Apple already has a pretty wide array of original content ready to go for this fall; the company has been working on a number of shows for almost two years now, although most of the content thus far has been in the fiction category, and in fact it wasn’t until Apple’s March event that we discovered that Apple is also working on at least two documentaries as part of its previously-announced multi-year partnership with Oprah, one of which turned out to have a royal patron behind it.
Of course, Apple almost certainly has more in the documentary pipeline than just Oprah’s two big flagship productions, and according to Variety, the company has just brought on a new veteran producer to lead its documentary efforts.
Molly Thompson, of A&E fame, has joined Apple TV+ as “head of documentaries.” Thompson is known for having founded A&E Indie Films, the unit responsible for producing feature films for A+E Networks, back in 2003, and for the past year has also served as the head of documentary films for the network.
Thompson has a long and impressive list of executive production credits, including The Clinton Affair, Charles Ferguson’s Watergate series, Studio 54, City of Ghosts, Life, Animated, Cartel Land, Murderball, and Jesus Camp. She has also served as the executive producer on all of the feature films produced under the History Films banner, including Werner Herzog’s Meeting Gorbachev and Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Janet Tobias’ No Place on Earth, Errol Morris’ The Unknown Known: The Life and Times of Donald Rumsfeld, Douglas Tirola’s Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon, and the Johnny Knoxville-produced Being Evel.
This latest hire suggests that Apple is planning a much stronger push into documentary film-making than previously suspected. Oprah revealed that she will personally be leading Apple’s production of two documentaries, with one, Toxic Labour, focusing on sexual harassment, and another on mental health; Prince Harry subsequently announced that he will also serve as a co-creator and executive producer of the latter series, although few other details are available — a title has not even been announced at this point.
It’s likely, however, that these won’t be the only two projects to come from the “unique, multi-year content partnership” between Apple and Oprah. While on stage at the launch of Apple TV+ last month, Oprah expressed a broader vision for inspiring positive change through her partnership with Apple, suggesting that these are just the tip of the iceberg. It’s unclear whether Thompson will be working on the Oprah-led projects, and if so, how much of a role she will have, or whether her focus will be on developing and producing less high-profile films.
Apple is expected to launch its TV+ service in the fall, and while at least a half-dozen series are expected to debut at launch, these are mostly expected to be traditional scripted drama and comedy shows, such as the high-profile Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston backed morning show drama that’s been in the works for the past two years, Steven Spielberg’s Amazing Stories reboot, an Octavia Spencer crime drama, a comedy series on the life of Emily Dickinson that will star Hailee Steinfeld and Jane Krakowski, and the Ronald D. Moore sci-fi series For All Mankind. Meanwhile, Oprah’s documentary projects and other more serious films are likely further away on the horizon.