Nat Geo links with Bigelow, Couric, DiCaprio for docs, VR

National Geographic Channel has commissioned new docs from Katie Couric Media, and Leonardo DiCaprio and Fisher Stevens, as well as a virtual reality project from Kathryn Bigelow, Imraan Esmail, Here Be Dragons and Annapurna Pictures.
August 2, 2016

National Geographic Channel (NGC) will examine the effects of genetics, brain chemistry and modern culture on gender fluidity in a forthcoming two-hour documentary from in-house prodco National Geographic Studios and Katie Couric Media.

Gender Revolution (w/t) will look to investigate different global approaches to gender and how it was previously viewed by ancient civilizations. The doc will also probe such personal and public debates as the age in which we first come to terms with our gender; intersex athletes at the Olympics; and public restroom use.

For Katie Couric Media, executive producers are Katie Couric and Mitch Semel. National Geographic Studios’ Jeff Hasler and Brian Lovett are also listed as executive producers, alongside World of Wonder’s Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato.

Gender Revolution will premiere globally across NGC in 171 countries and 45 languages, timed to the January 2017 “Gender” issue of National Geographic magazine.

Elsewhere, NGC has acquired the worldwide rights to a forthcoming climate change documentary from Oscar-awarded filmmaker Fisher Stevens and Academy Award-winning actor Leonardo DiCaprio.

Produced by RatPac Documentary Films, Appian Way and Insurgent Media, the as-yet-untitled film will provide insight into the worsening environmental crisis inflicting irreversible damage across the globe, while offering practical solutions that can prevent the demise of endangered species, ecosystems and native communities.

The doc will feature interviews with U.S. President Barack Obama, former U.S. President Bill Clinton, U.S. secretary of state John Kerry, United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon and Pope Francis, as well as top researchers at NASA, forest conservationists, renowned scientists, community leaders and environmental activists.

The doc is produced by Leonardo DiCaprio, Brett Ratner, Fisher Stevens, James Packer, Jennifer Davisson and Trevor Davidoski. It is exec produced by Martin Scorsese.

The film will be released theatrically in New York and Los Angeles this October, followed by a global premiere across NGC preceding the U.S. election in November.

Cinetic Media’s John Sloss negotiated the deal with National Geographic Channel’s Tim Pastore, president of original programming and production.

Meanwhile, the U.S. network announced its first foray into the realm of virtual reality (VR) with a 12-minute documentary short from The Hurt Locker director Kathryn Bigelow and VR creator Imraan Esmail.

In partnership with Here Be Dragons (formerly and Megan Ellison‘s Annapurna Pictures, the tentatively titled The Protectors will look to expose the dangers faced by rangers protecting African elephants from ivory poachers.

The VR experience will provide users with insight into the lives of rangers patrolling the national parks of the Democratic Republic of Congo and protecting elephants from extinction. According to National Geographic Channel, more than 30,000 African elephants die each year at the hands of poachers.

Producers on the short are Patrick J. Milling-Smith, Megan Ellison and Kathryn Bigelow. Annapurna Pictures’ Matthew Budman, Samantha Scher and Priya Swaminathan serve as executive producers alongside National Geographic Studios’ Jeff Hasler and Bengt Anderson.

The news is the latest in National Geographic’s envisioned global programming strategy which looks to focus semi-exclusively on higher quality, bigger budgets and “creatively ambitious programming with scale, scope and entertainment value.”

Last summer, the network announced the documentary-scripted hybrid series Mars, from Ron Howard’s Imagine Entertainment and Radical Media. The series, exec produced by Howard and Brian Grazer as well as Radical Media’s Justin Wilkes and Dave O’Connor and NGC’s Robert Palumbo, will examine the space race to Mars.

Mars is slated to premiere globally this November across NGC. It will feature interviews with such leading scientific figures as Elon Musk, founder of Tesla and SpaceX; Neil DeGrasse Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium; NASA administrator Charles Bolden; Casey Dreier, director of space policy at Planetary Society; Charles Elachi, former director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab; Jim Green, NASA planetary science division director; and Robert Zubrin, president of The Mars Society.

About The Author
Jillian Morgan is a special reports editor at realscreen with a background in journalism and digital marketing. She joined the publication in 2019 after serving as the assistant editor to trade publications HPAC and On-Site. With a bachelor of journalism from the University of King's College in Halifax, she also works as a freelance writer and fact-checker.