A new television production company evolves – introducing Genepool Productions.
Based in Melbourne Australia, Genepool Productions specialises in creating quality science documentaries for international television audiences. Sonya Pemberton, 2012 Emmy award winner and four-time winner of the prestigious Eureka Award for Science Journalism, leads the company.
Sonya Pemberton is one of Australia’s leading television producers specialising in science. She has written and directed over 50 hours of broadcast documentary and executive produced many award-winning factual series and one-off programs. Sonya was Head of Specialist Factual at ABC Television from 2004-2007, where she managed 300+ hours of factual television. Her understanding of audiences’ desire for smart, accessible TV saw ratings rise across the genres.
As a writer and director, Sonya’s science programs have won more than 60 major international awards. In 2011 ‘Immortal’ won the Best Science at Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival, Australian Health Journalist of the Year and, in 2012, US News and Documentary Emmy for Outstanding Science Programming.
In 2011 Sonya partnered with Australia’s largest Independent production company Cordell Jigsaw Zapruder (CJZ) to create Genepool Productions – Australia’s only science focused television production company. Genepool’s first project ‘Jabbed – Love, Fear and Vaccines’, broke SBS records in 2013, becoming the networks most successful single commissioned documentary in recent history. The US version of ‘Vaccines: Calling the Shots” was broadcast on PBS NOVA late 2014, and co-produced with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
Genepool just completed production on ‘Uranium: Twisting the Dragons Tail” for PBS, SBS and ZDF, and is currently developing a range of documentaries and series, collaborating with filmmakers and scientists from around the world.
Sonya Pemberton – Creative Director
2012 Emmy award winner, four time winner of the prestigious Eureka Award for Science Journalism, two time winner of Health Journalist of Year, Sonya’ s passion is quality science programming.
Sonya Pemberton is one of Australia’s leading television producers and she specialises in science. She has written and directed over sixty hours of broadcast documentary and executive produced dozens of award-winning factual series and one-off programs.
Sonya was Head of Specialist Factual at ABC Television from 2004-2007, where she managed over three hundred hours of factual television. Her understanding of audiences’ desire for smart, accessible TV saw ratings rise across the genres.
Sonya’s science programs – where she was writer and director – have won more than forty major international awards, including Best Science at Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival, National Press Club of Australia Health Journalist of the Year 2011 and 2013, and, in 2012, US News and Documentary Emmy for Outstanding Science Programming.
In 2011 Sonya partnered with Australia’s largest Independent production company CJZ, to create Genepool Productions – Australia’s first science focused television production company.
Genepool’s first project, ‘Jabbed – Love, Fear and Vaccines’, broke SBS records in 2013 becoming the networks most successful single commissioned documentary in recent history. In 2014 the US version, ‘Vaccines – calling the shots’, was launched on PBS NOVA, co-produced with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. This was followed by the three part series ‘Tales of the Unexpected’ for SBS and Smithsonian Channel. In 2015 Genepool releases a landmark science/history series for SBS, PBS and ZDF ARTE, “Uranium – Twisting the Dragon’s Tail’.
“There’s something redemptive in Pemberton’s work. She straddles the categories of art and journalism, entertainment and knowledge. She is a filmmaker who, in respected director Ken Burns’ terms, is really a “tribal storyteller.”
The Australian, October 17, 2009
Toni Malone – Director of Production
Having worked in Australian television for over fifteen years, Toni has experience in a variety of television genres ranging from reality, sketch comedy, documentary and variety to one-hour specials and daily strip shows. Toni’s recent credits as Supervising Producer include ‘GO BACK TO WHERE YOU CAME FROM’ (SBS), ‘SLEEK GEEKS’, ‘TWO IN THE TOP END’,’ TWO ON THE GREAT DIVIDE’ for the ABC, ‘BONDI RESCUE’, ‘RECRUITS’ & ‘GUERILLA GARDENERS’ for Network Ten.
Toni was also Series Producer for ‘OUT OF THE QUESTION’ with Glenn Robbins (Seven), ‘THE RONNIE JOHNS HALF HOUR’ (Ten), and for the Nine Network’s Children’s Unit. Other credits include ‘POPSTARS’ (Seven), ‘QUEENSLAND ESCAPADES’ (Nine), ‘THE MORNING SHIFT’ (Seven), ‘O’LOGHLIN ON SATURDAY NIGHT’ (ABC), and ‘WHO DARES WINS’ (Seven).
She is currently overseeing production on ‘GREAT SOUTHERN LAND’ (ABC1), ‘YOU’RE SKITTING ME’ (ABC3), ‘MEGATRUCKERS’ (Foxtel/A&E), ‘THE GREAT MINT SWINDLE’ (Nine Network), ‘DUMB, DRUNK AND RACIST’ (ABC2) and ‘GO BACK TO WHERE YOU CAME FROM’ Series 2 (SBS).
