Creativity & The Arts

STEP documentary

In anticipation of Fox Searchlight’s upcoming documentary, STEP, 21st Century Fox is partnering with Tumblr in support of Step Up, an after-school mentoring program for young women in under-resourced communities.

STEP, directed by Amanda Lipitz and distributed by Fox Searchlight, chronicles the true-life story of a girls’ high school step team against the background of the heart of Baltimore. Though the world seems to be working against them, these young women are empowered by their teachers, counselors, families, and each other as they fight to achieve their dreams of winning the step championship and getting accepted into college. STEP explores the emotionally inspiring meaning of sisterhood and perseverance through the story of these remarkable young women.

For the girls in the documentary, step is life—the outlet that keeps them united and fighting, and the means through which they stay focused as they prepare to be the first in their families to go to college. In the spirit of their determination, 21CF and Tumblr want to learn more about what energizes people to achieve their dreams. Beginning on Monday, July 31, for every post shared with the tag #StepisLife, 21CF will donate $1 to Step Up to support mentorship programs for high school girls. Step Up empowers girls living or going to school in under-resourced communities by sharing tools needed to become confident, college-bound, and career-focused.

Step is Life

To support Step Up, think about what keeps you going and moving forward by filling in the message “___ IS LIFE!” and post a selfie, text, video, or piece of art. For every use of #StepisLife across Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram between July 31 and August 6, 21CF will donate $1 to Step Up, up to $25,000.

Fox Searchlight is hosting a series of free screenings across the country, and STEP opens in theaters on August 4th.


Fox Writers Lab Finalists

Photo by Saman Assefi Photography

Fox Inclusion recently announced writer Keely MacDonald has received a script development deal from Fox Broadcasting Company after being named this year’s Fox Writers Lab Fellow. She joined Fox as a research intern on Sleepy Hollow in 2012, and eventually earned the opportunity to write the episode “Insatiable” in season 4.

MacDonald was chosen from a group of 13 experienced finalists  at the Fox Writers Lab, a 14-week program hosted by Fox Inclusion that gives its finalists direct access to Fox writers, directors, and executives to further their screenwriting skills on the Fox Lot in Los Angeles. The Writers Lab is one of several programs at 21st Century Fox created to empower new storytellers and strengthen the pipeline of diverse talent in the industry. At the conclusion of the program, now in its sixth consecutive year, one fellow is named as the Fox Writers Lab fellow and awarded a purchase and development deal on their original script, or a first-look deal with 21CF-affiliated entities.

This year’s Writers Lab cohort participated in “Pitchfest”, where they presented their own unique ideas to network and studio executives. The content consisted of either an original comedy or drama pilot script completed under the leadership of producer Sheila Hanahan-Taylor of Practical Pictures and Kelly Kulchak, head of Current Programming at DreamWorks Animation.

The 2017 Fox Writers Lab Finalists, along with MacDonald, included: Arielle Diaz, Brad Marques, Elizabeth Oyebode, Erick Castrillon, Esteban Arango, Jennifer Graham Imada, Lauren Tyler, Mellori Velasquez, Nicky Young, Pilar Valdes, Tania Lotia and Yasemin Yilmaz. These experienced writers were chosen from nominations submitted by arts organizations, showrunners and talent representation from across the country, and will be promoted throughout the Fox creative family for staffing on current and future film and TV productions.

“Fox Writers Lab has become an increasingly crucial component of our staffing process. There are so many talented writers, with so many different points of view. Those diverse viewpoints help make our programming smarter, stronger and, ultimately, more reflective of Fox’s viewership,” said Terence Carter, EVP of Drama Programming, Development and Event Series at Fox.

Keely MacDonald - Fox Writers Lab Fello


STEP cast with U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD)

21st Century Fox and Fox Searchlight Pictures recently hosted a Washington, D.C., screening of the upcoming documentary “STEP,” which will hit theaters Friday, Aug. 4. The film tells the inspiring story of the “Lethal Ladies” step dance team at the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women as they navigate the ups and downs of their senior year of high school, several aiming to become the first in their families to attend college. Following the screening, the audience enjoyed a panel discussion with “STEP” director Amanda Lipitz and the entire cast.

