NBC unveils inaugural, all-woman class for its Alternative Directors Program

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“American Ninja Warrior”

NBC has announced the inaugural class for its landmark Alternative Directors Program, billed as the industry’s first directing pipeline program for unscripted shows.

With the new initiative, NBC takes a step toward equal representation behind the scenes on alternative series – an unserved part of the industry when it comes to inclusion efforts, despite the prevalence of unscripted shows on TV.

The program gives experienced female and ethnically diverse directors access to expand their repertoire of alternative formats and complex directing styles, with the ultimate goal of opening the door to future projects, according to a news release.

The seven program finalists and the celebrated directors who will serve as their mentors are Madeline Fuste (“Hollywood Game Night,” Ivan Dudynsky), Sarah De La O (“The Voice,” Alan Carter), Sharon Everitt (“The Wall,” Alan Carter and “World of Dance,” Alex Rudzinski), Carrie Havel (“The Voice,” Alan Carter), Annetta Marion (“Making It”), Cari Townsend (“American Ninja Warrior,” Patrick McManus) and Lizz Zanin (“America’s Got Talent,” Russell Norman).

The inaugural class are experienced directors who have worked on acclaimed unscripted content, including shows like “Oprah’s Master Class,” “Dancing with the Stars,” “Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert,” and “The View,” as well as sports events such as the FIFA World Cup and the Olympic Games and concert films for platinum-selling recording artists.

Launched in May as part of the network’s robust talent infusion programs (NBC TIPS), the Alternative Directors Program gives female and ethnically diverse directors with at least one directing credit the opportunity to shadow a seasoned director on an NBC show over several weeks, including prep, production and post.

The initiative is designed to feed the pipeline for unscripted directors on NBC as well as shows produced by Universal Television Alternative Studio. The network’s ultimate goal is to extend the industry’s pool of experienced diverse directors who can work in various alternative formats, according to the release.

“Given the sheer number of viewing hours unscripted shows make up each week, we have a huge opportunity to make a meaningful difference to the overall television landscape by forging a future for new directors in this space,” said Meredith Ahr, who was recently announced as NBC’s new President, Alternative and Reality Group, in a statement. “We want the Alternative Directors Program to not only start a path to equal representation behind the scenes on NBC’s shows, but to also kick off a chain reaction for similar efforts in the rest of the industry.”

The initiative is spearheaded by Ahr and Karen Horne, NBC’s Senior Vice President, Programming Talent Development & Inclusion, who oversees the company’s robust onscreen and behind-the-camera diversity efforts.

“With the addition of the Alternative Directors Program to our pipeline programs that already includes scripted directing initiatives, Female Forward and the Emerging Director Program, NBC now has a holistic approach to service the need for diverse directors across our entire primetime lineup,” said Horne in a statement.

“Our inaugural class of seven women represents a community of experienced directors who need key decision makers to recognize their talent and provide them with opportunities. In our program, along with expanding their repertoire of alternative formats, they will forge critical relationships with the best in the business who can serve as advocates for the rest of their careers.”


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