Fox showrunners talk women in TV at Tribeca Film Festival: Flawed female characters, getting their voices heard and more
21CF showrunners Liz Meriwether ("New Girl"), Nahnatchka Khan ("Fresh Off the Boat"), and Julie Klausner (Hulu's "Difficult People") discussed the challenges and opportunities facing women in the television industry during the Tribeca Film Festival's #DaringWomenSummit. The April 20th session spanned a range of subjects, such as the lack of female directors in Hollywood, the progress women have made in recent years, and the work that still needs to be done. Danielle Nussbaum, Senior West Coast Editor at Entertainment Weekly, moderated the panel, which also featured journalist and "Being Mary Jane" writer Keli Goff.
"Our show is about representation," said Khan, whose series "Fresh Off the Boat" is produced by Twentieth Century Fox Television. "The family sitcom has been around since the beginning of television, but now we're taking these stories and showing them through the lens of the immigrant experience, the first generation experience. We're [always thinking about] how that's different from other ways of telling stories."
Nussbaum noted that the success of series like "Fresh Off the Boat" speaks to "the importance of on-screen visibility in terms of getting opportunities," and asked the panel why series featuring flawed female characters are increasingly populating the media landscape.
"Our shows are working because women like to watch women who are like women," Meriwether said. "Making my first pilot years before 'New Girl,' [the network] would say things like, 'OK, this one's smart, and this [other character] likes sex,' and I had to say, 'No, she's smart and likes sex.' Things have changed in the past eight years in that people are beginning to understand that women characters can be more than just one word."
Meriwether went on to mention that as much change has been made on screen, progress remains to be made behind the camera.
"There is a huge, huge problem with [the lack of] female directors in Hollywood," she said. "We go out of our way to try and hire female directors on 'New Girl'... We're moving forward, but there's definitely a long way to go."
According to Khan, the way forward is to keep encouraging female voices and giving them the platforms to tell their stories.
"As women, you're still the minority," Khan said. "Men still run things for the most part, so we have to adapt to them. We have to write everybody, but [men] don't necessarily have to [write women]... The more opportunities we get, and the more we rise up, the more that power balance is going to shift."
Visit Entertainment Weekly for additional coverage of the panel, including a full video recording, and learn about the Fox Global Directors Initiative, a program launched in 2014 to champion the work of female directors.
21st Century Fox has announced a contribution of more than $125,000 to Malala Fund, an organization advocating for secondary girls' education around the world. The gift consists of funds raised through a company-wide employee matching program, as well as a social media campaign led by 21CF and the National Geographic Channel, and will help provide education for Syrian refugee children. The donation is the culmination of the company's year-long global campaign to support "He Named Me Malala," Fox Searchlight and National Geographic Channel's documentary about 18-year-old activist Malala Yousafzai, and raise awareness of the more than 60 million young women who are out of school around the globe.
"Malala's incredible journey is both heartbreaking and inspiring," said Steve Gilula and Nancy Utley, co-presidents of Fox Searchlight. "Her bravery in the face of adversity brought us to tears. The chance to bring her story to a global audience [is] an honor for all of us here at Searchlight."
21CF launched the employee matching program shortly after the theatrical release of "He Named Me Malala" in October 2015, and by the end of the year, the initiative generated nearly $70,000. In February, ahead of National Geographic Channel's global commercial-free broadcast premiere of the film, 21CF and Nat Geo hosted a social media campaign to raise additional funds. 21CF donated $1 for every tweet with the hashtag #withMalala and every Facebook user who changed his/her profile picture to a special campaign video.
"This incredible and critically acclaimed film left movie audiences applauding this young woman's journey and left them wanting to make a difference," said Courteney Monroe, CEO, National Geographic Global Networks. "We are extremely proud and honored to have dedicated National Geographic's collective resources to bring awareness of Malala's advocacy for girls' education to our global audience."
