JAM, Inc. and the Morrison estate are developing the untitled documentary, which will be produced by independent studio Gunpowder & Sky, Jampol, and Jeff Pollack of FourScore Entertainment.
The news comes a week after the 50th anniversary of the mystical performer’s death from a drug overdose in Paris, and shortly after the release of The Collected Works of Jim Morrison: Poetry, Journals, Transcripts and Lyrics from HarperCollins Publishers, more than 30% of which had never been released.
While there have been documentaries on Morrison and The Doors before, and, of course, Oliver Stone’s 1991 biopic on the band, the new film is the first documentary devoted solely to Morrison sanctioned by the estate -- with full access to all Morrison’s music, poetry and art -- and Gunpowder & Sky CEO Van Toffler promises it will show a new side of the artist.
“They just unearthed all these diaries and notes and that's what's intriguing to me: having footage, writing and information about Jim that's never been exposed," Toffler shares. "It takes a unique filmmaker to really pull that out. If you do it right, it doesn't really matter what preceded it -- sort of like the eighth version of A Star Is Born, it’s new to a generation.”
The search is underway for a director “who understands the import and the depth and the gravity” of Morrison, Jampol says. “You need a director who is empathetic to the human and the artist and the art, [who] understands the history and context. It’s a very tall order, but it’s a very tall artist.”
The challenge is finding someone who can bring a holistic approach to the film. “We will dimensionalize Jim as an artist and whether it will be in a linear way or not, it's too soon to tell,” Toffler says.
The film also has to appeal to both the dedicated Doors fan and the younger generations who are just now discovering Morrison.
“That magic of iconic artists is 100 percent relevant and resonant. It's just up to us, to the caretakers, to put it back in the pop culture conversation in a way that's credible, authentic and meaningful to 11- to 30-year-olds,” Jampol says. “Because if we do it credibly and authentically, and we don't whitewash it or edit it or spin it or tart it up, the magic will transfer and Jim will do the work for us.”
The Doors continue as a musical force five decades after Morrison’s death, drawing nearly 9.5 million monthly listeners to Spotify and more than 590,000 subscribers to the band’s official YouTube channel.
Jampol declined to give a specific budget for the film, other than calling it “significant for a documentary.” He hopes for a late 2022 to early 2023 release.
For Gunpowder & Sky, which takes its name from an Aimee Mann song, the project is just the latest high-profile doc it has produced since launching in 2016, following 2019's Everybody’s Everything (Netflix), about late rapper Lil Peep, and 2020’s 69: The Saga of Danny Hernandez (Hulu), about troubled rapper 6ix9ine.
The studio has also released three feature films, including the Nick Offerman-starring love letter to record stores, Hearts Beat Loud, and Her Smell, for which Elisabeth Moss was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for best female lead.
Gunpowder & Sky also produces YouTube’s short-form weekly music series Released, as well as Words + Music, a music podcast on Audible that features well-known artists telling life tales based around their songs. Also in the works is a Latinx version of Alice in Wonderland. “There’s just so many great stories around music and not being married to a platform or a format enables us to customize it to the audience,” Toffler says.
For Toffler, former CEO of Viacom Media Networks Music and Logo Group, it’s all about truthful, compelling storytelling regardless of whether long or short-form, narrative or documentary, audio or video. And it’s that honest approach that he and his partners will bring to Morrison’s rich story.
“We're in an age of very manicured doc that we're seeing all over the place, and I really don't have any interest in that,” Toffler adds. “We're really upfront with the artist. It's like, ‘We're going to ask you about the bad stuff about your career.’ If things are too combed over, it's just not that intriguing.”