Disney’s National Geographic has announced details on its “Field Ready Program”, which is celebrating its fourth year.  This programs supports early-career filmmakers in advancing in their careers, increasing diversity of perspectives behind the lens of natural history, science, adventure, and exploration filmmaking.

This is a joint program of National Geographic Content and the National Geographic Society that aims to promote and increase the diversity of perspectives and inclusion of voices of creators and storytellers in natural history, science, adventure and exploration filmmaking. The Field Ready Program offers one-on-one mentorship with some of the most seasoned filmmakers. Alongside this mentorship opportunity, the program includes monthly master classes, Q&A sessions and a training and discussion series of specialized workshops with industry leaders to help them navigate the unique world of factual production.

Karen Greenfield, senior vice president, Inclusive Content and Engagement, National Geographic said in a statement:

“In its fourth year, the Field Ready Program is proving to be a tremendous success. This program fosters the next generation of world-class storytellers with graduates moving on to work with top natural history filmmakers on premium productions, such as QUEENS, now streaming on Disney+, and series currently in production HOME and UNDERDOGS.  At National Geographic, we are committed to storytelling that is authentic, impactful, inclusive and reflective of the world we live in, and I’m incredibly proud of how we are leading in the industry to ensure that our inclusive storytelling commitment is realized through our Field Ready Program.”

Janet Han Vissering, senior vice president, Production and Development, National Geographic said in a statement:

“Graduates — like Munmun Dhalaria, who worked on QUEENS, and Pooja Rathod, who worked on Emmy-nominated SECRETS OF THE ELEPHANTS — are demonstrating that the Field Ready Program truly works, already making strides in cultivating fresh voices and diverse talent.  Powered by these meaningful mentor and mentee partnerships, I’m excited to see what this incoming class can do in creating new narratives and groundbreaking content.”

Participants in the program are all National Geographic Explorers with significant experience and talent in the fields of photography or film. In this program, they are matched up with a single mentor for direction and advice on their career trajectory, as well as specific storytelling projects.

Kaitlin Yarnall, chief storytelling officer at the National Geographic Society also added:

“National Geographic stories have always had the power to change the world.  Over the past four years, we are proud to have built on this legacy through the Field Ready Program. The National Geographic Explorers who participate in this program as mentees represent the next generation of storytellers, and we look forward to seeing the impact they create through their powerful work.”

A new element to this year’s program is the Pitch Fest, where each mentee will have the opportunity to pitch an original TV series idea to National Geographic Content executives for feedback and consideration. The winning pitch will receive a paid development deal for a possible Nat Geo global series premiere.

To complete their program, the Field Ready class of mentees engage in an externship period hosted by their mentors and National Geographic production partners. Each mentee has a unique externship experience depending on the area of growth they are interested in. Some go into the field to work on productions, while others may join production partners in the office to apply their skills to development or production management.

The 2024 Field Ready Program includes nine mentees representing five countries: India, Mexico, Peru, South Africa and the United States. To date, the program has been widely successful, with early-career storytellers from 19 countries focused on filmmaking having completed the program and 60% of its participants working on National Geographic productions around the globe. Graduates of Field Ready have already received critical acclaim for their work, including Explorer and Field Ready mentee Tamana Ayazi, who won an Emmy for her documentary “In Her Hands”; Pooja Rathod, who was selected as 2023 BAFTA Breakthrough India; Sugandhi Gadadhar, who was selected as an Emerging Producer by World Congress Science & Factual Producers in November 2023; and Gunjan Menon, who received the World Wildlife Day UN Audience Choice Award for the short film “Wings of Hope.”

The program has become a reliable resource for National Geographic’s production partners to hire and mentor the next generation of talent. By investing in a diverse community of storytellers and endorsing them as “field ready” to impact the industry positively, this program is a reflection of National Geographic’s steadfast commitment to diversity and inclusion. Through the Field Ready Program, graduate Dhalaria collaborated as an associate producer on the woman-led production of QUEENS, which brings the natural world into focus through the lens of women for the very first time, focusing on matriarchal societies while putting female animal leaders in the spotlight. 

