Team Viacom Runs the Central Park Night at 42nd J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

The Viacom employees’ identical black racing shirts bore a lightning bolt back-dropping a three-word statement of intent: Run the Night. In the clear and humid May evening they did exactly that, dashing through 3.5 miles of hills and springtime trees in Manhattan’s Central Park, a 150-member collective scattered amid 15,000 workers from 329 companies bounding through the 42nd annual J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge.

Viacom employees gather before the first night of the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge in Central Park on May 30, 2018.

Leading Team Viacom’s women’s group with a time of 25:42 was Alyssa Curci, a senior manager of vendor management in the company’s Media and Technology Services group.

“The energy was amazing,” Curci, who was participating in her first Corporate Challenge, recalled. “Everybody was excited to be there.”

Curci, who swam competitively at Division 1 Lehigh University, took up running after moving to New York City. She now runs three to five miles at least two days per week along the running paths that trace the rivers surrounding Manhattan.

As someone who joined Viacom just the month before the race, Curci appreciated elements of the challenge beyond the opportunity for an employer-sanctioned workout.

“I’m trying to meet a lot of the employees in Viacom, so this is a really nice opportunity,” Curci recalled. “When you’re the new person somewhere, it can be very intimidating, and you want to be a part of the group and a part of the family, and the fact that anyone who wanted to participate was allowed to was great. It’s an inviting culture, which is something that I really value about Viacom. It’s why I joined the company.”

Alyssa Curci, left, and Ross McGraw, right, finished tops in the female and male categories among their Viacom colleagues at the 2018 J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge.

For at least the third consecutive year, Ross McGraw finished first among all Viacom employees – and 15th overall – with a time of 18:47.

That McGraw finished near the top of the standings is little surprise – he is a committed athlete who placed first in the ITU World Triathlon in Bermuda earlier this year and will compete in triathlons in Philadelphia and New York City as a City Coach athlete over the coming two weekends. He will also compete in the USA Triathlon AG Nationals in Cleveland in August, race as an Elite-license-carrying Pro at the Ironman 70.3 in Lake Placid in September, and start as part of the Local Elite group in November’s New York City Marathon.

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Volunteer Spotlight: Taryn Sauthoff Uses Tech Talent for Good

Editor’s note: Viacom’s partner, Catchafire, originally published the article below on Medium. The two organizations collaborate on the Talent for Good program, which creates opportunities for Viacom employees to put their skills to work in the community.

Taryn Sauthoff, a Viacom employee in New York, is the embodiment of Talent for Good at work. She applied her web development skills to help YoungMoms, a non-profit organization that supports pregnant and parenting young women in rural Pennsylvania, build a new website. Sauthoff completed the volunteer project in a few months and continues to collaborate with the organization.

The homepage of YoungMoms, which Taryn Sauthoff helped develop.

Below is an excerpt from her testimonial:

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Paramount Pictures, Paramount TV Honored for Sustainable Productions

Paramount Television-produced Shooter and Paramount Players’ Eli earned Green Seal and Gold Seal honors, respectively, at the 2018 Environmental Media Awards in recognition of their progress in sustainable production.

Paramount Pictures’ Downsizing, set on a hypothetical future Earth where people shrink themselves to decrease resource consumption, was nominated in the Feature Film category at the ceremony, which recognize media trailblazers who place equal value on creating entertainment and protecting the environment.

The Environmental Media Agency awarded Paramount Television-produced Shooter (USA Networks) at the 2018 Environmental Media Awards for its sustainable production. Photo courtesy of Paramount Television.

Green Seal for Sustainable Production – Paramount Players, Eli

Eli is the first feature film on deck for Paramount Players, Viacom’s newly minted film studio division, which integrates Paramount Pictures and Viacom brands. Eli, slated to premiere in January 2019, is being produced in association with MTV. The film centers around a boy who is hospitalized in a remote clinic while suffering from a rare disease. The child’s treatment takes a nightmarish turn when his sanatorium becomes a prison, possessed by evil spirits intent on keeping him there forever.

