Wednesday, October 13, 2021

ViacomCBS International Studios launches VIS Social Impact as new studio division, South African director Thishiwe Ziqubu to lead new writers' room.

by Thinus Ferreira

ViacomCBS International Studios has launched VIS Social Impact as a new studio division that will focus on climate, equity and health issues and will include the establishment of a new inclusive writers' room that will be led by the South African director Thishiwe Ziqubu.

VIS Social Impact will create content for the ViacomCBS portfolio of brands, including its Paramount+ video streaming service and for third-party partners, and will "champion diverse creators and content", ViacomCBS says.

ViacomCBS says the aim of VIS Social Impact is to "counteract racism, bias, stereotypes and hate through the company's culture, creative supply chain, and ultimately the content it creates".

"For decades, we've told stories that matter, and we understand the significant role entertainment plays in shaping minds and ultimately driving change," says Raffaele Annecchino, president and CEO of ViacomCBS Networks International (VCNI).

"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."

VIS Social Impact is led by Georgia Arnold, senior vice president of social responsibility, ViacomCBS Networks International, who is reporting to JC Acosta, president of ViacomCBS International Studios and Networks Americas. 

Georgia Arnold is the executive director and co-founder of the MTV Staying Alive Foundation that produces the MTV Shuga series.

JC Acosta says "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 Protest & Progress, from the photographer and social activist, Misan Harriman. 

Protest & Progress as a docuseries of three 60-minute episodes will premiere on ViacomCBS's Paramount+ streaming service at the end of the year. Paramount+ is not yet available in South Africa or anywhere else in sub-Saharan Africa.

In Protest & Progress, Misan Harriman travels 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. ViacomCBS says that the series will "aim not only to educate on the importance of protests, but inspire audiences to remember their voice matters"

"It is an honour 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+," says Misan Harriman.

"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 and will start by launching an inclusive writers' room focused on scripted ideas powered by a diverse group of creatives, with a strong presence of participants from LGBTQ+ communities.

This will be led by the South African film director, writer and actor Thishiwe Ziqubu who also directed episodes of MTV Shuga Down South.

"As a gender non-binary creative, spaces where our voices are heard for their pure artistic truth is imperative."

"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," says Thishiwe Ziqubu.