The National Geographic Society recently approved more than $4 million for 111 grants, further strengthening the 21CF partner’s commitment to investing in science, exploration, conservation, storytelling, education, and technology. These awards complete the annual grants cycle, with over 600 grants totaling nearly $12 million awarded in 2017 to help address the planet’s most critical issues in fighting for a healthier, more sustainable future for all.

“This week’s decision by the National Geographic Society leadership demonstrates a historic and continued commitment to understanding the world and all that’s in it. The significance of Society funding cannot be overstated. We’re making substantial investments to support all those striving to achieve a planet in balance,” said Gary E. Knell, president and CEO, National Geographic Society.

Applicants came from the widest range of disciplines and backgrounds yet, including technologists, educators, and storytellers, in addition to scientists, conservationists, and explorers. Over half of the grant awardees are from outside the United States and represent 34 countries, from Argentina to Italy to Rwanda to Indonesia. Grant recipients will employ citizen science to collect data about widespread mangrove die-off in the Caribbean; test innovations to combat illegal sea turtle egg trafficking, coastline degradation and poaching; and build and test long-range, private wireless networks to strengthen the capacity of rangers and managers in protected areas from Malaysia, Burkina Faso, Niger and Benin.

“Our grant recipients are — and have always been — the heart and soul of what we do. When we award a grant, we’re not just funding a project. We are also inviting bold individuals from a variety of fields to join a passionate community of like-minded global leaders,” said Jonathan Baillie, chief scientist and senior vice president, Science and Exploration, National Geographic Society.

For nearly 130 years, the National Geographic Society has been pushing boundaries to explore and document the world, supporting over 13,000 grant projects along the way. In September 2015, 21st Century Fox expanded its partnership with the Society to create National Geographic Partners, a new for-profit venture bringing together all of National Geographic's media assets, including the channels, the globally circulated magazine, and the popular social media presences. At the new company, 27% of all proceeds return to the non-profit National Geographic Society, supporting their commitment to science, research, conservation and exploration.

Twentieth Century Fox Television - Fox Directors Lab

In its annual report on the ethnic and gender diversity of the television industry, the Directors Guild of America in November identified Twentieth Century Fox Television as the industry leader in hiring diverse voices behind the camera. The DGA Episodic TV Director Diversity Report found that women and minorities helmed 45% of the studio’s 553 episodes of television produced during the 2016-2017 season, including episodes of shows such as Empire, The Americans, This Is Us, and many more.

“I have to credit the Current team who feel personally responsible for giving more opportunities to female and diverse directors,” said Carolyn Cassidy, SVP and Head of Current Programming at TCFTV, about the report. “We’re always looking for new voices behind the camera. With the help of our production department we educate ourselves on new diverse and female directors and aim to integrate them into the pipeline at 20th. Some of our finds this season have really elevated episodes of Empire, The Exorcist and Fresh Off the Boat, to name a few. Giving these directors more chances to succeed with us is a real priority.”

Changing the Face of the TV Industry

In addition to leading the industry overall, TCFTV also hired more people of color to direct television than any other studio, with 23.3% of its episodes directed by ethnic minorities. The company was second only to Amazon at hiring women directors, with 28.9% to Amazon’s 33.5%. These figures combined to make the overall 45%. The DGA also concluded that diverse hiring increased across the industry this year to a record 22%, making 2016-2017 the most inclusive production season ever.    

21st Century Fox is committed to supporting and developing the next generation of storytellers through programs that nurture their creativity and create a strong pipeline of diverse talent to the entertainment industry. The Fox Directors Lab (FDL), for example, was launched in 2014 to increase the number of women and minority directors working in Hollywood. The program annually recruits up-and-coming directors for an intensive three-week course that includes mentorship from directors, showrunners, and executives. Participants from past years have gone on to direct episodes of American Horror Story, You’re the Worst, Snowfall, Empire, Scream Queens, and more.

Studio executives at TCFTV not only shepherd the talent that participate in programs like FDL but also take active roles in shaping the conversation about diversity in Hollywood at large. Dana Sharpless, SVP, Current Programming at TCFTV, Reena Singh, VP, Current Series at TCFTV, and Jonathan Frank, EVP, Current Programming at FX all participated in this year’s DGA Directors Development Initiative, speaking on panels and serving as mentors to young directors. Ann Calfas, EVP of Labor Relations, now serves as Co-Chair of the DGA-Producers Joint Diversity Action Committee, an industry-wide body that meets several times per year to determine the best ways to support directors with diverse voices and backgrounds at the studio level.

