HBO Docs Chiefs Search For Stories Featuring “Crime With A Conscience”

HBO kicked off the current iteration of the premium true-crime movement with The Jinx back in 2015.

As they prepare to launch The Jinx – Part 2, Lisa Heller and Nancy Abraham, EVPs of HBO Documentary and Family Programming, laid out their strategy to find films involving “crime with a conscience.”

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The pair, speaking at the Realscreen event in New Orleans, highlighted recent docs including The Last Call: When a Serial Killer Stalked Queer New York, directed by Anthony Caronna, and Murder in Boston: Roots, Rampage & Reckoning from The Last Dance director Jason Hehir.

Heller said of The Last Call, which premiered in July, “[Caronna] feels that the true-crime in that case was a trojan horse to getting the audience there and then having a much deeper issue about homophobia and the NYPD and all of the bad things that allowed this bad man to stay on the loose and brutalize people. That was a good example for us of a match of what you might call true-crime but there’s also something underneath that is a more interesting story about the human condition.”

Abraham said that HBO was looking for “something that’s bigger than just the crime itself”.

Murder In Boston was a great example of that,” added Heller. “Jason Hehir who did The Last Dance and Andre The Giant with our sports group. He was obsessed with this murder that happened in Boston but it was really about a racial reckoning that needed to happen in the city but the crime catalyzed a brutal rampage in the Black community in Boston. It had so many layers to it, I think in that case, as someone who did a lot of sports, there was a pacing that we hadn’t seen in a while that was really exciting.”

Both of these series are emblematic of the types of stories that HBO is searching for.

Coming up, in addition to The Jinx – Part 2, HBO has The Synanon Fix, from Rory Kennedy, which explores the the rise and fall of the Synanon organization — through the eyes of the members who lived it — from its early days as a groundbreaking drug rehabilitation program to its later descent into what many consider a cult.

The Synanon Fix premiered at Sundance alongside other HBO series including Hometown Prison from Richard Linklater, which is part of an anthology titled God Save Texas that also includes films from Alex Stapleton and Iliana Sosa.

The pair were also asked whether the cost-cutting drive at HBO parent company Warner Bros. Discovery impacted them on the doc side.

“For us, just on the management side, we’re still working for Casey [Bloys]. Many of our programming colleagues have been there for decades. So in our little bubble, we’re relatively insulated from any tumult,” Heller said.

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