Science television evolves – introducing Genepool Productions.

The Company

Based in Melbourne Australia, Genepool Productions specialises in creating quality science documentaries for international audiences. Sonya Pemberton, 2012 Emmy award winner and five-time winner of the prestigious Eureka Award for Science Journalism, leads the 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. This feature-length documentary collected over a dozen awards including the Eureka Prize, Jackson Hole Science Media Jury Award, ATOM Awards, & Thornett Awards and Health Journalist of the Year. It was also nominated for Walkley, Logie and ACCTA awards. The US version, Vaccines: Calling the Shots was co-produced with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and broadcast on PBS NOVA, winning the 2016 Best Science Journalism award at Jackson Hole Science Media Awards

The three x 1 hour popular science series Tales of the Unexpected was created for SBS and the Smithsonian Channel in 2014, collected the Cine Golden Eagle for Environment & Science.

Uranium – Twisting the Dragon’s Tail, a landmark science and history series starring Derek Muller, was released on SBS, PBS and ZDF Arte in 2015, winning over a dozen awards including the 2016 Eureka Prize for Science Journalism and Best Long Form Series, Jackson Hole Science Media Awards.

Lawless – The Real Bushrangers is a landmark documentary series for FOXTEL exploring Australia’s most iconic crimes of colonial history. Using archaeology to literally break new ground and the latest forensic methods to test the historical evidence, journalist Mike Munro and a specialist team unearth a fact-based version of our history.­

Vitamania: The Sense and Nonsense of Vitamins is a feature-length documentary where science and song collide. In this epic adventure, Dr Derek Muller takes us on a world-spanning investigation of vitamin science and history, asking how do we decide whether to take vitamin supplements, or not?  Genepool Productions has worked closely with production partners for SBS, CuriosityStream and Arte to implement an innovative, globally coordinated television and digital release.

Genepool is currently developing a range of documentaries and series, collaborating with filmmakers and scientists from around the world.

The People

Sonya Pemberton – Creative Director

Emmy award winner and record-breaking five-time winner of the prestigious Eureka Award for Science Journalism, Sonya has a passion for science.

Sonya Pemberton is one of Australia’s leading documentary producers and she specialises in making compelling, high-quality science films. She has written and directed over sixty hours of broadcast documentary and executive produced many award-winning factual series.

Previously Head of Specialist Factual at ABC Television, she commissioned and managed over three hundred hours of factual television; her understanding of audiences’ desire for smart, accessible television saw ratings rise across the genres.

Sonya’s science films have screened in dozens of international festivals and won more than seventy major awards, including Best Science at Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival, and the 2012 News and Documentary Emmy for Outstanding Science Programming. Sonya has also been honoured with Australian Health Journalist of the Year in 2011 and 2013, the Jill Robb Award in 2015 and the 2016 Stanley Hawes Award for contribution to documentary.

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.” — Graeme Blundell, The Australian

Kate Pappas – Producer

Kate is a documentary producer with a passion for factual storytelling.  She has worked across a diverse and award-winning slate including Inside The Firestorm; Immigration Nation; The Art of Australia and Uranium: Twisting The Dragon’s Tail. Kate’s first solo producing project, Future Radicals, which she also co-wrote and co-directed, was nominated for Best Short Documentary at the 2013 ATOM Awards.

More recently Kate has produced Deception By Design (2015), a one hour Art/Science documentary that explores how art and science intersect to create camouflage design and Westwind: Djalu’s Legacy (2017) a feature documentary produced with Madman Production Company for NiTV and Melbourne International Film Festival Premiere Fund that shares the story of Yolgnu elder Djalu Gurruwiwi and his quest to pass on his culture to son Larry.  Since 2016 Kate has also been Series Producer across 11+ hours of wildlife and natural history programming with WildBear Entertainment for Nat Geo US, Blue Ant Media, DRG and ZDFe.

In Feb 2018, Kate joined the Genepool Productions creative team where she will foster her love for science filmmaking and communication.

Chris Kamen– Distribution & Business Affairs

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 webseries 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 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.

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.

In 2017 Daniella created with Sonya Pemberton, a landmark science and history series entitled Lawless – The Real Bushrangers  (Foxtel, History Channel).  As Series Producer she steered four episodes editorially from concept through to completion. The series approach applied cutting-edge science to historical ‘cold cases’ in the form of complex, archaeology and forensic investigations, interwoven with impressionistic dramatic reconstructions and historical analysis.  The series was highly critically acclaimed as well as achieving record ratings for the network.

Before embarking on Lawless, Daniella wrote and directed standalone documentary Enigma Man – A Stone Age Mystery (ABC) about the intriguing science of human evolution in Asia. The film was nominated for the 2014 Jackson Hole Science Media Award for ‘Best Human and Social Sciences Film’ and won the 2014 Australian Teachers of Media award for ‘Best Docudrama’.

Crossing genres such as formatted science TV, wildlife and factual entertainment, her work has screened on networks around the world including ABC TV, SBS, Animal Planet, Curiosity Stream and Fox Television. Daniella is a graduate of the Australian Film, Television and Radio School, and the University of Technology.

Harry Panagiotidis – Associate Producer

Harry has more than 40 Australian and US feature films credits as a cameraman, 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, most recently on a co- producing role. Recent films together include Catching Cancer (ABC/NGTV), Emmy award-winning Immortal (SBS/Smithsonian), Jabbed – love, fear and vaccines (SBS) and Vaccines — Calling the Shots (PBS NOVA).

Major Awards


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


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)