HBO Max Picks Up Russell Simmons Accusers Doc ‘On the Record’

Sundance 2020: Film from Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering was dropped from Apple TV+ after Oprah Winfrey stepped away as executive producer

On the Record
Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Martyna Starosta.

HBO Max has acquired the U.S. rights to “On the Record,” Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering’s documentary that follows the accusers of music mogul Russell Simmons following its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival.

“On the Record” has been a hot button film since Oprah Winfrey revealed earlier this month that she’d step away from the project as an executive producer, which additionally led to Apple TV+ to drop it from its slate.

The documentary primarily follows Drew Dixon at the beginning of the #MeToo movement as she grapples with the decision to come forward about her accusations about Simmons. Dixon says she was raped by Simmons in his apartment in 1995 and quit the company shortly after. Simmons has denied all accusations of non-consensual sex.

“The fierce determination of Drew Dixon and all of the women who bravely chose to share their stories in ‘On The Record’ moved us profoundly,” Sarah Aubrey, head of original content at HBO Max, said in a statement. “I’ve been impressed with Amy and Kirby’s work over the years covering this complex subject matter, and look forward to this film finding the widest possible audience.”

“Kirby and I are so proud to be teaming with HBO Max to give this film the outstanding platform it deserves and can’t wait for the public to see and hear the voices of these courageous women,” said Ziering.

The documentary is also an opportunity to examine the silencing particularly of black women in the #MeToo conversation, taking an unconventional approach to the usual way of telling survivor’s confessional stories.

Winfrey said that while she believes the women and supports the filmmaker, she took her name off the documentary because she felt new information had surfaced and those issues would not be able to be addressed in time before the movie was set to premiere at Sundance.

“Before the public pressure had started, before Russell had gone with his Instagram, I had gone to the filmmakers, and I said to them, ‘Houston I think we had a problem because new information had come forward,’ the very first time this was announced,” Winfrey said on CBS This Morning. “And I said ‘I think I think we need to pull out of Sundance and if we can’t pull out of Sundance, I’m going to have to take my name off. But I don’t want to pull my name off, because it’s going to be a big hullabaloo.’”

“We need to get it right. There’s some inconsistencies in the story that we need to look at,” Winfrey continued.

Winfrey said she had also received pressure from Simmons to pull her support from the documentary, but she added that her reasons behind leaving the film had nothing to do with him and that her departure should not be seen as a “victory lap” for Simmons.

Dick and Ziering responded to Winfrey ahead of the festival in a statement, saying, “Revealing hard truths is never easy, and the women in our documentary are all showing extraordinary strength and courage by raising their voices to address sexual abuse in the music industry. While we are disappointed that Oprah Winfrey is no longer an executive producer on the project, we are gratified that Winfrey has unequivocally said she believes and supports the survivors in the film.”

“On The Record” is produced by Dick and Ziering’s Jane Doe Films with Dan Cogan for Impact Partners, Regina K. Scully for Artemis Rising, Ian Darling for Shark Island and Abigail Disney for Level Forward serving as executive producers.  UTA Independent Film Group brokered the deal.