News Column

Norman Lear Center: World's Largest Film Industries Using Entertainment to Improve Lives

November 16, 2013


Norman Lear Center announced that India's Bollywood and Nigeria's Nollywood film industries are leveraging the power of entertainment in an effort to prevent disease and improve the quality of life for the hundreds of millions of viewers of their TV shows and films.

According to a release, a two-year, $2.5 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to Hollywood, Health & Society (HH&S) is supporting a partnership across the world's leading entertainment industries to increase visibility of pressing social and health issues.

HH&S is a program of the Norman Lear Center at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. As research by the Lear Center and others has shown, entertainment has a profound impact on people's knowledge, attitudes and behavior. That's why, since 2001, the U.S.'s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other funders have enabled HH&S to connect Hollywood's creative community, including the writers of Homeland, Mad Men, House, CSI, The Good Wife, Breaking Bad and scores of other shows, with experts on the full range of public health issues, for free.

Now HH&S is going global, teaming up with new centers in Lagos, Nigeria and Mumbai, India that will conduct sustained and systematic outreach to their entertainment industries in order to increase the accuracy, accessibility and frequency of health and other socially- relevant topics in television, film and new media.

In Lagos, HH&S is partnering with Nollywood Workshops, directed by Bond Emeruwa and Aimee Corrigan, to launch the Gist program. Gist will support independent filmmakers in Nollywood's thriving entertainment scene who are working to inspire and inform an audience across Africa. In early 2014, Gist will host at a high- profile industry event in Nigeria, where Hollywood writers will join their Nollywood counterparts and top medical experts in a series of workshops and site visits.

In Mumbai, HH&S and the Asian Center for Entertainment Education have created The Third Eye, which will produce original content dealing with pressing public health and development issues, and will also provide free expert resources on a variety of medical and scientific topics. Long known for its entertaining musicals and comedies, Bollywood is now seeing the rise of a "parallel cinema" featuring more serious and provocative stories. Vinta Nanda, founder and managing director of The Third Eye, is a writer and producer known for her pioneering work as creator of the Indian TV series Tara. HH&S trips bringing Grey's Anatomy co-executive producer Zoanne Clack and Writers Guild of America, West president Chris Keyser to Mumbai laid the groundwork for the Third Eye collaboration.

"We're thrilled to be able to bring what we've learned about social impact in the U.S. to our partners in Nollywood and Bollywood, which are even bigger industries than Hollywood," said USC Annenberg professor Martin Kaplan, the Lear Center's founding director and principal investigator of HH&S since its inception.

HH&S's Chris Dzialo will manage the global centers program from the Norman Lear Center in Los Angeles.

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