2024 Mentees:

  • Tessa Barlin (South Africa) – A documentary filmmaker with a passion for telling stories of people and nature and amplifying Indigenous voices, Barlin’s current project, “Fading Footprints,” looks at a Khoisan community whose ancient hunter-gathered knowledge is at risk of extinction as they move into a more modern, sedentary world.
  • Prakash Matada (India) – Matada is a wildlife cinematographer who primarily works on natural history programs and specializes in capturing behavioral sequences. His recent projects include “BBC Planet Earth III” and Apple TV’s “Big Beast.”
  • Eshika Fyzee (India) – Fyzee is a documentary and wildlife filmmaker who produces, directs and shoots films for various global platforms, including National Geographic, Blue Ant Media and WWF. Her current work includes directing conservation-focused documentaries for film festivals, OTT platforms and broadcast media.
  • Sofía Jaramillo (United States) – Jaramillo is a documentary photographer and filmmaker whose work focuses on the intersection between environment and people. Jaramillo is currently working on a project about the Páramos ecosystem in Colombia.
  • Lucía Flórez (Peru) – A documentary filmmaker with over a decade of experience creating short films on social and environmental topics, Flórez directed “Shirampari: Legacies of the River” (2022), a documentary short film shot in a pristine area of the Peruvian Amazon. The film has been screened at prestigious international festivals such as Sundance 2023 and DOC NYC, among others. Currently, she is producing her first feature film, “Ever and the Sharks.”
  • Aishwarya Sridhar (India) – Sridhar is a National Geographic Explorer, filmmaker and photographer. She’s worked extensively on big cats, telling stories that explore individualism among these iconic predators. Her work also focuses on the intersection between humans and wildlife and investigates the global multibillion-dollar illegal wildlife trade.
  • Iván Carrillo (Mexico) – Venturing into environmental documentary filmmaking in 2021, Carillo is a science journalist with a focus on solutions.
  • Samuel Díaz Fernández (United States) – Díaz Fernández is a Colombian-born filmmaker and educator whose films have been shown at SXSW, Big Sky, NOFF, HSDFF and the Cambodia International Film Festival, among others. His work focuses on the resilience, memory and imagination of communities that coexist and heal in tandem with the ever-changing natural world surrounding them.
  • Ismael Vásquez Bernabé (Mexico) – Bernabé is an Indigenous filmmaker from San Pedro Amuzgos, Oaxaca, dedicated to telling Indigenous stories while protecting the dignity of Indigenous voices. His first documentary feature, “The Weavers’ Songs/Hilando Sones,” which obtained a grant from the National Geographic Society, development funding from the Sundance Documentary Fund, and completion funding from the Mexican Institute of Film (EFICINE), will premiere later this year. 

2024 Mentors:

  • Tom Brisley, Arrow Media (“Magic of Disney’s Animal Kingdom”)
  • Simon Blakeney, BBC (“Dynasties II”)
  • Gavin Boyland, BBC (“Home”)
  • Gabriela Figueredo, Fig Tree Films (“Shark Side of the Moon”)
  • Thomas Winston, Grizzly Creek (“Path of the Panther”)
  • Simon Willgoss, Nutopia (“Welcome to Earth”)
  • Sam Hodgson, Offspring (“Earth at Night in Colour”)
  • Huw Cordey, Silverback (“Our Planet”)
  • Ruth Roberts, Talesmith (“Secrets of the Penguins”)
  • Vanessa Berlowitz, Wildstar (“Queens”)

The in-person Boot Camp returns to the Field Ready Program, beginning May 13th through May 17th 2024. All mentees will travel to National Geographic headquarters in Washington, D.C., for a weeklong capstone of their program. During this week, they’ll receive RED Camera training and certification, networking, presentations and workshops with National Geographic Society and National Geographic Content staff members.

For the latest Disney+ news, follow us on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram.

Roger Palmer

Roger has been a Disney fan since he was a kid and this interest has grown over the years. He has visited Disney Parks around the globe and has a vast collection of Disney movies and collectibles. He is the owner of What's On Disney Plus & DisKingdom. Email: Roger@WhatsOnDisneyPlus.com Twitter: Twitter.com/RogPalmerUK Facebook: Facebook.com/rogpalmeruk

Related Article