Malala Fund will use these gifts to support the educational needs of Syrian refugee girls currently living in Lebanon and Jordan. According to a report from the UN High Commission on Refugees, more than 1.1 million Syrian children are refugees, and over 75% of them are under the age of 12. More than half of all school-age Syrian children in Jordan and Lebanon are not in school. Those who are face overcrowding, inadequate funding, and discrimination. Malala Fund is working to provide quality education for these children.
"This is a heartbreaking tragedy--the world's worst refugee crisis in decades," Malala said when she opened the Malala Yousafzai All-Girls School in Lebanon in July 2015. "[The girls'] courage and dedication to continue their schooling in difficult conditions inspires people around the world, and it is our duty to stand by them."
Learn more about Malala Fund, and view National Geographic photographer Karen Kasmauski's photos documenting girls in refugee camps supported by the Malala Fund in Jordan, Lebanon, and Kenya. "He Named Me Malala" is now available on DVD and Digital Download.
As part of 21st Century Fox's Earth Day celebrations, Fox colleagues in LA were treated to a special presentation by Ford Cochran, renowned geologist, journalist, educator and director of programming at National Geographic Expeditions. Cochran, who has dedicated his career to the exploration and protection of parks, took attendees on a visual journey through some of the United States' most iconic national parks, accompanied by the stunning photography for which National Geographic is known. National Geographic is currently running its Power of Parks campaign, celebrating the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service.
"In this park service centennial year we owe it to ourselves to discover or rediscover these natural wonders," said Cochran. "The parks are sanctuaries for wildlife but they are also sanctuaries for the human spirit. They are exciting, inspiring and beautiful. They connect to the natural world and remind us of our place in it."
The centerpiece of Cochran's presentation was a striking photo expedition through America's National Parks, from the Florida Everglades to Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. Drawing on his years of experience working with Nat Geo field teams in parks and marine sanctuaries, Cochran also detailed the extensive conservation efforts currently active at many of the parks, including how employees themselves could get involved.
"The national parks have been called America's best idea, and throughout our history National Geographic has celebrated the parks and supported their creation and expansion," said Cochran. "More than a century ago Gilbert H. Grosvenor, the first full time editor of National Geographic Magazine, joined a camping trip hosted by Stephen Mather, who would become the first director of the U.S. National Park Service. Grosvenor devoted the entire April 1916 National Geographic magazine issue to a celebration of the parks and here we are today devoting an entire issue to Yellowstone, the world's first national park and demonstrating that National Geographic's commitment to the national parks has never lapsed."
National Geographic magazine is devoting its May issue to Yellowstone, including an in-depth look at the founding of the park, highlights from the park's wildlife conservation efforts, and how tourism is affecting the park's ecosystems. In addition to a feature series in the magazine and a dedicated issue of the National Geographic Kids magazine, the organization's yearlong Power of Parks campaign includes parks programming on the National Geographic Channels, an Explore the Power of Parks web portal featuring the latest news, photos, travel guides, maps, and educational resources, and National Geographic Expeditions to national parks.
National Geographic has also published several new books on national parks this year, including an updated edition of the best-selling National Geographic Guide to National Parks of the United States and the accompanying National Geographic Kids National Parks Guide USA, which Cochran gave out to employees during his presentation.
Find out what you can do to help National Geographic protect our National Parks, and start planning your next park adventure with the help of Nat Geo's Parks Travel Guide.
National Geographic Partners is a joint venture between National Geographic Society and 21st Century Fox.
Event photos by Geoff Mau
In special Earth Day promo, Fox offers "Independence Day" for only $.99 to benefit Earth Day Network's conservation efforts
In honor of Earth Day, and to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of Fox's "Independence Day," Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment has partnered with Earth Day Network and Google Play to offer fans a Digital HD download of the sci-fi classic for only $.99 between Friday, April 22, and Monday, April 25. Fox's proceeds will benefit Earth Day Network's Trees for the Earth initiative, which aims to plant 7.8 billion trees over the next five years. "Independence Day: Resurgence," the sequel to "Independence Day," will arrive in theaters June 24.