Championing Screenwriters and Filmmakers

Twentieth Century Fox undertakes similar efforts to increase diversity behind the camera on its film projects. This year, the studio announced it would partner with the American Film Institute on the Fox Filmmakers Lab. The program gives alumni of the AFI Directing Workshop for Women exclusive access to the studio’s production, creative, and marketing executives.  This past spring, the filmmakers pitched original ideas for a short film based on a Fox franchise or reboot to key creative executives.  In November, 21CF Global Inclusion hosted a breakfast to honor the inaugural class of 25 female filmmakers.

The group also operates the Fox Writers Lab, a fellowship program that spans film, TV, and digital storytelling. Finalists spend 14 weeks on the Fox Lot meeting the company’s creative executives, receiving feedback on their scripts, attending master classes with writers and directors, and hearing from some of the industry’s most experienced figures through guest speaker sessions. At the conclusion of the program, the participants receive staffing meetings for current Fox series and one fellow will receive a first-look development deal to option their original scripts. Many have gone on to write for Fox series such as Lucifer and Star.

Learn more about 21CF’s company-wide diversity efforts, including its suite of programs to support women and minority directors. The 21CF Global Inclusion team is currently working to launch the 2018 edition of the Fox Directors Lab, submissions for which will open in the spring.

Chasing Genius, Nat Geo

21st Century Fox’s National Geographic recently announced the winners of Chasing Genius, a digital community launched in June with GSK Consumer Healthcare. Nat Geo and GSK crowdsourced ideas from their audiences and chose three critical areas where transformational ideas could mobilize change and help advance the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals: making our planet more sustainable, improving global health, and kickstarting our ability to feed 9 billion people in the world. Nat Geo’s Emmy-nominated show, “Genius”, was a catalyst for the project’s creation—directed by Academy Award winners Brian Grazer and Ron Howard, the show chronicles Albert Einstein’s life through stories about his friends, lovers, enemies, and fellow scientific luminaries.

Chasing Genius evolved around the idea that anyone, anywhere, has the potential for genius, and the engagement platform aimed to nurture that genius through the power of storytelling. Over the last few months, Nat Geo engaged its online community—with 350 million social media followers, it is the largest and most activated non-celebrity brand in the world—with videos, social and digital storytelling, live events, editorial content, and more. The Chasing Genius community grew to 30,000 members, nearly 3,000 videos were submitting addressing the three critical areas mentioned above, and over 230 million impressions and 3.2 million social conversations were generated online.

Meet the winners of Chasing Genius and learn about their innovative and viable ideas for change:

  • Asta Skocir saw the need to reduce pollution in the textile industry and created AlgiKnit, which offers an alternative circular economy approach to textile production rooted in ecological intelligence, natural dye practices and biomaterials innovation.
  • Kevin White aims to help impoverished people living in the developing world who have impaired vision obtain eyeglasses. His program, USee, provides affordable, transportable, easy-to-use vision correction kits designed to suit the needs of the 2.5 billion people for whom glasses are necessary yet inaccessible.
  • Richard Trimble has developed a compact, solar-powered device that threshes and winnows pearl millet, aiming to help women in sub-Saharan Africa move away from the current method of threshing millet—an arduous task that is so intensive that it only allows them to prepare one meal per day.
  • John Monnat was selected by the Chasing Genius community as the “People’s Choice” winner for his idea help alleviate world hunger by providing farmers better access to data and science to improve crop production. His group, Cheruvu, is a data-driven sustainable enterprise that provides site-specific advice to farmers in developing countries.

Each of the winners will be awarded $25,000, along with exposure and access to resources through Nat Geo. The Chasing Genius Council, which helped choose three winners, included Susan Goldberg, Editorial Director of National Geographic Partners and editor in chief of National Geographic Magazine; Erika Bergman, submarine pilot; Caleb Harper, Principal Investigator and Director of the Open Agriculture (Open Ag) Initiative at the MIT Media Lab; Johanna Kellett, Research and Development Scientist in New Product Development at GSK Consumer Healthcare; Jay Shetty, storyteller, filmmaker and former monk; and Albert Yu-Min-Lin, research scientist and engineer focused on technology-enabled exploration and crowdsourcing.

Watch Genius and follow @NatGeo to learn more today!

Sentinel Awards Health Social Impact Media Fox TV

Hollywood, Health & Society (HH&S) has named television projects from across 21st Century Fox businesses as honorees for this year’s Sentinel Awards, an annual ceremony recognizing TV storylines and movies that inform, educate, and motivate viewers to make choices for healthier and safer lives. FX Networks’ You’re the Worst, National Geographic’s documentary Gender Revolution: A Journey with Katie Couric, and the Twentieth Century Fox Television production This Is Us will all receive awards at a ceremony in Los Angeles on September 27.

