About 21st Paradigm

21st Paradigm is way of thinking for the 21st Century that respects the intrinsic value of all life.

The right of other life forms to exist free from exploitation, needless suffering and wrongful death. Not only the pretty birds but also the predators and reptiles, insects, the ugly and unloved have a right to be left in peace, to exist not for the entertainment, health, sustenance and instruction of people but for their own sake, regardless of their instrumental value to humans. Our films galvanize, inspire and activate. They remind people of the values we hold dear, and offer ways in which we can stay true to those values.

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Filmmaker Bio

Born and raised in South Africa, Vanessa Schulz is the driving force behind 21st Paradigm. As a Producer/Director and Director of Photography, Vanessa has been pushing for more ethical animal content in films and television for over two decades. Out-funded, sidelined and censored by a male-dominated industry obsessed with sensationalized and often violent human-on-animal interaction, Vanessa eventually found her voice in independent film.

In 2000, Vanessa founded 21st Paradigm, a non-profit organization producing independent media to promote the intrinsic value of all life — that is, the right of other life forms to exist free from exploitation and suffering, regardless of their instrumental value to humans.

In addition to winning two Emmys for “Wolves at our Door,” which Vanessa helped produce with Jim Dutcher over the course of three years, she is the recipient of 16 prestigious awards for her independent films, including “Best of Festival”, “Best Documentary” and “Best Screenplay”. Her collaborative work has made significant contributions in the legal battle to protect animals. “Hero Dog” will be Vanessa’s 7th independent film.

Director’s Statement

When I read these words I had an epiphany.

I had set out as a naïve twenty-something year-old thinking that with sheer determination I could change the world, that just by drawing people’s attention to its atrocities I could stop them. After decades of trying, the atrocities—like trapping—still exist. The cultural machine we’re up against cannot be overstated, so who was I to think I could make a difference?

I did make a difference. But it wasn’t enough. It didn’t satisfy me to know that my audience had been moved by my films, in some cases enough to change careers. I wanted concrete change, headline news change, something tangible I could take back to my mother and say, “Look, you were right to believe in me.” That victorious day never came but the quote did, and with it a sense of release and comprehension that I hadn’t failed.

I had tried. Trying put me on the right side of a history that will span generations. So I went from thinking I can save the world, to thinking I can save a species, to saving a life, to realizing there’s more. I can alleviate suffering. Daily. These small, big things that make me feel connected to Earth and her myriad of nonhumans feels less like the triumph I set out to find and more like my life’s purpose. For that I’m grateful.

~ Vanessa Schulz