Chris Kamen– Business Affairs Producer
Chris Kamen is an award winning producer who has specialised in creating short form content for online and television audiences including the long running series for ABC2 triple j presents (36 x half hour series) and the ABC iView comedy series Corn Cobs. In 2015 Chris produced the hugely successful feature documentary Small is Beautiful (distribution supported by Screen Australia) which recouped its entire budget within the first 12 months, and was then licensed to Netflix. A qualified lawyer Chris joined Genepool Productions in mid 2017 as their Business Affairs Producer in a multi-faceted role spanning producing, business affairs, distribution & marketing. Chris is currently working on the distribution of Genepool’s feature documentary Vitamania as well as guiding the evolution of Genepool’s business into the digital era.
Kate Pappas – Creative Producer / Development Producer
Kate has worked in Factual programming for over 17 years and solidified her love of documentary through working on an award-winning slate including INSIDE THE FIRESTORM; IMMIGRATION NATION; DIRTY BUSINESS: HOW MINING MADE AUSTRALIA and URANIUM TWISTING THE DRAGON’S TAIL. Kate’s first solo producing project, which she also co-wrote and directed, FUTURE RADICALS was nominated for Best Short Documentary at the 2013 ATOM Awards. In 2013, Kate was selected as part of the SPA “Ones To Watch” mentoring initiative and in 2014 she teamed up with Writer/Director Jonnie Morris to form Jonnie & Kate Films. Kate’s recent work has included Producing ABC Arts documentary DECEPTION BY DESIGN; Co-Producing with Madman Production Company WESTWIND: DJALU’S LEGACY a MIFF Premier Fund Feature Documentary for NiTV and Melbourne International Film Festival; Series Producing 11 hours of wildlife programming for WildBear Entertainment. In Feb 2018, Kate joined the Genepool Productions creative team where she will drive her passion for science filmmaking.
Daniella Ortega – Producer (on maternity leave)
Daniella is an award-winning Director and Producer of documentary and factual television with a passion for science storytelling. Daniella has experience as an independent producer, a consultant Director, as well as high level factual and documentary development consultant, for independent production companies generating proposals for local and international singles and series.
Her latest film Enigma Man – A Stone Age Mystery [ABC] about the intriguing science of human evolution in Asia was nominated for 2014 Jackson Hole Science Media Award for ‘Best Human and Social Sciences’ film, and is currently also nominated for two Australian Teachers of Media awards. Her prize winning episodes of the series Whatever! The Science of Teens [ABC] unravel the mysteries of the teenage brain by combining intimate portraits of teenagers with serious science content. And in 2006 she produced and co-directed the critically acclaimed observational documentary series Battle of the Brains [ABC] about the epic journey of Australia’s best teenage science students to the International Science Olympiad.
Crossing genres such as formatted science TV, wildlife, kids and factual entertainment, her work has screened on networks around the world including ABC TV, SBS, Animal Planet and Fox Television. Daniella is a graduate of the Australian Film, Television and Radio School, and the University of Technology.
Josephine Wright – Line Producer / Associate Producer
Jo joined the Genepool team in March 2013. As part of Genepool Jo has been the Line Producer of ’VACCINES –CALLING THE SHOTS’ (PBS Nova) and Associate Producer on the 3-part science series ‘TALES OF THE UNEXPECTED’ (SBS, Smithsonian). Currently Jo is the Field Producer / Line Producer on the 3 part series URANIUM – TWISTING THE DRAGON’S TAIL (SBS, PBS).
Previously Jo was the Development Producer for the Melbourne based documentary company 360 Degree Films from April 2009 – September 2012. In 2012 Jo produced the award winning half an hour documentary for ABC television ‘QUEEN OF THE DESERT’ funded as part of the Opening Shot initiative. Other past credits include being the Associate Producer of the award winning National Geographic one-hour documentary ‘AUSTRALIA’S GREAT FLOOD’ and Line Producer of the one hour natural history documentaries ‘POSSUM WARS’ (2012, ABC) and ‘KANGAROO MOB’ (2011, ABC, RTBF, SVT,YLE). Jo’s credits as Development Producer include the 6 part natural history series ‘DEVIL ISLAND’ (ABC, ITV, FRANCE5), ‘POSSUM WARS’ (ABC, SVT), ‘KANGAROO MOB’ (2011, ABC, RTBF, SVT,YLE), ‘CHARLES BEAN’S GREAT WAR’ (2010, The History Channel). Previously Jo worked as part of the production team for both ‘PENGUIN ISLAND’ (2010, ABC, BBC, Arte France) and ‘TIBET: MURDER IN THE SNOW’ (2008, SBS, BBC, RTBF, TSR, YLE).
