Storyville holds a special place in the history of New Orleans and, in many ways, the world.
The famed (and completely legal) red light district, which reigned over a sizable area just outside the French Quarter from 1897 to 1917, was an unprecedented social experiment and an incubator for a then-nascent musical movement called jazz. Though the neighborhood has been a very different place for the past century, most modern day New Orleanians have heard tales of the many vices–from prostitution to drugs, gambling and beyond–that found a safe haven in the brothels and gambling houses of Storyville.
Those tales may be reaching a wider audience soon, if a planned television show about the notorious red light district ends up taking off. Deadline reports that a company called Mission Control Entertainment has optioned the rights to Gary Krist’s bestselling book “Empire of Sin: A Story of Sex, Jazz, Murder and the Battle for Modern New Orleans” in the hopes of doing just that. (Krist was recently the keynote speaker at a Louisiana State Museum conference on the subject).
The book will be used as source material for Storyville, a fictional series from Rome co-creator William J. “Bill” Macdonald and Wild Hogs writer-director Walt Becker. The planned period drama would be set against the backdrop of the debaucherous neighbohood, with a gritty tone in the vein of HBO’s Rome and Boardwalk Empire.
According to Deadline, the company is currently in discussions with a network but has secured enough private funding to proceed with filming a pilot regardless. The creators plan to begin shooting in mid-2016, and scouting has already begun in Louisiana.
“It was a sexually charged, violent era,” Mission Control Entertainment president Bill Borden told the publication. “Walt Becker and Bill Macdonald have written an incredible pilot, and as a Louisiana native, the fact that the entire series will be shot in New Orleans and the state is very exciting.”
There is currently no word on when, or if, Storyville will premiere. However, Deadline reports that project is targeted for cable and digital platforms on account of its violent, sexual nature.
In December of 2014, premium cable network Starz began developing its own show about Storyville. The project was based on an idea from film and theater writer-director George C.Wolfe, who was supposed to write and direct the series (Wolfe won three Tony Awards for his 1992 musical on Jelly Roll Mortion, Jelly’s Last Jam). Little has been heard about the project since it was first announced over a year ago, and it is not related to Mission Control Entertainment’s planned series..