An Inside Look at 'Justin Bieber: Seasons,' His New YouTube Docuseries

It’s the time of the Seasons. The long-awaited Justin Bieber documentary makes its debut at noon ET on Monday (Jan. 27) as a YouTube Original, and Billboard went behind the lens to get the narrative on how it came together. 

Clocking in at close to two hours, Justin Bieber: Seasons will roll out in 10 bite-size parts, two episodes per week, a cadence director Michael D. Ratner says feeds current viewer consumption preferences and enabled him to record up-to-the-minute experiences. “I thought it would be unique to span all the way from the end of Purpose to right now. And by right now, I mean we haven’t even filmed the 10th episode yet. You are going to see right after the album is out, the world’s reception to it in the days that follow the release.” 

While Ratner says the entire doc may not air in five weeks, he says it will stick close to that release schedule, which means the album should be dropping soon -- with a tour to follow.

“The tour is going to be huge, exciting and a celebration,” Scooter Braun, Bieber’s longtime manager and founder of SB Projects, tells Billboard. “The series and the sound are one in the same, a true reflection of where Justin is today and all it’s taken to get here.” 

The doc is a pastiche of moments from Bieber’s tumultuous past four years -- from quiet moments walking around his hometown to never-seen footage of his wedding to his recent battle with Lyme disease to studio time creating the new album -- woven together through stark, straight-at-the-camera conversations where he addresses fame, faith, accountability, depression and more.

“Mental health is a very important part of Seasons. I hope people understand that by seeing Justin share, they can share too. Our vulnerability is our strength,” says Braun, who’s featured prominently in the film, along with Hailey Bieber, record producers Poo Bear (aka Jason Boyd) and Ryan Good, and others in his closest circle. 

“He’s the first megastar of the social media era; it’s a level of lack of privacy we’ve never seen before,” says Ratner. “Finally being able to state your piece and your positions and your own thoughts on your own time -- yeah, it’s a form of therapy. He poured a lot of those emotions into the music. But the music is one thing and the ability to sit down and invite people into his world is another.”

Ratner, whose OBB Pictures also is working with SB Projects on docuseries &Music for short-form platform Quibi, tells Billboard it was Bieber’s ability to be vulnerable that drew him to the project. “For me there wasn’t tremendous interest in making a commercial, ultimately, for the new album,” says Ratner, who had never met the artist prior to working with him. “It was, ‘Are we really willing to do this the right way, objectively?’ And when I realized that was his vision as well, that he was willing to really speak about things and not give some laundry list of restrictions, that’s when I got really excited about the project.”

The result is an unobstructed view into Bieber’s world. As Ratner puts it, “That feeling of, ‘I should not be seeing this, I should not be invited into this room.’ Those are magic moments, lightning in a bottle. You need to have patience, you spend a lot of time waiting for them but when they happen they’re amazing.”

One of those moments materialized after a 90-minute interview “where we really got very focused and detailed on some of the tougher times in his life,” Ratner says. “When I said, ‘Alright cut,’ we were just sitting there and he leaned over and said, ‘Man, it feels so good to share.’ And I said to him, ‘Have you ever talked about this publicly before?’ And he said no, because he wasn’t ready to, he didn’t think he was mature enough to own up to all of it. I was just blown away by that, and the best part… they were still rolling. It was cathartic. There was a levity in his voice and in his body language. I put it in the credit sequence in that episode.”

Some of the revelations even surprised Braun, who’s been encamped with Bieber for more than 12 years. “Sometimes you can be incredibly close to someone but you don’t always say the words,” Braun says. “There are a lot of things Justin shared about his innermost thoughts that I was surprised and moved by.” Of the ways his relationship with Bieber has changed his own life, Braun says, “My relationships are better, it has made me a better person and I’ve learned how to love someone selflessly and have an unbreakable bond.”

Ratner says YouTube was always the choice to distribute Seasons, “because of that serendipity, the coming full circle. YouTube helped catapult him to superstardom, and now he’s telling his story in his own voice on the global platform."

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