AT&T Hello Lab, a collection of entertainment created by, and for, young adult audiences, has launched a new mentorship program.
The program pairs young filmmakers with award-winning industry professionals — including Oscar winner Octavia Spencer — in what Dallas-based AT&T is calling a “diversity-focused initiative.” The end result of these partnerships will be short films that will air in late 2017 on DirecTV Now.
In addition to Spencer, mentors include Oscar-winner and songwriter Winner Common; director Rick Famuyiwa; director/actress Desiree Akhavan; and producer Nina Yang Bongiovi. All the mentors overcame obstacles, creating projects that touched on issues impacting people of color, women, and the LGBTQ community.
“What I love about this program is that it’s tactical. It’s enabling young filmmakers to make actual, physical work.”
Each young filmmaker will have access to industry advisers, such as studio and production company executives, agents, and attorneys. According to Adweek, these support teams will help the young filmmakers pitch their work, manage budgets, and direct the narratives.
“There are a lot of film programs out there designed to empower young filmmakers,” Spencer said in a release. “But the word ’empower’ is a sort of a catch-all, isn’t it? What I love about this program is that it’s tactical. It’s enabling young filmmakers to make actual, physical work. It’s giving them the first crucial part of their reel.”
Filmmakers and their projects include:
Gabrielle Shepard (mentored by Octavia Spencer)
Faced with the memory of her late mother, an aspiring street photographer takes a surreal journey through the city as she reconciles her future and the relationship with her father.
Shepard graduated as an MFA Film and Television Producing Fellow in the Conservatory of Motion Pictures at Chapman University. She has produced films that have been programmed in the Austin Film Festival, Pan African Film Festival, and Cannes Short Film Corner. Gabrielle now pursues fresh and dynamic projects to bring to life as a writer, director and producer. She currently works in the Motion Picture Lit department at William Morris Endeavor.
Matthew Castellanos (mentored by Nina Yang Bongiovi)
A group of outcast teens must flee their hometown of South Central Los Angeles to protect their big blue alien friend from a ban against its kind.
Castellanos is a Mexican-American filmmaker from South Central Los Angeles. He intends for his stories to start new discussions and shed some light on humanity. For the past two years, he’s produced and directed 12 digital television shows on artist Tyler, the creator’s network GOLF MEDIA. In August, Matthew’s first linear television show NUTS + BOLTS premieres on the network VICELAND. He’s serving as executive producer and director.
Neil Paik (mentored by Rick Famuyiwa)
The events surrounding a highly publicized protest altercation are played out from three differing points of view.
Paik is a filmmaker and artist from Los Angeles. After graduating from the film school at UCLA, where he was editor of the Daily Bruin, he filmed a documentary on the ground in the Middle East analyzing diverse perspectives in the conflict zone. His short fiction films have garnered several awards while playing at festivals nationwide. Over the last three years, he has worked in development and production at Warner Bros., Color Force, and WME and as a director’s assistant.
Nefertite Nguvu (mentored by Oscar winner Common)
The Last Two Lovers At The End of The World
A future-set, New Year’s Eve wild night’s journey that follows two young lovers as they try to outsmart the end of the world.
Nguvu is a graduate of New York’s School of Visual Arts, where she obtained a bachelor of fine arts degree in film. Her thesis project won the award for outstanding screenplay. Nguvu is an award-winning writer/director and producer whose work includes, several narrative and documentary shorts, a host of web-based programming, and a feature film entitled In The Morning, which is available worldwide via Video on Demand.
Sara Shaw (mentored by Desiree Akhavan)
How to Bury a Hatchet (working title)
After their youngest child is diagnosed with terminal cancer, an estranged family reunites and struggles to overcome their dysfunction.
Shaw is a director and editor. While attending NYU’s graduate film program at the Tisch School of the Arts, her film Ballarat Ghost Town won the Grand Prize and Audience Award at the Fusion Film Festival. She has edited a number of feature films, including Desiree Akhavan’s Appropriate Behavior (Sundance 2014), Adam Leon’s Tramps (Toronto 2016), Theresa Rebeck’s Trouble (SIFF ’17), and Desiree Akhavan’s forthcoming The Miseducation of Cameron Post.