closely with Vasarhelyi and Chin in identifying, developing and producing new projects. Additionally, the team is in early production on their next feature documentary, which will be released by National Geographic Documentary Films.
The news follows the enormous success of FREE SOLO, which, among its many accolades, ranks as Nat Geo’s most-viewed unscripted special ever (P2+) and the Number 1 on demand and download in the channel’s history. Additionally, after opening in cinemas in China on September 6, the film has grossed over USD$4.8 million to date, becoming the highest-grossing international documentary ever released in China.
The deal was negotiated by WME on behalf of the filmmakers.
About Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin
Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin are the co-directors and co-producers of the Academy Award- and BAFTA-winning film FREE SOLO, from National Geographic Documentary Films. The film earned the highest per screen average of any documentary during its opening weekend (September 28, 2018) in the US. The award-winning documentary took home seven Emmy awards this past weekend.
Vasarhelyi’s films as a director include “Meru” (Oscars shortlist 2016, Sundance Audience Award 2015); “Incorruptible” (Truer Than Fiction Independent Spirit Award 2016); “Youssou N’Dour: I Bring What I Love” (Oscilloscope 2009), which premiered at the Telluride and Toronto Film Festivals; “A Normal Life” (Tribeca Film Festival, Best Documentary 2003); and “Touba” (SXSW, Special Jury Prize Best Cinematography 2013).
Chin is a professional climber, skier, mountaineer, 18-year member of The North Face Athlete Team and National Geographic Explorer. Consistently over the past 20 years, Chin has led or participated in cutting-edge climbing and ski mountaineering expeditions to all seven continents and made the first and only American ski descent from the summit of Mount Everest. He is also a filmmaker and National Geographic photographer. He has worked with many of the greatest explorers, adventurers and athletes of our time, documenting their exploits in the most challenging conditions and locations in the world. His 2015 documentary “Meru,” which was co-directed by Vasarhelyi, won the Audience Award at Sundance and was nominated for best documentary by the DGA and PGA. “Meru” was also shortlisted for an Oscar.