Gold Seal for Sustainable Production – USA, Shooter (produced by Paramount Television)

Shooter (a drama series based on Stephen Hunter’s best-selling novels and Paramount Pictures’ 2007 film starring Mark Wahlberg) follows the journey of Bob Lee Swagger (Ryan Phillippe), a former Marine sniper who is perpetually entangled with bad characters. The show’s highly anticipated third season premieres Thursday, June 21.

The Environmental Media Agency awarded Paramount Television-produced Shooter (USA Networks) at the 2018 Environmental Media Awards for its sustainable production. Photo courtesy of Paramount Television.

From Props to Production Equipment, Nickelodeon Recycling Efforts Turn Trash into Treasure

The set is a key component of any television show. It’s a sometimes subtle, yet always vital backdrop upon which the characters play out their story. After all, what would Nickelodeon’s School of Rock be without a classroom setting, musical instruments and preppy school uniforms?

“Our sets are works of art,” said Patrick Garney, senior director of production for live-action series production at Nickelodeon, where he has worked since 2002.

Nick, like other Viacom brands, reuses these painstakingly designed sets wherever it can, so the keen-eyed may notice items from sketch-comedy classic All That tucked into the background of the network’s newer shows.

“We have an incredible reputation for making sure things get second, third and fourth lives,” said Garney. “Past that, we try incredibly hard to match items with local charities; lastly, we send them to charity thrift stores.”

If outdated items cannot be re-purposed for one of the aforementioned categories, the last resort  is to send them to the Dumpster. But Nickelodeon employees from various departments have worked to insert another option for old sets: donating the facades, along with any other useful material—props, hardware, etc.—to theater departments at Los Angeles public schools and select charities, an extra step that benefits not only the community and the environment, but, by cutting down on disposal fees, Nickelodeon and Viacom.

Lee Ann Larsen, executive vice president of production and live action for Nickelodeon, was impressed by the concept when a member of Garney’s team first pitched it to her.

“I immediately said yes,” said Larsen. “Our goal in the production department is always to be cognizant of the environment, and to encourage sustainability efforts.”

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American Woman’s Jen Bartels and Yellowstone’s Kelsey Asbille Give Back on Viacommunity Day

Jen Bartels [L], who will play a role in Paramount Network’s forthcoming American Woman, and Kelsey Asbille, who will appear in the channel’s Yellowstone, joined Viacom employees in New York City for the company’s annual Viacommunity Day.

For the past 22 years, Viacom’s annual worldwide Viacommunity Day has given back to those in need. On Friday, April 20, thousands of employees across Viacom and its brands once again volunteered to make a difference in communities around the world, from supporting L.A.’s homeless to organizing gun-safety projects in Florida to restoring outdated facilities in New York City.

Joining the Viacom employees for one project at their Times Square headquarters was talent from Paramount Network’s forthcoming originals: Jen Bartels of American Woman (premiering June 7) and Kelsey Asbille of Yellowstone (June 20). The pair sat down with the other volunteers to decorate bags that students at Free Arts NYC can use to carry home the art they create in the program.

“Thank you to Viacom for introducing me to Free Arts NYC. It’s really important for the youth to have access to arts in their daily lives. I definitely want to get involved in their mentorship programs.” – Kelsey Asbille (Paramount Network’s Yellowstone)

Free Arts NYC is important in New York City, where one in three public schools lacks an art room. The program partners with schools in these communities to “create access to the arts and exposure to creative careers” for students. They do this by offering free art days for students and families as well as art parties and free museum days.

Bartels shared that she was, “really proud to be a part of a community like Viacom that takes time out to support others, especially our youth. Sharing our creativity to brighten the lives of the children of Free Arts NYC was extremely fun and fulfilling.”

