National Geographic’s Field Ready Program — launched last year to promote diversity and inclusion in global television production — is expanding to include science, adventure and exploration in addition to natural history, with executives from Nutopia, Plimsoll, Red Rock and Wildstar among the mentors.
Courteney Monroe, National Geographic Global Television Networks president, unveiled the news Wednesday (Aug. 18) at the Summer Television Critics Association (TCA) press tour, held virtually.
Last year, the Field Ready Program pivoted to a digital mentorship and will continue this six-month program between 10 mentees (National Geographic Explorers) and 10 mentors (Nat Geo production partners).
This year’s mentors are: Colette Beaudry, SeaLight Pictures, Australia; Dominic Weston, Wall to Wall Media, UK; Jeff Garcia, The Best Productions, U.S.; Kim Woodard, Lucky 8 TV, U.S.; Lisa Mao, Nat Geo Wild, U.S.; Martha Holmes, Plimsoll, U.K.; Ruth Roberts, Talesmith, UK; Shannon Malone-deBenedictis, Red Rock, U.S.; Simon Willgoss, Nutopia, UK; and Vanessa Berlowitz, Wildstar, UK.
Additionally, Field Ready participants will attend monthly master classes and Q&A sessions with industry leaders.
Master class speakers include: Brian Skerry, Nat Geo explorer; Dominique Andrews, director, production management, Nat Geo; Janet Han Vissering, SVP, development and production, natural history, Nat Geo National Geographic Society Impact Video Team; Plimsoll Gear Shop; and Sandesh Kadur, Nat Geo explorer.
Q&A sessions and speakers are: James Cameron, “Science & Tech in Storytelling”; Darren Aronofsky, “Bringing Your Vision to Life”; Brandon Sargeant, “Camera Operations in the Field”; Bree Frank, “The Future Filmmaking”; Chai Vasarhelyi, “The Art of Filmmaking”; Faith Musembi, “Filmmaking as a Career”; and Terence Carter, “Producing Purpose-Driven Content.”
Nat Geo has also opened the live master classes and Q&A sessions to more than 35 early-career filmmakers from around the world to audit these courses.
Upon graduating from the program, the Field Ready class of mentees will be announced to the wider production community as qualified candidates to be placed on National Geographic productions around the world.
Nat Geo stated it will be “looking closely at D&I funding” to ensure mentees will have work opportunities once the program is complete.
The program is run in partnership with the National Geographic Society, the non-profit arm of Nat Geo.
“As a global leader in natural history programming, we are profoundly aware that we need to continue to foster and make decisions to increase diversity and inclusion in natural history filmmaking teams,” said Han Vissering, who is spearheading the program, in a statement. “To stay on the cutting edge in this highly competitive field, cultivating fresh voices and diverse talent is key. We want to make sure that we are leading in this game-changing endeavor, and are now full steam ahead and embracing the extended program, which is already leading to meaningful mentor and mentee partnerships.”
Below is the 2021 class of the Field Ready Program, with bios provided by Nat Geo:
Emi Kondo – Costa Rica – is a Japanese-Costa Rican filmmaker, photographer and multimedia storyteller. Based in Costa Rica and working as a multimedia manager at World Animal Protection International, Emi has made films and photos in several countries in farms, disaster zones and undercover at captive animal venues.
Jen Guyton – Germany – is a photographer with a doctorate in ecology. Her work focuses on the intersection between nature and human culture. She has worked as a biologist on three continents, including almost 10 years working on wildlife and conservation projects in Africa.
Jessica Suarez – U.S. – is a natural history and conservation photographer and filmmaker. Through her work, she explores humans’ relationship to the environment, scientific research, wildlife and wild spaces.
Jubilian Ngaruwa – Nigeria – is a documentary filmmaker. Her works are focused on stories that are culturally deeply rooted in Africa. Her passion and desire to preserve the African culture and traditions through storytelling drives her works.
Malaika Vaz – India – is a National Geographic Explorer, TV presenter and filmmaker focused on telling stories of endangered wildlife, the human-wildlife interface and investigating the illegal wildlife trade globally.
Manuel Seoane – Bolivia – is a photographer and visual storytelling explorer currently working on a documentary project in his country about the importance of Indigenous territories for the conservation of the forest and the world’s cultural heritage.
Miora Rajaonary – Mauritius – is a documentary photographer born and raised in Madagascar, currently based in Johannesburg, South Africa. Through her work, she focuses on identity and social issues in contemporary Africa. Over the next few years, Miora plans to focus on the consequences of climate change on the populations of the islands in the Indian Ocean.
Munmun Dhalaria – India – is an award-winning independent documentary filmmaker and National Geographic Storytelling Explorer from India. Her work revolves around wildlife conservation, science communication and social-issue documentaries, where she amplifies local voices for both online and broadcast films. Her work revolves around wildlife conservation, science communication and social-issue documentaries where she amplifies local voices for both online and broadcast films. She lends a humanistic lens to nature filmmaking and believes in highlighting lesser-known species and landscapes from the subcontinent.
Pablo Albarenga – Uruguay – is a National Geographic Explorer, documentary photographer and visual storyteller exploring Human Rights issues in Latin America. As a photographer, Pablo has dedicated his work to investigating, studying and photographing the colonization process that is still affecting traditional populations in Latin America.
Sofia Lopez Mañan – Argentina – is an Argentine artist/photographer currently working on various photographic projects in Argentina with a deep commitment in environmental issues where she seeks to unravel the boundaries between the natural and unnatural, questioning how humans perceive their habitat and other ambiance through issues of animal trafficking and conservation.
Photo: Maurice Oniang’o, a mentee in the 2020 National Geographic Field Ready Program, with a team of natural history filmmakers for field experience under the National Geographic Field Ready program, courtesy Maurice Oniang’o