FRONTLINE, Brown Institute Team Up to Support New Immersive Documentary Project


May 11, 2015
Patrice Taddonio Digital Writer & Audience Development Strategist, FRONTLINE

Each year, The David and Helen Gurley Brown Institute for Media Innovation, a collaboration between Columbia and Stanford Universities, awards a set of “Magic Grants” to teams of students, faculty and alumni who have proposed ideas for developing innovative media projects.

This year, the PBS investigative series FRONTLINE is also helping to fund one of those projects: a documentary filmed with immersive video technology that maps the impact of the famine in South Sudan.

Called Recipe for a Famine, the project is one of eight “Magic Grant” winners announced today by the Brown Institute. In addition to support from the Brown Institute and FRONTLINE, the team behind the documentary — Evan Wexler (a former digital designer at FRONTLINE), Marcelle Hopkins, Benedict Moran and Andrew Blum — has been awarded a Social Justice fellowship from the Made in NY Media Center by IFP.

As part of their project, the team will create a “Virtual Reality 101” toolkit to make high-quality immersive video more accessible to journalists.

Supporting Recipe for a Famine was a natural step for FRONTLINE.

“We’re passionate about reimagining the documentary form across multiple platforms, and we’re very excited to be a part of this project,” says Raney Aronson, FRONTLINE deputy executive producer.

Recipe for a Famine isn’t FRONTLINE’s first foray into exploring virtual reality’s potential for journalism.

Aronson, a 2014 MIT Open Doc Fellow, has been working with the Tow Center for Digital Journalism, the interactive technology agency Secret Location, and filmmaker Dan Edge on an immersive project about the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

“We want to explore whether virtual reality can deliver a journalism experience and immerse our audience in the story in a way we couldn’t before,” Aronson says.

Watch this space for more information on both virtual reality documentary projects, and click here to read the full list of 2015 “Magic Grant” winners.