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The 22nd Annual Viacommunity Day Was All Good, All Around (the Globe)

Friday, April 20 was truly a global day of giving. Nearly 4,000 employees from 25 different regions around the world contributed ideas, talent and compassion to more than 125 projects in local communities for the 22nd annual Viacommunity Day, a celebration of the company’s values and commitment to giving back.

The day’s theme was “ALL GOOD, ALL AROUND.” The scope of Viacom’s traditional day of service reflected this motif well, as all around the world, employees did good: helping at their regular offices, like Viacom’s Times Square Headquarters; trekking to community organizations, like Chrysalis in downtown Los Angeles; or cleaning up the shores of Australia’s Sydney Harbor National Park.

Viacom Corporate Social Responsibility Director Adam Robinson woke up at 4 a.m. in Los Angeles to watch employees begin to share photos and footage from sites like these around the world in real time on collaborative video production tool Seenit.

“It was as if I was watching Viacommunity Day unfold on the horizon line,” said Robinson. “Australia, Asia, Europe, New York, Nashville, Chicago, all the way to Los Angeles.”

Watch below:

“This was my 21st Viacommunity Day,” said Viacom President and CEO Bob Bakish, who circulated through the on-site activities at 1515 Broadway, Viacom’s global headquarters in New York City, this year.

“Throughout this time, I have worked in [Viacom Headquarters], downtown Manhattan, Westchester County, Putnam County and Fairfield County,” he continued. “I’ve stuffed bags, provided ideas, painted objects, cleaned in all kinds of ways, painted fences and walls, raked and moved wood chips – lots of different things. What’s always the same is the passion and heart that our employees, and a select group of our talent, show as they help the community. What’s always the same is the happiness and thanks that comes from those that are being helped.

“As I visited different groups today, that’s what I saw once again. To me, that’s what makes Viacommunity Day such an important part of our culture and heritage. It is another reason why it is such an honor to be CEO this great company. I saw many great things today. All of the people involved reminded me, once again, just how important this initiative is to our company. Thank you everyone. You represent Viacom every day. In a world where there is incredible change, where some things are evolving and others arguably devolving, overall, Viacommunity Day is a constant.”

Let’s take a tour of these incredible sites, starting with our West Coast offices in California.

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Impactful Kalief Browder Story Wins Peabody Award for Best Documentary

Time: The Kalief Browder Story has won a coveted Peabody Award, along with eight other works that will be honored in the documentary category at the 77th annual Peabody Awards ceremony later this month.

Peabody Awards highlight ways that media can expand public knowledge, encourage empathy and support those in dire need of help, which Time: The Kalief Browder Story has certainly done.

The docuseries, which premiered last March on Viacom’s Spike (now Paramount Network in the U.S.), helped mobilize support from the community, launching a conversation about prisoners’ rights and the American judicial system, specifically that of New York City.

And this conversation is already inspiring action—such as “Raise the Age,” a bill signed into law by New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo in April 2017. The legislation will take steps to prohibit the state from charging as adults and incarcerating 16- and 17-year-olds, barring extenuating circumstances.

“His death is here to teach us to save a generation of kids. It’s hard to watch, but important to see.”

Jay Z, executive producer, Time: The Kalief Browder Story

Such a law could have affected the trajectory of Kalief Browder’s life—at least, the last few years of it. Browder was arrested at 16 for allegedly stealing a backpack. He spent over three years incarcerated at New York City’s Rikers Island prison, where he was regularly beaten and taunted by fellow inmates and prison guards. Ultimately, Browder’s case was dropped due to lack of evidence and witnesses. But he hardly left prison a free man.

Stricken with PTSD from the physical and psychological torture he experienced at Rikers, Browder hanged himself on June 6, 2015.

Browder_Family_Photo_073

Kalief Browder as a child. Courtesy of Spike / The Browder family.

Jay Z, who served as the documentary’s executive producer, spoke about its powerful message last year at an event in Times Square.

