Ventureland is teaming with podcast companies Campside Media and Tenderfoot TV on a new doc and companion podcast chronicling the fight around Atlanta’s “Cop City.”
The film will explore the politics, activism and turmoil that has surrounded the development of the 85-acre police and fire training center — set to be one of the largest facilities like it in the United States and located in a preserved forest — since it was announced by the city’s then-Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms back in Spring 2021. Currently in development, the doc will include on-the-ground reporting and key subjects who can shed light on the political flashpoint being constructed within the unofficial capital of the American South.
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“The debate over Cop City is a microcosm of what’s happening in cities across the country,” says Campside co-founder Matthew Shaer. “It brings together all these different discussions: About race, about policing, about urban development and environmental resources. I’m convinced that Atlanta in 2023 is the most interesting city in the U.S., and in Atlanta, there is no more fascinating, telling story than that of Cop City.”
For John Battsek, Oscar-winning co-founder of Ventureland, “working with Campside Media and Tenderfoot TV on this pressing and complex situation that’s still unfolding is an exciting collaboration” as “the events in Atlanta continue to grip a global audience.”
“We have been eagerly looking for a way to work with Ventureland, and we could not be more excited to have found a project to tackle with creative producers we admire so greatly,” added Adam Hoff, co-founder of Campside, the production studio behind popular and award winning podcasts like Chameleon: Hollywood Con Queen and Suspect.
Since Bottoms’ announcement and the city council’s approval of a land lease agreement to the Atlanta Police Foundation in September 2021, much of Atlanta’s city leadership, including current Mayor Andre Dickens, have maintained that a modern training hub is needed to replace the city’s current, aging facilities. But as the city attempts to move ahead with the project, pushback has only continued in the form of hours of public comment to the city council, an effort to get the facility’s construction overturned on the ballot, forest occupation and other direct action protests from various community, justice and environmental groups and activists in the majority Black city.
At least one young protester, Manuel “Tortuguita” Teran, has died amid the saga, killed by police while protesting alongside the grassroots Defend the Atlanta Forest movement. Forty-two people were arrested under suspicion of domestic terrorism, with five individuals facing state charges and three bail fund organizers looking at money laundering charges, according to the ACLU.
More than 60 people are also facing RICO charges, in a series of moves by Georgia officials the civil liberties’ organization has called “extreme intimidation tactics” and “unprecedented” in their treatment of “protest, civil disobedience or isolated crimes.”
The facility has also faced continued criticism over its price, which was initially pitched as $30 million but has seen the price increase to upwards of $90 million by some estimates.
In addition to the doc, which will delve into the death of Teran, Tenderfoot and Campside are slated to produce an investigative podcast slated to premiere in the first quarter of 2024. Shaer will executive produce the show alongside award-winning former CNN and Marketplace alum Tommy Andres.
“‘Cop City’ is uncovering a timely and relevant story that affects those in our own backyard,” said Donald Albright, CEO of Tenderfoot TV — recognized as among the 40-ish most powerful people in podcasting in 2023. “We’re honored to partner with Ventureland and Campside, whose impact goals align with ours, and to make something the way we know best: through documentary-style storytelling, no matter the medium.”
“I’ve long been a fan of the stories both Campside and Tenderfoot tell, and the integrity with which they tell them,” said Ali Brown, president at Ventureland, the independent creative studio behind Netflix’s recent Beckham documentary and co-founded by Oscar-winning producer John Battsek. “This is a story that needs to be heard, and we are thrilled to do it with them.”
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