The screening for the documentary, which is set in Baltimore, was attended by U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Rep. Steny Hoyer (D- MD). 21CF EVP of Public Affairs Chip Smith and Fox Searchlight Pictures President Nancy Utley were also in attendance.

“21st Century Fox is a global media company that produces content which runs the gamut from blockbuster films, to breaking news and TV shows, to the world’s largest sporting events,” Chip remarked at the event. “But ultimately, all of the work we do is about one thing: telling stories that matter to people. And we’re here tonight to share one of those stories with you. ‘STEP’ is a celebration of the life-changing power of education and the arts, and we’re thrilled to support this project.”

Noting that he was a proud graduate of the Baltimore public school system, Sen. Cardin praised the film’s positive message: “This is a story about hope for our future. And after seeing the incredible young women in this film, I have no doubt that our future is in very good hands.”

Check out more photos from the event, as well as the trailer for “STEP”:


Nat Geo Photo Camp Greece

Editor’s note: The following was written by National Geographic Society’s Christian Garland, who recently spent a week at National Geographic Photo Camp in Greece. At Photo Camp, young people from underserved communities, including at-risk and refugee teens, learn how to use photography to tell their own stories, explore the world around them, and develop meaningful connections with others.

21CF’s National Geographic Partners gives 27% of all profits to funding National Geographic Society programs such as Photo Camp.


On Monday, May 22, 18 students from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Palestine, Afghanistan and Greece entered the Photo Camp classroom with hopes of learning something new. On Monday, May 22, 18 students embarked on unchartered territory -- learning how to use photography to communicate their experiences, thoughts and stories with students who speak Farsi, Arabic, Greek and English. On Monday, May 22, 18 students changed my life. 

Salam. Yassas. Assalamu' alaikum. Hello.

As we each greeted each other on the first day, I sat in pure admiration of their curiosity and willingness to learn something new. As I looked around the classroom trying to understand each student’s story, I realized in that moment that we all wanted the same thing -- to understand what it means to be free.

“Finding freedom” quickly became the epicenter of Photo Camp Greece, guiding each of the students’ photography and writing assignments. Approaching each assignment with an unprecedented level of curiosity, we wanted to discover what it means to be free of the injustices that hold us back, free of the politics that define who we can and cannot love and free from the barriers that prevent us chasing our dreams. Cameras and notebooks in hand, the students spent several days and nights photographing refugee camps, refugee squats, their homes and the city of Athens to uncover how they define freedom and what freedom means to the natives and immigrants of Greece.

"I am so much closer to writing my own story." - Elias Abood, 25, Syria

Nat Geo Photo Camp Greece

If I learned one thing from our students, it’s that this is not National Geographic’s story to tell. This is their story and this is their experience. So while I could write a detailed summary about Photo Camp Greece, this is their story. We asked our students, what does freedom mean to you? Here’s what they had to say:

Eliza Gkritsi, 21, Greece 
Freedom is a choice; a real choice. [...] I’ve always felt free, independent. Freedom is to clearly see your situation, to evaluate it and to decide who and where you want to be. Then pick a path, not to be forced onto one. Freedom is to pick your own rules. 

Mojtaba Ganji, 24, Afghanistan 
Freedom has lot of meanings for different people. For me freedom is human rights, because I don’t think you can have freedom apart from human rights. Freedom means everything to me, because I left my family and I started on a hard journey to find my rights. 

Raouf Amen, 18, Palestine 
Freedom is the most important thing in my life. [...] Freedom can be defined as the ability of a person to make a decision, which is appropriate for him or her without interference or influence from any other party. Every human being has the right to freedom and autonomy.

Alexandra Panagiotou, 22, Greece 
Freedom is having a choice. It is a choice to be who you want, to travel where you want, to love who you want, to live your dream and to have a better future. [...] . People don’t do well in closed walls, we need to spread and fly.

Benjamin Dalton, 25, United Kingdom  
Freedom to me includes the choice to move. To move to and to move through the places I want to go and exist. The ability to navigate and occupy those spaces in a way that I feel comfortable and a way that I feel myself. Freedom is expression and expression is a movement, physical and social.

Radwan Dirar, 26, Iraq 
I think freedom is different for everyone. I don’t like the word freedom, because we don’t know how to use this in the Middle East. For me, freedom does not exist. I prefer to use, “free.” I say this because the word “free” can symbolize so many positive things in our lives, like the ability to love who you want freely. 

