The Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) has hired former National Geographic Television (NGT) president Michael Rosenfeld to lead its USD$60 million science documentary initiative.
Rosenfeld will join HHMI in July as head of television and film, based at HHMI’s headquarters campus in Chevy Chase, Maryland.
“With Michael Rosenfeld at the helm, this initiative will significantly extend HHMI’s science education outreach to the global television audience,” said HHMI president Robert Tjian, “certainly on more screens with higher entertainment values – and at a level of quality that’s on par with our program in scientific research.”
The news sees Rosenfeld resurfacing after Nat Geo last month announced that Maryanne Culpepper would be replacing him as president of NGT, with Rosenfeld exiting after some 18 years at Nat Geo.
At the time, a spokeswoman for the network told realscreen that Rosenfeld left to return to “his first love — making films.”
In a statement, Rosenfeld said today: “Films can make a difference in the way people see the world by taking them to the frontiers of knowledge and exploration. This new role will give me a phenomenal opportunity to produce great documentaries about science in partnership with broadcasters and filmmakers around the world.
“I am comfortable in finding that meeting place between substance and entertainment, between mission and ratings. This can be a hard balance to strike, but the projects of which I am proudest succeeded in making complicated science clear, entertaining, and fun.”
HHMI bills itself as a supporter of cutting edge research in biomedicine, and the company said the documentary initiative will draw on that expertise. In addition to biology, the films will cover the entire spectrum of science, from astronomy to paleontology.
The initiative also includes an educational component. The subjects will be chosen based on their potential to become a compelling story, but HHMI staff – primarily its Educational Resources Group – will work hand-in-hand with the documentary team to repackage the film footage into materials that can be used by teachers and students at the high school and college level.
“Good science films capture the passion of discovery,” added Rosenfeld. “At their best, they give viewers a vicarious sense of what it is like to be a scientist and to be on an adventure. Through film we can help people imagine – in a vivid way – what it would be like to make a discovery themselves.”