Through a partnership with the National School Boards Association, New Regency, and Penguin Books, Fox Searchlight announced this week that it will distribute copies of 12 Years a Slave, winner of Best Picture at this year's Academy Awards, to public high schools around the U.S. Director Steve McQueen and television personality Montel Williams organized the initiative as a way of educating young people about the "brutal truths" of American history.
"When Hollywood is at its best, the power of the movies can be harnessed into a powerful education tool," Williams said in a press release. "This film uniquely highlights a shameful period in American history, and in doing so will evoke in students a desire to not repeat the evils of the past while inspiring them to dream of a better and brighter future."
Teachers hoping to include the film in their curricula can request an "Educator's Toolkit" by visiting 12YearsASlave.com. The toolkit contains a DVD copy of the film edited for teen audiences, with a disclaimer and parental consent forms, as well as a Penguin paperback copy of Solomon Northup's 1853 memoir on which the film was based, a detailed study guide, and a letter from McQueen.
"Solomon Northup's powerful story needs to be shared and remembered for generations to come," said McQueen. "This is a wonderful opportunity for our youth to learn about the past."
A launch event will take place on September 25 at Howard University in Washington, D.C., honoring the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act. McQueen, Williams, and NSBA representative David Pickler will participate in a town hall moderated by political analyst Michelle Bernard to discuss their plans to make 12 Years A Slave and Solomon Northrup's memoir essential components of the high school history curriculum.
For more information on 12 Years a Slave's education initiatives, watch the video above and visit 12YearsASlave.com.
After its groundbreaking first season in 2012 and a successful second season earlier this year, STAR India's hit series Satyamev Jayate, or "Truth Alone Prevails," will return with new episodes on Sunday, October 5th. In addition, STAR will also premiere SMJ Live, a series of live specials in which viewers can interact with host Aamir Khan directly through social media. This initiative is the latest in STAR's effort to establish SMJ as a platform through which Indians' voices can be heard.
The series features Bollywood star Aamir Khan discussing some of the most pressing social issues facing India today, from female feticide and child sex abuse to alcoholism and political corruption. Yet, despite its sensitive subject matter, the show has become one of India's most watched programs. STAR estimates that more than 500 million Indians saw the show in its first season, and the groundswell of grassroots movements that have come about as a result have had tangible effects on Indian culture.
Since its 2012 debut, SMJ has led to several new and revised laws, both in national and local governments. Indian Parliament passed the country's first ever child protection from sexual abuse bill, and the Rajasthan high court created a fast-track court to prosecute cases of female feticide. Recently, Aamir Khan met with the newly-elected Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss the various issues he covered on SMJ, indicating that the series has become a centerpiece of the national conversation.
"There has been a significant shift in attitudes, perceptions, beliefs, and behavior," said Gayatri Yadav, Executive Vice President of Marketing and Communications at STAR India. "Over the last two-years, Satyamev Jayate has redefined the role of TV as a positive change agent."
The new season's tagline Mumkin Hai, or "It is possible," speaks to this emphasis on change. Sharing impacts like these is essential for STAR, and the company is launching its new digital initiative to better communicate with its audience.
Digital has long been a key component in SMJ's attempts to facilitate an ongoing dialogue with its viewers. The series' website encourages viewers to post their stories about how they have encountered these issues in their own lives, and the conversation on Twitter was so large that SMJ became the first Indian series to reach 2nd place on Twitter's top 10 global trends. Now, viewers will have the chance to use social media to interact with Aamir Khan directly through hour-long live specials that will air following each new SMJ episode.
"This was based on feedback that our viewers wish to interact and have their voices heard," Yadav said. "Digital will be a key medium for this, where people can ask questions and share their views through social media, and this will be broadcast live on STAR Plus. SMJ Live is one more step in taking the show closer to viewers and making it a people's brand."
Satyamev Jayate's new season will premiere on STAR channels in India and around the world on Sunday, October 5. The series is sponsored by Airtel and Axis Bank. Visit STAR on YouTube to watch the complete first season and SatyamevJayate.in for the second. Click here for more information on STAR, Satyamev Jayate, and SMJ Live.
On Saturday, September 13, the Fox Television Stations will debut a new two-hour block of educational programming called Xploration Station. The weekly block, created and produced by Steve Rotfeld Productions, will consist of four half-hour shows based entirely on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).
The four shows include Xploration Awesome Planet, hosted by Philippe Cousteau, grandson of legendary explorer Jacques Cousteau; Xploration Outer Space, hosted by Harvard scholar and astronautics expert Emily Calandrelli; Xploration Earth 2050, which explores what the world and technology will look like in the year 2050; and Xploration Animal Science, which explores animal behavior.
