On July 23rd, HBO launched its brand new Music Box project, with the film Woodstock 99: Peace, Love and Rage. The film, which recounts the horrors of the ’99 sequel to the famed Woodstock music festival, is the first in a series of films spearheaded by author and podcaster Bill Simmons. Music Box will highlight pivotal moments in the world of music history, featuring the individual work of six different directors. The series will premiere on HBO platforms between July and late fall of this year, and is set to include the following titles:
- Jagged: An in-depth look into the life and legacy of Alanis Morrissette, and her innovative 1995 album entitled Jagged Little Pill. Jagged will be directed by Emmy-nominee Alison Klayman, creator of the 2019 critically acclaimed documentary The Brink.
- Untitled DMX: A film granting previously unseen access to the late rapper following his release from prison, painting a portrait of the artist that few have seen before. The film explores his struggle with addiction and fame in the final years of his life, and is directed by Christopher Frierson.
- Listening to Kenny G: An examination into one of history’s most popular instrumentalists, studying the circumstances which transformed him into a widely polarizing figure. Listening to Kenny G will be directed by Penny Lane.
- Mr Saturday Night: A film which tells the story of legend Robert Stigwood, and his long-lasting impact on the disco era. Mr Saturday Night will be directed by Tommy Oliver.
- Untitled Juice WRLD: Untitled Juice WRLD will explore how the late hip hop star impacted an entire genre during his short life. The film will be directed by Tommy Oliver.
In an interview with HBO, Bill Simmons elaborated on the inspiration for the Music Box project and the power of rewatchability.
“I’ve been thinking about this idea since 2014, and the big influence for me was a documentary about the Eagles. I thought it was the best music documentary I’d ever seen, and what was interesting to me was that it was rewatchable. I remember I watched it like four times that summer, and the best 30 for 30s we did are the ones that you could watch five, six times. That Eagles doc really made me think there is a way to do what we did with 30 for 30, but with music. There’s a way to make rewatchable, high-end, awesome docs, and put them under the framework of some sort of series.”
Simmons went on to explain that the ultimate goal for Music Box is to fill the void which he perceives to currently lie with the music documentary space: the art of focusing on specific moments in the lives of history makers, rather than a broader arc.
“We’ve put a lot of thought into this series itself, and how the six films would make sense together,” Simmons concluded. “Even if they’re done by six different filmmakers, in six different ways and about six different things, my hope is that it will make sense collectively.”