Francesca Panetta is a leader in pro-social, experimental and immersive storytelling.
Working as a director, artist, curator and commissioner she investigates how pushing established forms and using emerging technologies can have a greater impact on audiences.
For over 20 years she has pioneered new types of documentary and journalism in news rooms and universities including the BBC, Guardian and MIT. She led the Guardian’s podcast team in its early days, set up the immersive features team and the virtual reality studio as Executive Editor. At Sheffield DocFest, she currently curates the Alternate Realities exhibition and summit.
Francesca’s work as artist and director, is internationally acclaimed. As Creative Director at MIT, her machine learning work on misinformation, In Event of Moon Disaster won an Emmy for best Interactive Documentary. The VR pieces she has directed have been shown at film festivals from Cannes to Sundance, and are used as policy tools taken by advocates and her work 6×9 was exhibited in the White House.
Her mission is to instigate change on the most important topics of the day: climate catastrophe, polarisation, racial justice, criminal justice, migration and inequality. The method serves the story – whether audio, film, virtual reality, augmented reality, artificial intelligence, social media or installation – the aim is to find the most effective means to connect with the audience.
“How we feel matters more than we think [it does]” said Ezra Klein in his book on polarisation. Merely laying out the facts and bare truth isn’t enough. Strong, visceral storytelling is more likely to break through. By using creativity with rigorous research and journalism, storytellers can contribute to the change the world needs right now.