"Most of the other Saturday morning stuff is sort of soft adventure and animals," said Steve Rotfeld, president of Steve Rotfeld Productions. "We thought, 'Let's try to do something that's educational but also fascinating.' We thought that STEM was a great hook for that, since there's such a huge movement to advance STEM education."
According to the US Department of Education, only 16 percent of high school seniors are proficient in mathematics and interested in a career in the STEM fields, and even among those who do purse a college major in those subjects, only about half choose to work in a related career. Frank Chica, Senior VP of Programming for Fox TV Stations, clearly sees this deficit as an opportunity to promote STEM education among young students.
"We take our kids programming very seriously and feel that Xploration Station is a rare, focused effort within the E/I world. Its emphasis on STEM education is timely, important, and should appeal to the 13-16 year old target age," Chica said.
All four series will premiere this Saturday, September 13, on local Fox stations. The episodes will also be available to watch for free on Hulu the following day. To view the trailer for Xploration Station, click the video below:
For the tenth consecutive year, FOX Broadcasting celebrated the start of the new television season with the Fall Eco-Casino Party, presented by Ford and Xfinity. Several of FOX's biggest stars appeared at the event, which was held at the Bungalow Club in Santa Monica, California, on September 8. Over the course of the evening, FOX raised $25,000 to donate to Habitat for Humanity of Greater Los Angeles, Heal the Bay, The Nature Conservancy, and the Environmental Media Association.
The party brought together stars from FOX's most successful returning series, such as New Girl, So You Think You Can Dance, and Family Guy, as well as newcomers from Mulaney, Gotham, and Red Band Society.
As in past years, FOX worked to minimize the event's carbon footprint by using bio-diesel-powered trucks to transport equipment, choosing LED lights over traditional incandescent bulbs, distributing invitations digitally, using casino chips made from recycled materials, purchasing local, organic, and sustainable food products, printing reusable signage, renting furniture and decor, composting all food and beverage waste, and recycling all cans, bottles, cardboard and paper used by staff and guests.
For more photos and video from the event, check out this recap from FOX 11 Los Angeles. FOX's Fall Season kicked off this week with the Sunday premiere of Utopia.
Through an innovative social media campaign promoting its new series Red Band Society, FOX has raised more than $100,000 for five major health charities, including the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, the Ryan Seacrest Foundation, St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital, Teen Cancer America, and Children's Hospital Los Angeles.
As part of the "Banding Together for Good" campaign, any time a fan shared Red Band Society photos or videos on social media between August 15 and August 22, FOX donated $1 to one of the five charities. Donations totaled more than $100,000.
FOX introduced the social media campaign on the heels of the "Banding Together for Good" summer tour. Fans in nine cities across America attended free advanced screenings of the series' first episode and interacted with the cast and executive producer during Q&A sessions. The screening tour also raised awareness of the five health charities above and the work they do to keep kids healthy.
During the tour, Red Band Society cast members visited several children's hospitals around the country to meet and spend time with the patients. The cast also visited the Daltrey/Townshend Teen and Young Adult Cancer Center in Los Angeles, on which the series' own pediatric ward is based. For more information on the tour, check out the videos below.
Red Band Society is a coming-of-age drama about the various teenaged patients at LA's Ocean Park Hospital. The show premieres on FOX on Wednesday, September 17.
As part of its commitment to expanding access to sports in India, STAR Sports recently organized an extensive on-air campaign to raise funds for the young women of the YUWA youth football team. The campaign gathered nearly $50,000 in donations, enough for Team YUWA to travel to Minnesota for this summer's Schwan USA Cup, one of world's largest international soccer tournaments.
YUWA is a nonprofit working with women and girls in Jharkhand, an Indian state with some of the highest rates of child marriage, female illiteracy, and human trafficking. By providing educational and extracurricular programs, YUWA hopes to combat these issues and instill Jharkhand's young women with the skills and confidence they need.
"[In Jharkhand, it's very counter-cultural for girls to be running around in shorts and playing soccer, so we still have families and community members who don't think it's right," said Rose Thomson, YUWA's program director. "Parents often don't see the value in girls being put in school [let alone] playing soccer."
When STAR Sports learned about the organization's work, they began discussing ways to get involved, ultimately deciding to organize an on-air campaign.
