Chris Dorsey, president and CEO of Dorsey Pictures, talks to TV Real about the production company’s expansion into true crime.
Building Alaska, Building Off the Grid and Tiny House Big Living are titles that one presently associates with Dorsey Pictures. Dog’s Most Wanted and Slender Man Stabbing: The Untold Story, both part of Dorsey’s expansion into the true-crime genre, are destined to be among the company’s known titles of the future.
In addition to the Dog the Bounty Hunter reboot that Dorsey is producing for WGN America and the two-hour special on the Slender Man trial the company created for REELZ, it’s also set to do a series and a special for Oxygen, which rebranded itself as a true-crime network two years ago. Most recently, the company signed Emmy-nominated true-crime producer Kelly McLear and true-crime author Randy Williams to first-look deals. While Dorsey Pictures has dabbled in the genre before with the 53-episode series Don’t Be a Victim for Spike TV, the company is now clearly intent on making a bigger splash in the space.
“The fact that there is so much interest in true crime is telling about our country and maybe just people in general,” muses Dorsey. “I think the belief that criminals often get away with heinous acts is widely held and people are captivated by seemingly normal people committing extraordinarily evil acts.” Dorsey also points out that viewers are particularly drawn to stories about people in positions of trust and authority who abuse their power to commit crimes.
Knowing that there’s interest in the true-crime genre and why there’s interest in it are just part of the larger equation. For Dorsey, it’s also about knowing what could be his company’s unique value proposition within the genre.
“If we’re going to produce in the crime space, what does Dorsey bring that other production companies in the space don’t?” asks Dorsey. In answer to that question, Dorsey’s true-crime content is “focused in small town and rural America, where law enforcement and investigative funding can be sparse, [and] justice can be elusive.”
Unlike many major U.S. production studios that are headquartered on the coasts—in New York City or Los Angeles—Dorsey Pictures is based out of Denver, Colorado, in America’s Mountain West region. Dorsey’s CEO identifies this as a distinct advantage.
“We see the land between the coasts a bit differently,” says Dorsey. “Many networks rely on the flyover states for their audience shares. I think it helps when we assess talent that we can distinguish characters from caricatures who reside in this part of the country. We live and work among these folks; they’re not creations of stereotypes that have been perpetuated for too long. And they often have different sensibilities in their worldview, thoughts on faith and family, etcetera.”
Dorsey adds, “I continue to believe that there are rivers of gold for networks that embrace these audiences, as they remain underserved.”
Three years ago, Dorsey Pictures came under the Red Arrow Studios umbrella in a move that was made to help the production company reach the next level—or find its own river of gold, so to speak. “We saw the trends much the same way they did and that brought a sense of cohesion that has been proven over the last few years being in their family,” Dorsey explains.
While Dorsey Pictures pushes forward with leveraging the true-crime trend, there are others the company is looking at to further diversify its catalog in the years ahead. Currently, Dorsey is considering how his company could explore “basic human desires for certainty in uncertain times and how that impacts our way of living, working, educating and fundamentally how we relate to one another.” As Dorsey says of the company’s better-known lifestyle programming: “If it can be built, we can produce it.”