Lee Zlotoff talks ‘The Next MacGyver’

As part of the launch for ‘The Next MacGyver’ project, for which he is one of the key figures,  Lee Zlotoff talked to National Public Radio’s Michaeleen Doucleff about why he thinks this new project is important.

Listen to the news clip, read the article, view the transcript.

 

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Worldwide Crowdsourcing Seeks Ideas For ‘The Next MacGyver’

“The Next MacGyver” project enlists top Hollywood producers to help inspire women to pursue engineering.

Washington, DC, February 19, 2015 – In celebration of National Engineers Week, the
U.S. National Academy of Engineering (NAE) and the University of Southern
California’s Viterbi School of Engineering (USC Viterbi), in collaboration with The
MacGyver Foundation and Lee Zlotoff (creator of the TV series MacGyver) today
announced the launch of a worldwide crowdsourcing competition called “The Next
MacGyver.” The contest was launched at a press event in Washington, DC, hosted by
TODAY Show digital lifestyle expert Mario Armstrong.

Sponsored by the United Engineering Foundation, the project is seeking ideas for a
scripted television show featuring a female engineer character in a leading role. The goal
of the competition is to create a historic TV series that inspires young people, especially
women, to consider pursuing engineering.  Five winners will each receive $5,000 and
have the rare opportunity to be paired with top Hollywood producers, who will mentor
them to develop the female character and an engaging pilot script. Ultimately, the
finalists will work to develop viable concept packages for pitching to a network or
distributor.

“Next MacGyver” competition mentors include:

  • Clayton Krueger, senior vice president of television, Scott Free Productions (3001: The Final Odyssey)
  • Lori McCreary, CEO and founder, Revelations Entertainment; president, Producer’s Guild of America (Madam Secretary, Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman)
  • Roberto Orci, writer/producer (Star Trek, Scorpion, Sleepy Hollow, Hawaii Five-O, Fringe)
  • Anthony Zuiker, creator and executive producer, CSI franchise (including the soon-to-be launched CSI:Cyber)
  • (Final mentor to be announced later)

“We could not be more pleased to have some of Hollywood’s top talent donating their
time to develop compelling women engineer characters and bringing them to life on the
screen,” said NAE President C.D. Mote, Jr. “This contest provides a rare opportunity to
tell the story of engineering and engineers that people practically never see.”

The hugely successful MacGyver series, launched exactly 30 years ago in 1985, followed
the adventures of fictional government agent Angus MacGyver who resourcefully used
his engineering skills to solve problems in each episode. “I literally could not tell you
how many times people have come up to me and said ‘I became and engineer or I went
into the sciences because of MacGyver,’” said Zlotoff.

The Next MacGyver competition is not trying to re-create that show but, using the power
of crowdsourcing, develop original TV series with female role models who will help
young people – particularly young women – see themselves as engineers.

“Having been one of only a few women at UCLA studying computer science,” said
Revelations Entertainment CEO and contest mentor Lori McCreary, “I am thrilled to
have the opportunity to help inspire a new generation of women forging a path in
engineering and technology.”

A recent report by the National Student Clearinghouse showed a decrease in the number
of U.S. women pursuing engineering bachelor degrees between 2004-2014, to just 19%.
Next week, Change the Equation will present new data showing that, despite numerous
efforts to attract them, women’s percentage in the engineering workforce has remained
stagnant – at just about 24% – over the past thirteen years.

At a town hall meeting last year, President Obama remarked, “When you see an engineer
or a tech person on a TV show or movies, something like 90% of them are male.  So if
you never see you in that position, it’s hard to imagine, well, that’s something I should be
doing.”

“The new face of engineering is not that of Dilbert in the cartoons,” adds USC Viterbi
dean Yannis C. Yortsos. “It is the face of bright women and men, spanning societal,
racial and ethnic divides. Diversity is not a political slogan, it is an essential ingredient
for innovation.”

There is strong evidence indicating that cultural cues have impact, such as the jump in
forensic science enrollments after CSI: Crime Scene Investigation became a hit show.
“What CSI did for science is what engineering can do for humankind,” said Anthony E. Zuiker, creator of the CSI franchise who will serve as a mentor on the project. “Through
ingenuity and innovation, the medium of TV will help galvanize youth to go into the field of engineering.”

“The Next MacGyver” competition opens today and the deadline for entry is April 17,
2015. Initial idea submissions will be roughly one page of content to include a proposed
title and genre, short description of the show, breakdown of lead characters, and ideas for
episodes beyond the pilot. A panel of judges from engineering, entertainment, and
academia will select 12 contestants who further develop their ideas and pitch them to
another panel of judges at a live event this summer. The five finalists will be selected at
that time and pilots scripts will be completed by the end of this year.

More details about the contest and rules for entering can be found at
www.thenextmacgyver.com.

The National Academy of Engineering. The mission of the National Academy of
Engineering (NAE) is to advance the well-being of the nation by promoting a vibrant
engineering profession and by marshalling the expertise and insights of eminent
engineers to provide independent advice to the federal government on matters involving
engineering and technology. The NAE is part of the National Academies (along with the
National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine, and the National Research
Council), an independent, nonprofit organization chartered by Congress to provide
objective analysis and advice to the nation on matters of science and technology.
http://www.nae.edu

The USC Viterbi School of Engineering. Engineering Studies began at the University
of Southern California in 1905. Nearly a century later, the Viterbi School of Engineering
received a naming gift in 2004 from alumnus Andrew J. Viterbi, inventor of the Viterbi
algorithm now key to cell phone technology and numerous data applications.
Consistently ranked among the top graduate programs in the world, the school enrolls
more than 6,500 undergraduate and graduate students, taught by 180 tenured and tenure-
track faculty, with 73 endowed chairs and professorships.
http://viterbi.usc.edu

The MacGyver Foundation. The MacGyver name is synonymous with innovation,
ingenuity and the ability to solve complex problems using only the resources at
hand, particularly in the face of a crisis.  The MacGyver Foundation aims to encourage
and support individuals and organizations throughout the world that utilize self-reliance,
non-violence and sustainability to improve people’s lives.
https://macgyverglobal.com/foundation/

Lee Zlotoff is an award-winning writer, producer and director of film and television.
Among his more than one hundred hours of television credits, he was the creator of the
hit series “MacGyver” as well as the writer/director of the indie hit film “Spitfire Grill”
which won the coveted Audience Award at the Sundance film festival.   Mr. Zlotoff,
who has also been a regular contributor to Make magazine, looks to further STEM
education through MacGyver-based curricula and initiatives to help create the next
generation of problem-solvers.