"The story of the YUWA girls touched our hearts, and we wanted to make an honest effort to fulfill their dream of participating in the USA Cup," said Nitin Kukreja, President of STAR Sports. "We at STAR truly believe that sports have the power to transform the lives of people, and Team YUWA is a great example of it."
STAR's campaign ran on multiple channels throughout the month of May, and it received donations from corporations such as Quantum, Tata Sky, and Lenovo, as well as countless donations from individuals throughout India. The campaign raised nearly $50,000 which covered the entry fee for the USA Cup, as well as travel and accommodation for the team members. Team YUWA was able to compete in the USA Cup from July 15-19.
For more information on YUWA's work with women and girls in India, please visit their official website, and be sure to check out one of STAR's campaign videos below:
This week, the Environmental Media Association announced the nominees for its 24th annual Environmental Media Awards, and multiple Fox productions appeared on the list.
Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey received a nomination in the Reality Television category for its episode on climate change. FOX's New Girl and 20th Century Fox Television's Modern Family will compete in the Television Comedy category, and Rio 2 received a nomination in the Feature Length Film category.
"It's exciting and inspiring to see the evolution of how media has expanded and that our creative voices are more powerful than ever," said EMA president Debbie Levin. "With so much content available, the ability to motivate globally through our medium is immediate and our most valuable tool."
The EMA Awards honor film and television that convey environmental messages in creative ways, and this year's ceremony will take place on October 18th at Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, California.
Several Fox productions have won EMAs in the past, including The X-Files, Bones, Ice Age: The Meltdown, and The Simpsons.
For more information on the EMAs and for the full list of nominees, visit EMA-Online.org, and for a clip of Cosmos' climate change episode, click the video below.
At the Creative Arts Emmy Awards on Saturday, August 16, Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, FOX's reboot of Carl Sagan's classic documentary series, received a total of four trophies for excellence in television. It had originally received twelve nominations.
"I knew that I was working with extraordinary people, but the idea that the Academy thinks so too, it's just fantastic," series writer and co-creator Ann Druyan told Variety. "It's a huge affirmation."
Druyan (left with composer Alan Silvestri), along with her collaborator Steven Soter, collected the Emmy for Outstanding Writing for Nonfiction Programming. Cosmos also received awards for Outstanding Music Composition, Outstanding Main Title Theme Music, and Outstanding Sound Editing.
The series, which features host Neil deGrasse Tyson guiding viewers through some of the most complex mysteries of science, has been warmly embraced by the scientific community for its efforts to bring science education to primetime television. "I'm not sure a stronger defense of science and the scientific method has ever appeared on network TV," wrote Joe Romm of Think Progress.
FOX and the National Geographic Channel recognized the educational potential of this series early on. The networks organized the largest international launch in television history across 181 countries and 44 languages in hopes of inspiring audiences everywhere about the value of science. The strategy resulted in Nat Geo's largest global audience in the history of the channel.
Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey is now available on Blu-Ray, DVD, and Digital HD.
As part of its annual Philanthropy Issue, The Hollywood Reporter featured 21st Century Fox's partnership with the Ghetto Film School as one of several initiatives that are "shaking up the ways Hollywood thinks about giving back." For the past 14 years, the Ghetto Film School has operated as a New York-based nonprofit that teaches filmmaking to young people from traditionally low-income neighborhoods. Due to support from 21st Century Fox, the organization is expanding for the first time by opening a new Ghetto Film School in Los Angeles.
"It's about creating a center of gravity for students hoping to break into the industry," 21st Century Fox Co-COO James Murdoch told The Hollywood Reporter. "There's lots of employment in this business. What I'm excited about is getting the entertainment community here engaged, so we have directors or grips or executives... mentoring these kids. It's about giving them a sense of self and ambition of what they can accomplish."
Based in MacArthur Park and operated in partnership with the nonprofit Heart of Los Angeles, GFS LA is a 30-month college-level program that teaches students the craft and technique of storytelling and production. It offers classes after school and on weekends at no cost to the students.
"These kids have stories and ideas that could be movies or TV shows," said director David O. Russell, who has been involved with the organization for 12 years and serves on its Board of Directors. "It always tickles me whenever I interact with them. I think the ideas that will come out of this can be used by producers and studios someday."
The first group of students at GFS LA started classes on June 16, and they will debut their first film projects this September at an event at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
Read more about the Ghetto Film School at HollywoodReporter.com.
Photo by Christopher Patey for The Hollywood Reporter.
20th Century Fox and Rio 2 recently teamed up with Conservation International to produce a video highlighting the unique challenges facing the Spix's Macaw population and other native species in the Amazon rainforest. Watch the video above to find out more.