The partnership is the latest chapter in a longstanding relationship between Fox Home Entertainment and Earth Day Network, dating back to their 2010 collaboration on the Avatar Home Tree Initiative, which succeeded in its goal to plant 1 million trees across six continents within a year. This new wave of support from Fox Home Entertainment's sale of "Independence Day" on Google Play will allow Earth Day Network to continue its work around the world to protect the planet. The Trees for the Earth initiative will work with local tree-planting partners to ensure that the most impoverished communities receive new trees that will help them better feed their families and grow their local economy.
In addition, actor Jeff Goldblum, who stars in both the original "Independence Day" and the upcoming sequel, recorded a special Earth Day PSA in character as Earth Space Defense Director David Levinson, giving viewers practical tips on make their homes more environmentally friendly. View the PSA below.
Purchase "Independence Day" for $.99 at the Google Play store, and learn more about Earth Day Network's Trees for the Earth initiative.
21CF businesses celebrate Earth Day with photo contests, Nat Geo features, days of service, and more
Since the launch of its corporate sustainability program in 2007, 21st Century Fox has consistently made Earth Day a focal point of its yearly calendar, regularly extending its celebration into a full month of activities engaging colleagues around the world. From the FOX network's annual "Green It. Mean It." PSA campaign, now in its ninth year, to a long tradition of spring volunteer events, 21CF's global colleagues embrace Earth Day as a time to take action in their own lives to better the environment, as well as inspire others to care about the planet. Here are some of the ways we're doing so this year.
Sharing our love of nature with the "Explore Your World" photo contest
21CF's third-annual Earth Month photo competition is encouraging global employees to combine photography skills and their love of the outdoors by sharing their best nature photos on social media using the hashtag #21CFExplore. This year is the most successful for the contest to date, with thousands of entries pouring in from all corners of the business, featuring employees and their families riding bikes, hiking, rock climbing, planting gardens, visiting local and national parks, and more. Check out some of the photos we've received below:
Encouraging our viewers to live greener
Throughout the month of April, FOX Broadcasting Company is continuing its commitment to "Green It. Mean It.," an initiative designed to raise both viewer and employee awareness of environmental issues. The on-air campaign includes tips from FOX talent about how viewers can live greener both at home and at work. Stars from Empire, Scream Queens, Last Man on Earth, Rosewood, Gotham, and more appear.
Volunteering in our communities
On Saturday, April 16, 21CF colleagues on both the East and West coasts spent the day giving back to the communities where they live and work. In Los Angeles, the FoxGives group organized a trip to Grand View Elementary School in Culver City, where nearly 100 Fox employees painted an environmentally-themed mural, planted a garden, and built planters, benches, and bird houses. The event was hosted in conjunction with LA Works, a nonprofit that creates hands-on community service projects throughout the greater Los Angeles area.
On the East Coast, 21CF employees spent April 16 as part of the annual New York Cares Day, a city-wide volunteering initiative to clean up New York's parks and community spaces. Colleagues from the corporate office, Blue Sky Studios, Fox News Channel, FOX Sports, and Fox TV Stations spent the day painting, pulling weeds, and sprucing up the athletic spaces at East River Park. 21st Century Fox has supported New York Cares since 1999.
Reaching global audiences with National Geographic National Geographic is spending Earth Day inspiring and empowering people around the world to make changes in their daily lives in support of a more sustainable planet. On television, Nat Geo WILD is dedicating its entire primetime block on Friday, April 22, to celebrating those working to protect our wildlife populations, featuring the premiere of "Mission Critical: Orangutan on the Edge." Online, in addition to special features and photo galleries, the company's Instagram brands will select their followers' best nature photos with the hashtag #NatGeoEarthDay and publish them on NationalGeographic.com.
Learn more about sustainability at 21CF, and check back soon as we announce the winners of the "Explore Your World" photo contest.