“TV writers and producers not only entertain audiences, but they affect them as well,” said Martin Kaplan, director of the USC Annenberg Norman Lear Center. “We know this both from our research, and from stories that viewers tell. These awards recognize the responsible and creative use of that power by television writers and producers.”

This Is Us is a winner in the Drama category for its episode “Jack Pearson’s Son,” which exemplifies the show’s characteristic look at family dynamics through the generations. You’re the Worst’s episode “Twenty-Tow” is recognized in the Comedy category for its focus on post-traumatic stress disorder, and Gender Revolution: A Journey with Katie Couric is a Documentary winner for exploring how gender identity issues relate to mental health.

The three projects are among 11 total honorees, chosen from a record number of submissions, which tackle such topics as maternal health, substance abuse, autism, sexual assault, and more. HH&S reviews each entry for accuracy, as well as how the program portrays the cause of the health problem, shows how it can be prevented, and demonstrates how the issue affects the characters in the story. The Sentinel Awards also honor entries in Children’s Programming, Short Documentary, Talk Show, and Unscripted Series.  

“Entertainment television is a powerful resource for information, and compelling storylines can motivate millions of viewers worldwide,” said Kate Langrall Folb, Director of HH&S. “Every year the quality and quantity of entries increases.”

HH&S, a program of the USC Annenberg School and the Norman Lear Center, administers the Sentinel Awards as a way of recognizing the impact that media has on individual knowledge and behavior. HH&S, funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and more, works closely with the entertainment industry to provide up to date information on health and science, working directly with showrunners, writers, directors, and more to ensure accuracy.

Visit Hollywood, Health & Society for more information, as well as a full list of this year’s Sentinel Award honorees.

2017 Society of Environmental Journalists Awards

From a pool of nearly 400 submissions, the Society of Environmental Journalists (SEJ) recently announced the winners of the 2016-17 Awards for Reporting on the Environment, and two awards went to 21st Century Fox’s National Geographic reporters, Craig Welch and Rachel Nuwer, for their important work in illuminating pressing issues of climate change and the human impact of wild animal welfare around the world.

Welch, a Seattle-based reporter, won first place in “Outstanding Beat Reporting—Large Market” for a package of five stories across Nat Geo platforms, edited by Rob Kunzig and Brian Howard, that centered around the effects of climate change on ocean-life:

"The Blob That Cooked the Pacific"

"Ocean Slime Spreading Quickly Across the Earth"

"Mysterious New Whale Species Discovered in Alaska"

"Huge Puffin Die-Off May Be Linked to Hotter Seas"

"Orca Killed by Satellite Tag Leads to Criticism of Science Practices"

Comments from the judges touched upon Welch’s descriptive analysis and writing, remarking, "Craig Welch’s stories showed how the mastery of a beat can produce compelling, cutting edge journalism. His piece on rising sea temperatures provided an understanding of why the phenomenon may be occurring and what warmer water has done to marine life... I was impressed by his crisp writing style and attention to detail. Thorough, beautiful writing ("where the sea curls a crooked finger around Alaska’s Kodiak Island."…"Sea wash muddies the pale fur of its face"); compelling and unforgettable storytelling; deep knowledge of place and scientific import. Rich, rich, rich."

Nuwer, a frequent contributor to Nat Geo’s Wildlife Watch, won second place in “Outstanding Beat Reporting—Large Market” for a package of five stories as well, three of which were published on Wildlife Watch with the help of Nat Geo editor Oliver Payne:

"Huge Haul of Slain Sea Turtles Tests Vietnam"

"Pangolins Released Into Wild May Be Recaptured and Eaten"

"The Rare African Park Where Elephants Are Thriving"

Judges remarks included, Rachel Nuwer made me feel like I was in Vietnam, witnessing the sad and unchecked devastation of wildlife, or in Africa, watching the last male northern white rhino live out his days. Her stories had an edge to them that stirred a sense of outrage. Great writing and reporting. I learned so much reading these detailed, finely crafted stories and I cared deeply about her subjects, most of which cannot speak for themselves. Most of all, she took me, the reader, along with her as she touched Sudan, the rhino, and as she unearthed the efforts (or lack of them) to track down who was killing the endangered sea turtles found in Vietnam. I was there. Overall, compelling and wide-ranging reporting on species and issues we know little about.”

The SEJ is a non-profit organization that provides educational opportunities and vital support to journalists across media platforms to aid them in the challenge of responsibly covering complex environmental issues. 2017 winners will be honored at a celebration in October during SEJ’s 27th Annual Conference in Pittsburgh, PA.