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ViacomCBS’ ViacomCBS International Studios has launched a social impact unit, led by Georgia Arnold, with its first commission being a docuseries by photographer and activist Misan Harriman for Paramount+.
The ViacomCBS international production arm said Monday that the new banner, called VIS Social Impact, would be led by Georgia Arnold, senior vp social responsibility at ViacomCBS Networks International and co-founder of the MTV Staying Alive Foundation, with the goal of driving “social change through global content.”
Arnold has also been the executive producer of the MTV Shuga series, which has starred Lupita Nyong’o and fuses sexual health messaging with storylines about relationships between young people.
The new division, part of Content for Change, a global ViacomCBS initiative that aims to counteract racism, bias, stereotypes and hate through the company’s culture, creative supply chain and the content it creates, will focus on developing “groundbreaking social impact-driven content addressing climate, equity and health for the ViacomCBS portfolio of brands, including Paramount+, as well as for third-party partners.”
“For decades, we’ve told stories that matter, and we understand the significant role entertainment plays in shaping minds and ultimately driving change. Now with VIS Social Impact, we will harness the power of storytelling to challenge stereotypes, shift perceptions and create meaningful change in the critical areas of climate, equity and health,” said Raffaele Annecchino, president and CEO of ViacomCBS Networks International. “Through ViacomCBS’ massive global footprint and the work of this new studio, we have a responsibility to elevate voices that need to be heard and to use our content to make a tangible impact on the world’s biggest challenges.”
JC Acosta, president of ViacomCBS International Studios and ViacomCBS Networks Americas, lauded Georgia Arnold as “a leader in the social responsibility space with a proven track record of driving groundbreaking social-impact initiatives for our brand,” adding: “Creating this division is a natural evolution for ViacomCBS and further strengthens our commitment to producing best-in-class content that addresses the issues that matter most to our audiences around the world.”
The first VIS Social Impact commission is docuseries Protest & Progress from photographer and social activist Misan Harriman, which will premiere on ViacomCBS streaming service Paramount+. In three hourlong episodes, it will see Harriman travel around the world to “uncover the stories behind some of the most powerful images and art forms that have defined a moment and a movement,” the company said. “The series will aim not only to educate on the importance of protests, but inspire audiences to remember their voice matters.”
“It is an honor to be among the first commissions for VIS Social Impact and to have an opportunity to present the power of photography and art to a global audience on Paramount+,” said Harriman, who took the black-and-white photo used by Prince Harry and Meghan Markle to announce that they are expecting their second child. “This is a passion project that explores how a single image can reflect and influence society and inspire hope.”
VIS Social Impact will also “champion diverse creators and content focused on underrepresented communities,” said ViacomCBS International Studios. It will begin this work by launching a writers room focused on scripted ideas by anglophone African writers who identify as non-binary and/or gender non-conforming. It will be led by actor, writer and director Thishiwe Ziqubu.
“As a gender non-binary creative, spaces where our voices are heard for their pure artistic truth is imperative,” said Ziqubu. “Free room for expression of our individual lived experience is rare. I look forward to the tapestry of ideas emerging from this room of Black storytellers with a unique voice.”
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