National Geographic Channel has acquired the worldwide rights to an untitled climate change feature documentary produced by Fisher Stevens and Leonardo DiCaprio, the cable network announced at their Television Critics Association summer press tour panel Saturday. NatGeo plans to release the film theatrically in New York and Los Angeles in October, followed by a global premiere on National Geographic Channels worldwide preceding the U.S. election in November.
The film presents an account of how society can prevent the demise of endangered species, ecosystems and native communities across the globe. Audiences are presented with visual evidence of a worsening environmental crisis that is inflicting irreversible damage on landscapes from Greenland to Indonesia, disturbing the balance of our planet’s climate and hastening the extinction of beloved animals. DiCaprio interviews individuals from every facet of society in both developing and developed nations who provide their views on what must be done today – and in the future – to transition our economic and political systems into environmentally friendly institutions.
Subjects include President Barack Obama, Former President Bill Clinton, Secretary of State John Kerry, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Pope Francis, as well as top NASA researchers, forest conservationists, revered scientists, community leaders and fervent activists working to save the world.
“National Geographic has a long history of inspiring others to care about the planet,” said Courteney Monroe, CEO of National Geographic Global Networks. “Now, in the midst of the undeniable crisis that is climate change, we have a responsibility to inspire others to act. I have no doubt that the global reach of our brand, combined with DiCaprio’s passion for this issue and Fisher’s compelling storytelling will bring this critical issue to the forefront like never before.”
“Climate change is the most fundamental threat facing our planet,” said DiCaprio. “We must work together as a collective voice to demand major action now. Our very survival depends on it. This documentary translates the symptoms and solutions of climate change before information is distorted, as it often is, by those with a financial interest in fossil fuel production.”
“If you could know the truth about how much damage we’ve done to our planet and how much time we have to find solutions before this whole ecosystem collapses — would you want to know? We can no longer turn a blind eye to this issue and hope that it resolves itself,” added Stevens. “My hope is that this film provides a wakeup call about our inevitable fate should we fail to act. And on the eve of what could be the most important election of our time, I hope this film not only educates the public on the serious threat we face, but also forces voters to really think about how important their vote is this fall.”
The project is produced by RatPac Documentary Films, Appian Way and Insurgent Media. It is produced by DiCaprio, Brett Ratner, Stevens, James Packer, Jennifer Davisson and Trevor Davidoski and executive produced by Martin Scorsese. The deal was negotiated by John Sloss of Cinetic Media with Tim Pastore, President of Original Programming and Production for National Geographic Channel.
NatGeo also announced that the channel and National Geographic Studios will partner with Katie Couric Media to produce a two-hour documentary with the working title “Gender Revolution,” an in-depth look at the role of genetics, brain chemistry and modern culture on gender fluidity. The doc will premiere on the National Geographic Channel globally in 171 countries and 45 languages, timed to the January 2017 Gender issue of National Geographic Magazine.
“This show will explore the roles of science, politics, and culture on gender, giving viewers a greater understanding of what is becoming a rapidly evolving issue,” said Monroe. “We’re proud to partner with Katie and her talented production team to play a part in breaking down the complexities of gender identity.”
“It seems that every day, there’s a new story and a new vocabulary around gender that’s challenging our long-held attitudes and preconceptions about what makes us who we are,” said Couric. ‘Gender Revolution’ will go beyond the headlines to examine the why, the how and what it all means, with intimate stories of the people who are at the forefront of this new frontier. We’ll also explore how it’s impacting almost every aspect of our lives, from bathrooms to boardrooms, and from colleges to competitive sports. Think of it this way: this will be everything you wanted to know about gender but were afraid to ask.”
“Gender Revolution” will be produced by Katie Couric Media and National Geographic Studios for National Geographic Channel. For Katie Couric Media, executive producers are Couric and Mitch Semel. For National Geographic Studios, executive producers are Jeff Hasler and Brian Lovett. For National Geographic Channel, Tim Pastore is President, Original Programming and Production. Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato, known for shows including “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” “The RuPaul Show” and “Hot Property” also serve as Executive Producers on this film.
NatGeo announced that the channel has also closed a drama series script development deal with Amblin Television, Sony Pictures Television and CrichtonSun for a global limited series based on the soon-to-be-published Michael Crichton manuscript, “Dragon Teeth.” Crichton wrote the novel during his most prolific years as a writer and filmmaker. The book was discovered by his wife Sherri Crichton amongst his archives and immediately identified the book as “Pure Crichton.”
“Justified” showrunner Graham Yost will adapt the manuscript with “The Pacific’s” Bruce C. McKenna. The script will follow the notorious rivalry between real-life paleontologists Edward Drinker Cope and Othniel Charles Marsh during a time of intense fossil speculation and discovery. The story unfolds through the adventures of a young fictional character named William Johnson who is apprenticed first to one, then to the other, and not only makes discoveries of historical proportion, but transforms into an inspiring hero only Crichton could have imagined. Known for his meticulous research, Crichton uses Marsh and Copes’s heated competition during the “Bone Wars,” the golden age of American fossil hunting, as the basis for a thrilling story set in the wilds of the American West in 1878.
“This epic tale of science, adventure and exploration from master storyteller Michael Crichton is the perfect scripted project for the network,” said Carolyn Bernstein, Executive Vice President and Head of Global Scripted Development and Production, National Geographic Channel. “With Amblin, Sony Pictures Television, CrichtonSun and the distinctive creative voices of Graham and Bruce, we are going to tell the dramatic story of these two passionate mavericks, Edward Drinker Cope and Othniel Charles Marsh, and their relentless, passionate, and oftentimes unscrupulous drive in the name of scientific discovery, mixed with the very unique and brilliant Crichton touch and approach.”
Executive producing for Amblin Television are Darryl Frank and Justin Falvey, and Sherri Crichton and Laurent Bouzereau for CrichtonSun.
The network will also produce its first ever virtual reality short film, “The Protectors,” co-created by director Kathryn Bigelow and VR creator Imraan Esmail in partnership with VR house Here Be Dragons and Megan Ellison’s Annapurna Pictures. The 12-minute project will expose the dangerous and grueling reality faced by rangers protecting African elephants from ivory poachers.
The network also announced that it will be taking a “premium approach” to its programming by “reducing commercial load up to fifty percent, and offering a less cluttered environment for our advertising partners” moving forward.