During my first job after college, as late-night police reporter for the Tampa Tribune, my shift ended in the wee hours, not long before the presses started rolling, and one of my greatest pleasures was to grab an early copy of the newspaper—as warm to the touch as freshly baked bread—with one of my stories on the front. Today, I and my colleagues at Texas Monthly get that same thrill every month when the first copies of our print magazine land in the office. And we look forward to a whole new source of excitement, accompanied by popcorn, as more of our stories and podcasts get adapted for streaming series.
That last ambition takes a big step closer to realization today. My colleagues and I are pleased to announce that we’re entering what’s known as a “first-look” deal with HBO and HBO Max. These popular, award-winning entertainment brands will have the right to assess both new and classic stories and podcasts that Texas Monthly has published and decide which ones they’d like to develop. They might be interested in a single story or podcast, or in combining two or more stories. After a set time period, if they’re not interested in a particular story or podcast, we will be free to offer it to other entertainment companies.
HBO Max is already in production, with Lionsgate Television, on the limited series Love & Death, based on the Texas Monthly Press book Evidence of Love: A True Story of Passion and Death in the Suburbs, and on articles in Texas Monthly (“Love and Death in Silicon Prairie”) by Jim Atkinson and John Bloom. Both works explored the true story of Candace “Candy” Montgomery and her friend Betty Gore, whom she killed with an ax. The HBO Max series features Elizabeth Olsen, who has starred in the drama series Sorry for Your Loss and the movies Wind River and Godzilla, among many others. Also starring in Love & Death is Texan Jesse Plemons, best known for his role in the Texas-based TV series Friday Night Lights. Love & Death is written by acclaimed industry veteran David E. Kelley and executive produced by Oscar winner Nicole Kidman and others. The director is Dallas native Lesli Linka Glatter, best known for her work on the popular drama series Homeland.
Also in development at HBO Max is an adaptation of our story “When ‘Angels in America’ Came to East Texas.”
Texas Monthly is represented in Hollywood by the Creative Artists Agency, and specifically quarterbacked by dynamo agent Ann Blanchard, a proud Texan who knows and loves our state and the crazy stories and characters it spawns. Since our relationship with Ann and CAA began in 2019, Texas Monthly has sold more than two dozen articles and podcasts into various stages of development and production, with partners who include George Clooney, Laura Dern, Tom Hanks, Taylor Sheridan (another proud Texan!), and Renée Zellweger (ditto), as well as HBO and HBO Max, ABC, Discovery Plus, Netflix, Paramount, and Starz.
Those adaptations in development include one based on our Boomtown podcast, about the West Texas oil fields, one based on our true-crime podcast, Tom Brown’s Body, and a non-scripted true-crime documentary series. That last project is already in production, but I’m not allowed to reveal details just yet. Please stay tuned!
Our first-look deal with HBO and HBO Max is the fruit of months of diligent, creative work by my counterpart on the business side of Texas Monthly, company president Scott Brown, our editor of new story platforms, Megan Creydt, and our producer of new story platforms, Maddy Bilder. Scott, Megan, and Maddy (with wise guidance from CAA) were asked to pitch such a deal to about a dozen movie and film studios and other entertainment companies, and received offers from half of those. We’re very pleased to end up working with HBO and HBO Max, whose quality standards are known to all. (Plus, in an amazing coincidence, the head of original content at HBO Max, Sarah Aubrey, worked years ago as a Texas Monthly intern!)
We’ve received keen Hollywood interest in one of our recent feature stories—“The Notorious Mrs. Mossler,” by executive editor Skip Hollandsworth, about a wealthy Houston socialite who might have pulled off the perfect murder. We’ve also fielded several inquiries about our most recent podcast, America’s Girls, which launched December 7. The eight-episode series is hosted by Dallas writer Sarah Hepola and tells the inside story of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. That podcast, by the way, was just named by the Guardian as one of the best podcasts of the week. We hope you’ll check it out.
As Scott explains: “Our goals in Hollywood are twofold. First, to partner with filmmakers who will do justice to Texas Monthly’s great stories. Second, to expose our storytelling to television and film audiences who might not know Texas Monthly. Our first-look deal with HBO and HBO Max accomplishes both of those objectives. These two brands create terrific programming that gets seen and loved. We couldn’t be more thrilled about the opportunity to get even more deeply involved with them.”
Megan adds: “This new relationship with HBO and HBO Max is a testament to the talent of our writers and editors, our podcast producers and sound technicians, our art department, fact-checkers, copy editors, and everyone else who works so hard to tell great stories in Texas Monthly. There aren’t many magazines today publishing the kind of great narrative nonfiction this one has been known for since its inception—and continues to produce every month.”