Matt Calissi – Associate Producer
Matt recently joined the Genepool team in early 2016 working to develop and produce projects on the companies slate. Previously Matt worked with the multi award winning Melbourne based production company December Media, where his credits included associate producer on ‘OUT OF THE ASHES’ (ABC) ‘CHRIS HUMFREYS WILD LIFE’ (ABC), THE EXTRAORDINARY TALE OF WILLIAM BUCKLEY (ABC), ‘CATCHING CANCER’ (ABC/NGTV), and Emmy award winning ‘IMMORTAL’ (SBS/Smithsonian). Matt has worked for numerous production companies throughout Australia, Africa and Europe, producing content for international audiences.
Harry Panagiotidis – Associate Producer
Harry has more than 40 Australian and US feature films credits as camera operator, Steadicam operator, and second unit DOP. He also works as Director of Photography on documentaries and factual programs. Married to director Sonya Pemberton, the husband and wife creative team thrive on tackling stories of science together. Recent films include CATCHING CANCER (ABC/NGTV), Emmy award winning IMMORTAL (SBS/Smithsonian), JABBED – LOVE, FEAR AND VACCINES (SBS) and VACCINES – CALLING THE SHOTS (PBS NOVA).
Michael Cordell – Executive Producer
Michael Cordell is one of Australia’s most established producers and filmmakers. As a director, his best-known film is the documentary feature ‘YEAR OF THE DOGS’, which had a wide theatrical release, screened on the BBC’s prestigious Storyville and has won numerous awards. It is still among the highest grossing theatrical documentaries in Australia.
Among Michael’s various credits as a producer and/or director are ‘BONDI’ (ABC), ‘THE TRACK’ (ABC), ‘DRAMA SCHOOL’ (Seven), ‘A CASE FOR THE CORONER’ (ABC), ‘THE NATIONAL SEX SURVEY’ (Ten), ‘SUSPICIOUS MINDS’ (Nine) and ‘POLITICAL FOOTBALL’ (ABC). ‘THE ORIGINAL MERMAID’ (SBS) won him the Film Critics’ Circle Award for Best Director in 2003 while his provocative documentary ‘MUSIC AND MURDER’ screened at the Melbourne Film Festival in 2004. Michael was Executive and Series Producer on ‘TWO MEN IN A TINNIE’ (ABC1) with Tim Flannery and John Doyle that won him Independent Producer of the Year (factual) and directed ‘TWO IN THE TOP END’ (ABC1). He has just overseen the delivery of the next instalment, ‘TWO ON THE GREAT DIVIDE’ (ABC1).
He has served as Executive Producer on ‘RECRUITS’ AND ‘RECRUITS: PARAMEDICS’ (Ten), ‘DAVE IN THE LIFE’ (SBS) ‘ANATOMY OF A MASSACRE’ (ABC) and, currently, ‘GREAT SOUTHERN LAND’ (ABC1), ‘MEGATRUCKERS’ (Foxtel/A&E), ‘THE GREAT MIND SWINDLE’ (Nine Network), ‘DUMB, DRUNK AND RACIST’ (ABC2), ‘GO BACK TO WHERE YOU CAME FROM’ Series 2 (SBS) and ‘BONDI RESCUE’ Series 7 (Ten). ‘BONDI RESCUE’ has won four Logies for Most Popular Factual Series in Australia. ‘THREE BOYS DREAMING’ (ABC1) is Michael’s second documentary feature and he was co-Exec Producer on the feature length doco ‘RUNNING TO AMERICA’ (ABC1).
Nick Murray – Executive Producer
Through Cordell Jigsaw Productions and Jigsaw Entertainment, Nick has a broad set of credits spanning comedy, light entertainment, drama and factual production. Nick produced the BlackJack Series, a package of 7 telemovies for Network Ten and BBC Worldwide. Nick has been a co-Executive Producer on a number of series for Cordell Jigsaw:
‘TWO OF US’ (SBS), ‘TWO MEN IN A TINNIE’ and ‘TWO IN THE TOP END’ (ABC), ‘BONDI RESCUE’ (Ten), ‘RECRUITS’ AND ‘RECRUITS: PARAMEDICS’ (Ten), ‘SLEEK GEEKS’ 1&2 (ABC), ‘GUERILLA GARDENERS’ (10), ‘DYING DAYS’ (SBS), ‘HARDLINERS’ (Fox8) and, through Jigsaw Entertainment, scripted comedy series’ ‘THE RONNIE JOHNS HALF HOUR’ (Ten), ‘WELCHER AND WELCHER’ (ABC) and ‘STUPID, STUPID MAN’ (TV1).
