Press Release: The American South is known for its boundless creativity, absorbing personalities and evocative landscapes. SOUTHERN STORYTELLERS, a new three-episode series from PBS, Arkansas PBS and award-winning filmmaker Craig Renaud, follows some of the region’s most compelling and influential contemporary creators to the places they call home — the communities that fertilize the stories they tell in books, songs, poems, plays and on screens large and small. The documentary series premieres summer 2023 on PBS, and the PBS Video app.

SOUTHERN STORYTELLERS comes from our desire, as native Southerners, to show the South in an authentic light,” says Courtney Pledger, executive director and CEO of Arkansas PBS. “And we can think of no better way to do that than through the experiences of the region’s writers and creators who are able to engage us, move us and take us to a deeper understanding of such a dynamic place and its people.”

With major funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), SOUTHERN STORYTELLERS traverses the South, from the mountains of Appalachia to the Gulf of Mexico, revealing a vivid patchwork of diverse American stories that celebrate the resilience and joy of Southern people — and the magnitude of gifts from the region’s writers. Among the featured creatives are some of the most recognized storytellers from the worlds of literature, music, television and film, including novelist Jesmyn Ward; country music artist Lyle Lovett; poet and memoirist Natasha Trethewey; “Raya and the Last Dragon” screenwriter, Qui Nguyen; The Hate U Give author, Angie Thomas; singer and guitarist Brittany Howard, playwright Katori Hall; and “Stranger Things” series creators, Matt and Ross Duffer.

In addition to the three-part broadcast series, SOUTHERN STORYTELLERS includes a six-part series on PBS Digital Studios that explores the powerful role of place in the lyrics of Southern songwriters. Go-Valley’s Keith Maitland (“Dear Mr. Brody,” “Tower”) and Terry Lickona (AUSTIN CITY LIMITS) direct and produce the digital series. Indie music artist Thao Nguyen hosts.

“We are thrilled to partner with Arkansas PBS and Craig Renaud, a talented and deep-rooted storyteller himself, to explore the breadth and depth of Southern art and culture,” says Bill Gardner, vice president of multiplatform programming and head of development at PBS.

SOUTHERN STORYTELLERS gives our audiences the opportunity to hear creators from across the region as they share, in their uniquely Southern voices, the places and histories that inspire them to honor and preserve traditions and to create new ones for the future.”

SOUTHERN STORYTELLERS is a good example of how public media elevates stories by local storytellers, allowing people to define themselves rather than being defined by others,” says Kathryn Washington, CPB senior vice president, television content. “CPB is pleased to support this collaboration that amplifies Southern voices across broadcast and digital platforms.”

SOUTHERN STORYTELLERS is created and executive produced by Courtney Pledger and

filmmaker Craig Renaud. Known for his intimate approach with his documentary subjects, Renaud has spent the last two decades telling human-centered, verité stories from around the globe, often in partnership with his late brother, Brent. The partnership between the Renaud brothers and Arkansas PBS began in 2018 with the PBS documentary STATE OF THE ART, capturing the personal stories of artists at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art who are redefining the aesthetic of contemporary art in America. Renaud has won numerous major awards, including a Peabody and multiple duPont-Columbia Awards.

A diverse team of filmmakers and producers join Renaud Films and Arkansas PBS in the overall effort, including Keith Maitland, Terry Lickona, Denise Godoy, Jamal Hodge, Andy Sarjahani, Héctor Tapia and Juan Arredondo. Bill Gardner is the executive in charge for PBS.

Funding for SOUTHERN STORYTELLERS was provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Rosalind P. Walter Foundation, and the Willard and Pat Walker Charitable Foundation, Inc.