“His death is here to teach us to save a generation of kids,” he said. “I say this about the movie. It’s hard to watch, but important to see.”

The documentary may have served as a catalyst for actual change—like New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to close the notoriously violent prison where Browder spent the last years of his life, and laws such as “Raise the Age.”

Courtesy of Peabody Awards.

The Peabody Awards will be held on May 19 in New York, hosted by Hasan Minhaj, writer and senior correspondent on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.

Powerful Kalief Browder Documentary Earns Peabody Nomination for Sparking Conversation and Social Change

When Time: The Kalief Browder Story debuted last March on Viacom’s Spike (now Paramount Network in the U.S.), it recounted the youth’s tragic incarceration and helped mobilize the movement to shut down New York City’s notorious Rikers Island prison. Now, the Peabody Awards, which salute compelling and crucial forms of digital storytelling, have nominated the six-part miniseries in its Documentary category.

Browder was 22 when he committed suicide after spending over three torturous years incarcerated on Rikers Island for allegedly stealing a backpack at age 16. His trial was repeatedly delayed until charges were dropped. He left prison with crippling PTSD—which ultimately led to his death by suicide.

His story, chronicled in the documentary, led to the formation of the Kalief Browder Foundation, which is determined to “dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline prevalent in disenfranchised communities.

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All Good, All Year Pedals on With Cycle for Survival Fundraiser

Another year, another Team Viacom success story.

Part of Team Viacom at Cycle for Survival’s New York City fundraiser.

In a continuing tradition central to Viacommunity’s All Good, All Year initiative, 24 Team Viacom employees in  New York and Los Angeles joined the battle to beat rare cancers by participating in Cycle for Survival’s 12th year of rides, helping to raise some of the more than $40 million in critical funds that the organization has raised for rare cancer research this season alone.

In Los Angeles, eight riders rallied at Equinox Sports Club West LA for a four-hour single-bike relay, joining the more than 150 teams sharing 300 bikes among 1,500 participants. Paramount’s Anna Sivak won a $100 Amazon gift card from a Team Viacom fundraising challenge, while Equinox named the studio’s Kim Seiniger as the session’s most enthusiastic rider, awarding her a $100 donation to her fundraising page.

“Team Viacom was in full force for the Cycle for Survival ride at the Westside Equinox Gym. There were so many amazing riders pumped for the cause,” said Mary Jo Braun, executive director of Music Clearance at Paramount Pictures, who joined colleagues Ryan Stouffer Sandra Hiestand, Agnieszka Szymanska, Kevin Chalk and Stephanie Aguilar on the ride.

In New York, 16 riders shared two bikes over four hours at the second annual Media and Tech Innovators ride at Equinox Bryant Park, which hosted 600 riders from 30 companies.

“What an honor it was to be part of such a remarkable event and ride for those who have fought and continue to fight to beat rare cancers,” said Amanda Yasoshima, a manager at Velocity Brand Partnerships.

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Paramount’s Downsizing Demonstrates Outsized Impact With an Environmental Media Award Nomination

*spoilers below*

In addition to Critics’ Choice and Golden Globe nominations, Paramount’s Downsizing has earned a nod from the Environmental Media Association (EMA) in its feature film category. The annual EMAs honor the most environmentally conscious works in film and television.

Downsizing posits what would happen if scientists took a drastic step to conserve the Earth’s resources. Matt Damon stars as Paul Safranek, a regular guy living a near-future version of the American Midwest with his wife, Audrey (Kristen Wiig), and struggling to pay the bills. To maximize their finances, the Safraneks decide to shrink themselves to five inches tall. Paul’s life in the lap of Lilliputian luxury sours once he finds out his wife has changed her mind and will not be downsizing, and subsequently divorces him.

Paramount’s film tackles heavy themes: economic disparity, political and racial inequality, and what has attracted attention from the EMA board—environmental sustainability.

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