His is currently co-EP across several projects: ‘GREAT SOUTHERN LAND’ (ABC1), ‘YOU’RE SKITTING ME’ (ABC3), ‘MEGATRUCKERS’ (Foxtel/A&E), ‘THE GREAT MINT SWINDLE’ (Nine Network), ‘DUMB, DRUNK AND RACIST’ (ABC2) and ‘GO BACK TO WHERE YOU CAME FROM’ Series 2 (SBS).
Prior to establishing Cordell Jigsaw, he was the foundation CEO of The Comedy Channel, one of Australia’s leading cable and satellite networks, a joint venture between cable operator Foxtel and independent production company Artist Services (now Granada Media Australia).
Nick is the former President of the Screen Producers Association of Australia and is a current board member of PilotAustralia. Nick was awarded the SPAA Independent Producer of the year in 2003.
Katie Shortland – Business Affairs Manager
Katie has run Business Affairs departments for some of the country’s biggest production companies; Flying Bark Productions, The Wiggles and now CJZ Group where she has been for 6 years. After completing her MA in Drama Producing at AFTRS, she has worked across all aspects of film and television production with such companies as Palm Beach Pictures, Porchlight Films and Foxtel before specialising in Business Affairs. Katie was the AFTRS’ inaugural Research Fellow for the Centre for Screen Business and has been published in a number of academic articles and textbooks. Aside from running business affairs at CJZ Katie is studying her third degree- a bachelor of law.
For more info please visit
3 x 52 Genepool Productions/SBS Australia/PBS/ZDF arte 2015
2015 ATOM Award for Best Documentary Series
2015 ATOM Award for Best Documentary History
2015 ATOM Award for Best Documentary Science
Finalist 2015 AACTA Award for Best Direction in a Documentary
Finalist 2015 AACTA Award for Best Original Music Score in a Documentary
2015 Gold ACS State Award for Best Cinematography
2015 Gold ACS Award (Victoria) for Best Cinematography in a documentary
2016 Remi Winner Special Jury Award Worldfest – Houston International Film Festival
2016 Rockie Award Nomination Science & Technology BANFF World Media Awards
2016 Official Selection International Competition AFO International Festival of Science Documentary Films
2016 Official Selection International Uranium Film Festival
3 x 52 Genepool Productions/SBS Australia/Smithsonian 2014
2015 Cine Golden Eagle Award for Environment and Science.
1 x 90 SBS/Genepool Productions 2013
2014 Eureka Award for Science Journalism
2014 Jackson Hole Science Media Awards – Best Medical Science
2013 Health Journalist of the Year, National Press Club of Australia
2013 ATOM Award for Best Science Documentary
2013 Thornett Award for the Promotion of Reason
2013 Special Jury Prize, Contemporary Science Film Festival 360
Finalist 2014 Logie Award for Most Outstanding Factual Program
Finalist 2014 ACCTA – Best Documentary Television Program, (Australian Academy Cinema Television Arts)
Finalist 2013 Walkey Award for Excellence in Journalism
1 x 60 SBS/Smithsonian Channel/National Geographic International, December Films/PembertonFilms 2010
2012 Emmy for Outstanding Science & Technology Programming
2011 Best Science & Nature, Jackson Hole
2011 Health Journalist of the Year, National Press Club
2011 Best Documentary, National Press Club
2011 Special Jury Prize, International Science Film Festival
2011 Grand Jury Prize, Finalist, Paris Science Film Festival
2011 EUREKA Award for Science Journalism, Finalist, Australia
2011 Popular Science, Finalist, BANFF Rockies, Canada
2010 Best Science, Montana CINE International Film Festival, USA
2010 Best Educational Film, Montana CINE International Film Festival USA
1 x 60 ABC/National Geographic International, December Films/Pemberton Films 2009
2010 Best Science Writer – Premier’s Literary Awards
2010 Bronze Award, China Dragon Awards
2010 Special Jury Award – WorldFest (US)
2010 Best Editing – RealScreen, LA
2010 Finalist Best Documentary – RealScreen, LA
ANGELS AND DEMONS
ABC/ Zapruder’s other films 1 x 60 ABC 2008
Winner Human Rights Medal, Mental Health Achievement Award, and The Life Award (for prevention of suicide).
2008 Life Award – ‘for outstanding contribution to suicide prevention’
2008 WA Mental Health Award
2008 Australian and New Zealand Mental Health Media Award
(TX 7/4/08, 29% audience share)