Lightbox, a leading UK/US production company founded by Academy Award-winner Simon Chinn (known for “Man on Wire” and “Searching for Sugar Man”) and Emmy Award-winner Jonathan Chinn (credited for “LA 92” and “Tina”), is currently in the process of creating a high-quality three-part documentary series. This project, co-financed by Channel 4 and FIFTH SEASON, will delve into the recent controversy surrounding the rock star Marilyn Manson.
Titled “MARILYN MANSON: BEHIND THE MASK (working title),” the series will chronicle the musician’s journey to stardom, exploring his significance and role as a counterculture icon. It will thoroughly examine the recent allegations against Manson, shedding light on his knack for stirring controversy, all while investigating how high-profile claims of sexual assault unfold in today’s post #Metoo era.
“MARILYN MANSON: BEHIND THE MASK (w/t)” is being created in collaboration with Rolling Stone Films, with FIFTH SEASON overseeing global distribution rights and introducing the series to potential buyers at MIPCOM 2023.
Since the early 1990s, when Brian Warner introduced his alter-ego, Marilyn Manson, he aimed to provoke shock. Over the ensuing two decades, his deliberately crafted and highly contentious persona achieved iconic status worldwide. His followers and progressive cultural commentators interpreted his startling lyrics, conduct, and performances as a form of social or political satire. Many positioned Manson at the heart of a cultural battle, particularly in the aftermath of the Columbine school shootings, which conservative pundits asserted he bore partial responsibility for, a claim he vehemently refuted. This prompted a debate over whether he should be boycotted as a performer for allegedly corrupting America’s youth, or if his artistic freedom should be defended.
In February 2021, several women came forward, accusing Brian Warner of sexual assault. Within a day, he was dropped by his manager, agent, and record company.
Later that same year, a revelatory Rolling Stone article exposed a litany of allegations from multiple women. These accusations led to a police raid and a criminal investigation into Manson. In total, five of his accusers initiated civil lawsuits, alleging sexual assault and other charges. Retractions and out-of-court settlements demonstrated the intricate and multifaceted nature of such allegations. To date, no formal charges have been filed, but civil cases are pending.
“MARILYN MANSON: BEHIND THE MASK (w/t)” delves into an extraordinary unfolding narrative, with Rolling Stone’s ongoing inquiry forming a crucial part. It raises probing questions about this moment in our culture, where Marilyn Manson finds himself defending against allegations from women who have recently accused him of abusive conduct that allegedly occurred many years ago. Manson and his legal team argue that these encounters were entirely consensual or simply did not happen.
The series has secured access to several of the accusers, lifelong fans, industry insiders, lawyers, a former bandmate, and his childhood best friend. It traces his ascent to fame from a challenging upbringing, through vilification and death threats, to being hailed as an advocate for those on the fringes of society. It also closely scrutinises the aftermath of the allegations for both the accusers and the accused. Exclusive audio recordings of interviews with Rolling Stone, alongside archival footage and previously unseen photographs, offer an intimate portrayal of one of the most contentious musicians of the twenty-first century.
Suzanne Lavery, SVP Unscripted, Lightbox says: “MARILYN MANSON: BEHIND THE MASK (w/t) tells the definitive story of the controversy surrounding the star, charting his career from its early days through to his being dropped by his manager, agent and record label as a result of the allegations made against him. In first hand testimony, we hear intimate accounts from his accusers, as well as those who robustly refute their allegations. The series asks timely questions about how the music industry draws the line between rock n roll excess and transgressive behaviour and examines whether Manson’s constructed persona reflects the reality of the human being behind the performer, and what the future holds for the freedom of expression and the right to shock.”
Sacha Mirzoeff, Senior Commissioner Documentaries, Head of Bristol Hub, added: “Brian Warner, better known as Marilyn Manson, has made a lifetime career of stomping where others fear to tread. His transgressive rock persona was largely espoused until multiple questions about his private behaviour emerged. This three-part series directed by Karen McGann examines his life, career and sets the recent abuse allegations into context of the times then and the times now through the voices of the accusers and Manson’s allies. The result is a shocking portrayal of the different accounts of what went on and how much society, the world of music and celebrity has changed in the last generation.”
“Rolling Stone broke the story about Marilyn Manson’s alleged abuse and this series takes a step back to explore those allegations in the wider context of Manson’s career, his meteoric rise as the self-proclaimed ‘Antichrist Superstar’ and the controversy surrounding his recent fall from grace. We are proud to partner with Lightbox to tell this fascinating and complex story,” said Gus Wenner, CEO Rolling Stone.
Travis Webb, SVP Sales, Americas, at FIFTH SEASON, comments: “Lightbox has an incredible track record in creating premium, award-winning documentaries that shine a light on high-profile musicians, such as TINA, WHITNEY and SPECTOR. This latest addition is a captivating series that will appeal to audiences in the US and around the world through its never-before-seen footage, exclusive interviews, and incredible access to the inner circle.”
“MARILYN MANSON: BEHIND THE MASK (w/t)” is a production by Lightbox and Rolling Stone Films for Channel 4, in collaboration with FIFTH SEASON and Media Finance Capital. Karen McGann serves as the series director, Zoe Jewell as the series producer, Nic Preston as the line producer, Selina Ferguson as the production executive, and Simon Chinn, Jonathan Chinn, and Suzanne Lavery are the executive producers. Jason Fine and Gus Wenner are executive producers for Rolling Stone Films. The commission was made by Sacha Mirzoeff at Channel 4. FIFTH SEASON holds the worldwide distribution rights.