Nat Geo lists Talesmith's Ruth Roberts as part of inaugural cohort for its Field Ready Program

Published: Aug 4, 2020


Disney-owned cable net National Geographic has revealed the inaugural cohort for its Field Ready Program during the network’s Summer Television Critics Association press tour on Monday (Aug. 3), held virtually.

The program looks to promote diversity and inclusion in global television production by providing “a clear path for a new generation of people” interested in working behind the camera.

The Field Ready Program will seek to place mentees on National Geographic productions around the world upon graduation from the program.

In partnership with the National Geographic Society, the non-profit arm of National Geographic, the six-month mentorship program will consist of a series of monthly master classes and digital one-on-one mentorship from leading industry professionals.

The first class of the Field Ready Program is comprised of 10 filmmakers from across the globe who have been paired into mentor-mentee relationships with leading producers, directors and storytellers from across the natural history genre.

Each hour-long master class will include a 30-minute storytelling and teaching session, followed by 30 minutes of Q&A with the mentee cohort.

Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the first year of the Field Ready Program will be delivered exclusively as a digital mentorship.

Mentors in the program’s inaugural year include Wildstar’s Vanessa Berlowitz, Talesmith’s Ruth Roberts, Nutopia’s Luke Wiles, Wall to Wall Television’s Dominic Weston, The Best Production Company’s Jeff Garcia, Icon Films’ Laura Marshall, Red Rock Films’ Brian Armstrong, Plimsoll Productions’ Martha Holmes, Big Wave’s Sarah Cunliffe, and Brian and Mandy Leith of Brian Leith Productions.

“With Nat Geo’s Field Read Program, we finally have the opportunity to meaningfully share our expertise while increasing the cultural diversity behind the camera,” said Red Rock’s Armstrong in a statement. “It’s a win-win situation. Mentees in the program will have direct access to senior wildlife filmmakers who may be able to fast-track them to leadership roles within our industry, and we’ll all benefit from the fresh ideas and cultural perspective they’ll bring to the lenses of our genre.”

“It’s never been more important that the younger generation of filmmakers — our mentees — are helped and given the encouragement to tell their stories from wherever they are in the world, for their future, and their planet,” added Mandy Leith of Brian Leith Productions. “We have hope and confidence in the younger generation of filmmakers, activists, conservationists alike, to understand and care for our world better than our generation has.”

By creating a pipeline of qualified candidates and endorsing them as Field Ready, Nat Geo said in a statement that the goal is not only to make an impact on the industry’s future, but to be “the leaders in ensuring we stand by our commitment to diversity and inclusion.”

Moving forward, National Geographic is focused expanding the Field Ready Program to involve even more diverse voices into additional content fields, including science, adventure and exploration.

Those interested in participating in the sophomore year of the Field Ready Program are encouraged to send an email to NGPFieldReady@natgeo.com.

“This program is designed to help foster the next generation of world-class natural history storytellers, a genre that has long and notably lacked diverse talent behind the camera,” said Courteney Monroe, president of National Geographic Global Television Networks, in a statement.

“As the global leader in natural history programming, we are profoundly aware that there is a lack of diversity and inclusion in natural history filmmaking teams,” added Janet Han Vissering, SVP of development and production at Nat Geo WILD, who is spearheading the program. “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.”

The inaugural class of the Field Ready Program, with descriptions provided by National Geographic, includes:

  • Kiki Cheptoo Ng’ok — Kenya — a filmmaker who is passionate about telling untold stories in African communities of conservation and of the continent’s spectacular nature and wildlife, including those that elevate indigenous voices.
  • Mauro Sergio Francisco — Angola — a photographer who is entering into filmmaking to document Angola’s natural history and resources from the local perspective, specifically to explore the parallels and interconnectedness of the survival of humans with the survival of other animals.
  • Tamana Ayazi — Afghanistan — a documentary filmmaker whose short films for Afghani and international audiences inspire awareness and activism, and who is aiming to bring the unique perspective of being a female natural history storyteller from Afghanistan to conservation and environmental issues.
  • Gab Mejia — Philippines — an international award-winning photographer and filmmaker, conservationist and mountaineer from the Philippines who is aiming to create discussions and highlight issues in the conservation of Southeast Asia’s wildlife to inspire impactful changes and actions in favor of wildlife conservation.
  • Gena Steffens — United States — a photographer, filmmaker and writer based in Colombia who is exploring the intersection of the human experience, conflict and environmental issues through photography, writing and visual arts.
  • Tessa “Ellie” Eleonore Schmidt — United States — an underwater photographer and filmmaker, fine artist, sailor and fisherwoman who is telling documentary-style stories of the wildlife management, salmon forests and fish nurseries of southeast Alaska to advocate for their conservation.
  • Daniel Gustavo von Sperling de Vasconcellos Venturini — Brazil — a science communicator and founder of ECO360. His films, including 360º VR immersions, are introducing the general public to ocean conservancy, empowering local communities to act in favor of ocean conservation and producing effective science communications for research groups and protected areas.
  • Ifeatu Nnaobi — Nigeria — a photographer and filmmaker whose work aims to mobilize positive change around the themes of identity, migration, conflict, human rights and natural history. Through film, she is exploring the underserved and under-discussed, yet highly important, topic of Nigeria’s environmental health.
  • Juan Arias — Colombia — a photographer and filmmaker investigating human relationships with “the other,” parallels between human and animal natures, and local environmental stories in Colombia, including how indigenous people can share their ancient knowledge about living in balance with our world.
  • Maurice Oniang’o — Kenya — an award-winning multimedia journalist and documentary filmmaker from Kenya exploring how traditional beliefs, cultures, perceptions and attitudes affect Kenya’s natural resources and conservation, as well as how the country’s natural history is shared with the world.
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