Apostolos Zaganiaris, 21, Greece
I think that freedom is totally personal. That leads to the question if the “personal” things are indeed personal or are projections of society on us. [...] I believe that someone can be free if they feel so, no matter what that means. I feel very close to freedom. I am mostly contained by myself.

Ehsan Sharifi, 29, Afghanistan  
I’ve asked many people about the meaning of freedom. For many years, I’ve been asking people this question. I’ve been told that freedom is a moment, it is the second that you smile. This is my opinion of freedom.

Nina Koutsogianni, 19, Greece 
In my point of view freedom is a powerful word with many different meanings. Freedom includes freedom of speech, of belief, of religion. Also, freedom is very connected with security. A person who doesn't feel safe cannot be free.

Shaghayegh Farhang, 24, Iran 
In my country where I’m from, men and women are not equal. I became a mountain climber because in the mountains I feel that I’m equal to a man. When I climb, I feel strength and hope. When I climb, I feel freedom. I came here to Greece because in Iran I couldn’t be free. 

Omid Ahmadi, 21, Afghanistan 
From my point of view, freedom is something that can pass all borders. The borders are the sea, water and air boundaries. [...] Freedom means to fly without barriers.  There are many countries such as Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria that have no freedoms.

Andronikos Koutroumpelis, 21, Greece  
I view freedom as the most basic human right. It means being able to define your own being however you wish. It means equal rights and equal opportunity.

Mehrdad Salabaty, 23, Afghanistan
When you have freedom you have a healthy mental state and you can do the best for yourself and for other people. You know it when you have freedom. We can feel the meaning of this sentence. We all are one.

Elias Abood, 25, Syria 
Freedom means safety, education and having a legal status. It means dignity, having a decent life, having a job. I risked to lose the most precious thing I have – my life – to get the freedom I have now [...].

Faramarz Ahmadi, 23, Afghanistan 
Freedom means everywhere is my home.

I came into this experience expecting to teach the students as much as I possibly could about photography and creative writing, but little did I know how much they would teach me. They taught me that no task is too big and we are never too small. They taught me to be grateful for every moment you have with the people you love, and they taught me that friendship knows no boundaries. Although we no longer see each other every day, our stories will always keep us together. As we continue this search to define freedom, what could be more powerful than that?


Eric Price, Joe Hall, Christian Slater, Courteney Monroe, Evan Shapiro, and Katherine Oliver

(l-r) Eric Price, Joe Hall, Christian Slater, Courteney Monroe, Evan Shapiro, and Katherine Oliver

High school students from long-time 21st Century Fox nonprofit partner, Ghetto Film School, had the unique opportunity to hear their short film scripts read by Hollywood talent and receive feedback from top industry executives last week at the school’s annual Table Read event in New York. Sponsored by 21CF and co-hosted by National Geographic Global Networks CEO Courteney Monroe, the table read served as both a celebration and fundraiser for Ghetto Film School, which teaches filmmaking to teenagers from underserved communities in NY and LA, and creates a unique pipeline for original and underrepresented voices in Hollywood.

GFS students had two scripts read by talent, including actors Christian Slater and John Leguizamo, and each reading was followed by a discussion moderated by NYU Tisch Film School’s Dr. Sheril Antonio, with additional feedback given by producer Robert Carlock. After revisions, students will film one of the scripts at the Frick Collection in New York City and will travel to Israel this summer to film the other. 

After supporting GFS in the Bronx for many years, 21CF helped open GFS LA as Founding Partner in 2014, and covers 100% of core operating costs so that all other donations go directly to programming for students and young artists. Students receive a rigorous college-level training in the artistic and technical aspects of storytelling, with hands-on experience in writing scripts, pitching story ideas, shooting on location, and editing a finished piece—all completely free of charge. 21CF also provides students with open access to content, resources, and learning opportunities with talent, executives, and filmmakers across the company, giving students a unique opportunity to learn from and contribute to the film and tv industry.

GFS NY students with actor Christian Slater
GFS NY students with actor Christian Slater

Learn more about Ghetto Film School and visit impact.21cf.com for more information about 21CF Social Impact.