Discovery Channel's First Time Film Makers first debuted in Europe in 1995 as a series entitled Outlaws, which focused on people in the United Kingdom who live on the fringes of society. In 1996, Discovery Channel commissioned South African Visions, a six-part series produced by emerging filmmakers from South Africa that took a look at contemporary issues in post-apartheid South Africa. In 1998, New Kids on the Bloc saw six young producers from Germany examine issues facing society in post-Berlin Wall Germany. In early 2000 Discovery Channel Europe commissioned ECO WARRIORS featuring the talents of talented Dutch producers in a series about environmental activism.

The initiative was first launched in Asia-Pacific in Australia in September 2000. Southern Exposure showcased six films focused on contemporary Australian passions and issues. In December 2001, Asia First Time Film Makers: Past Forward featured a spectrum of traditions and cultures of six different Asian countries and the impact of modernization and technological advancement.

In 2002, six short films produced by emerging filmmakers from China, the First Time Film Makers Series China: Past Forward, were premiered in Asia. This series addressed the impact of modernization and technological advancement on Chinese cultures and traditions, illustrating the rich tapestry of stories and creative new talent in China and brought the filmmakers' unique visions and perspectives to millions of Discovery Channel viewers.

In 2004, Discovery Networks Asia launched the First Time Film Makers programme in China for the second time, offering emerging Chinese filmmakers the chance to showcase their talents and gain experience and recognition on a regional level. The theme of the 2004 initiative was the unique Chinese way of life in a rapidly globalizing world, and saw submissions from participants from all around China, including the Special Administrative Regions (SARs) of Hong Kong and Macau. The six winning films were chosen based on the originality, quality and strength of the idea submitted and their relevance to the theme.
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