Sundance ’16: Discovery launches “Impact” series

Discovery Channel has revealed plans for a "Discovery Impact" series focusing on environmental docs, and has also teamed up with the Sundance Institute to launch an Impact Fellowship.
January 24, 2016

Discovery Channel has revealed plans for a “Discovery Impact” series, while teaming with the Sundance Institute for an Impact Fellowship, with Chasing Ice director Jeff Orlowski tapped as the inaugural Impact Fellow.

The new venture – planned for 2017 – was unveiled at a reception at the Sundance Film Festival on Saturday (January 23). The series of films will focus “on humankind’s impact on the environment” and the solutions available to societies. Before next year’s launch, however, audiences can expect a “Discovery Impact” special titled Drought, and featuring the contributions of Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman (Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt) Barbara Kopple (Harlan County, U.S.A.) Alan and Susan Raymond, (I Am A Promise:  The Children of Stanton Elementary School) and Jesse Moss (The Overnighters).

Presented with New York-based journalism organization ProPublica, the doc looks at the U.S. water crisis affecting 40% of the population, and presents stories on the “causes and consequences of [the] water disaster-in-the-making,” along with potential solutions. Epstein and Friedman are to serve as co-executive producers.

“At Discovery, we want to support the best environmental storytellers that ignite our audience to engage in the most critical issues of our time and act upon them,” said Rich Ross - group president of Discovery Channel, Animal Planet and Science Channel – in a statement.

The exec, who was in attendance at the festival, noted that Discovery acquired Louie Psihoyos’ Racing Extinction shortly after its world premiere at Sundance last year. The film aired on Discovery Channel in December, and reached 35.6 million total viewers worldwide, according to the net.

“Discovery demonstrated it can and will give these films a platform to get their messages out to the world,” said Ross.

Elsewhere, the Sundance Institute | Discovery Channel Impact Fellowship will honor filmmakers whose repertoires tell stories “that reflect the fragile and changing nature of our planet in the service of protecting it.” The grant money – which has not been disclosed – can be used at the fellow’s discretion and is intended to help sustain their commitment to environmental work.

Orlowski is the founder of the prodco Exposure Labs, and most recently produced the film Frame by Frame. Among his upcoming projects is a doc examining the health of the world’s coral reefs.

About The Author
Andrew Jeffrey joined Realscreen in 2021 as its news editor. Here, he helps to oversee assignment, reporting and editing for Realscreen's daily newsletter. Prior to his work covering documentary and non-fiction film and TV, he worked as a reporter and associate producer for CBC Edmonton, and as a reporter for The Star Calgary, where he covered daily news on beats such as local and provincial politics, health care and harm reduction, sports and education. His work has appeared in other Canadian news outlets such as TVO, the Edmonton Journal and Avenue Magazine.