Hillman Grad Productions, a development and production company founded by Lena Waithe and Rishi Rajani, committed to creating art that redefines the status quo by providing a platform for BIPOC and underrepresented voices across all mediums, has unveiled the new class of 22 emerging filmmakers for its Mentorship Lab program.
Spearheaded by Executive Director Lacy Lew Nguyen Wright, and Senior Advisor Justin Riley, the mission of Mentorship Lab is to provide opportunities for marginalized creatives and storytellers to connect, grow and accelerate their careers in television and film.
“As long as I can recall, my heart has always been about giving back to the next generation of storytellers, whether hosting writing workshops, coffee meetings on Saturdays to lend advice, or doing table reads on scripts,” said Waithe.
“The diversity of the Mentorship Lab is unlike any other room in Hollywood where all voices are welcome.”
Self-funded by Waithe, the program is subsidizing people’s lives—reflective of what’s happening today in front and behind the screen. With over 1,700 applicants applying from across the country, once again, Waithe and team will create an evolving door for networking opportunities—where every filmmaker and actor is market ready with on-site skill capabilities.
The new class of emerging filmmakers are:
– Andy Park (Los Angeles, Calif.)
– Franco Chacon (Los Angeles, Calif.)
– Geralyn Smith (Los Angeles, Calif.)
– Jocelyn Waddell (Los Angeles, Calif.)
– Wai Wing Lau (Los Angeles, Calif.)
– Abi Rich (Boston, Mass.)
– Blake Williams (Los Angeles, Calif.)
– Charlene Little (Douglasville, Ga.)
– Cydney Fisher (Los Angeles, Calif.)
– Emily Teerasuphaset (Los Angeles, Calif.)
– Luveza Mubashar (New York, N.Y.)
– Rubén Mendive (Los Angeles, N.Y.)
– Van Newman (New York, N.Y.)
– Victoria George (Los Angeles, Calif.)
– Donnevan Tolbert (St. Clair Shores, Mich.)
– Jonny Williams (Los Angeles, Calif.)
– Kashayna Johnson (New York, N.Y.)
– LaNora Terraé Hayden (Los Angeles, Calif.)
– Lee Hubilla (New York, N.Y.)
– Lynnese Page (New York, N.Y.)
– Michaela Obro-Ababio (New York, N.Y.)
– TJ Chester (West Palm Beach, Fla.)
“Our mentorship lab is a full-fledged creative academy for artists and creators to delve deep into their craft through mentorship and education, providing access to spaces and opportunities that may have been previously inaccessible,” said Wright and Riley.
“Our mentees are able to refine their skillsets in an authentic space that celebrates their identities and lived experiences, enabling them to go into the industry with the confidence to get hired, staffed, or booked.”
On Mar. 18, the Mentorship Lab will fly out the new class to Los Angeles—to give the winners their first taste of Hollywood and to celebrate the mentees and meet Hollywood executives for the first time, with a showcase event to follow in October.
The eight-month, tuition-free program offers mentees the opportunity to enhance their creative skillset through personalized instruction from industry professionals, creating additional pathways to bring more people from diverse backgrounds into the entertainment industry. Committed to infusing new narratives and perspectives in front of and behind the camera, The Hillman Grad Mentorship Lab provides a robust slate of workshops, educational resources, professional development and networking opportunities for a cohort of diverse writers, actors and aspiring creative executives.
The program includes: television writing, screen acting and executive development, instructed by Carolyn Michelle Smith (Co-Director of Acting Track), Behzad Dabu (Co-Director of Acting Track) and Michael Svoboda (Director of Writing Track), among others.
As an extension of the production company, the lab is a piece of the larger puzzle that is creating a sustainable pipeline of talent across film and TV (with plans to expand into other spaces including music, publishing, fashion, and more). Program participants have a chance to work with and directly interact with an impressive list of guests that includes actors, directors, casting directors, editors, union reps, and publicists. Many of the names on the list are integrated with the company at-large, whether that is through a project, a client, or a partnership—even some started as part of the inaugural class and have already taken on positions within the Hillman Grad Productions ecosystem. Almost all these guests are from underrepresented communities just like the mentees themselves. Previous guests have included Cynthia Erivo (The Color Purple), Kendrick Sampson (HBO’s Insecure), Carmen Cuba (Casting Director, Netflix’s Stranger Things), and Femi Oguns (CEO, Identity Agency Group), among others.
Success from Hillman Grad’s inaugural class, includes:
– Executive Mentee Ranard Caldwell (he/him) was hired as director of development for Sunny Hostin’s production company, Roots & Wings.
– Writing Mentee Josh Fulton (he/him) can be seen this month off-Broadway in Obie award-winning playwright Aleshea Harris‘s play ON SUGARLAND at the New York Theatre Workshop.
– Writing Mentee Tea Ho (she/they) was hired as a writer’s assistant on the new HBO and A24 series adaptation of Viet Thanh Nguyen’s national best-seller THE SYMPATHIZER.
– Acting Mentee Juliana Aidén Martinez (she/they) is currently filming Sofia Vergara‘s upcoming limited series at Netflix, GRISELDA.
– Writing Mentee Urvashi Pathania (she/her) was selected as a 2021 HBO Asian Pacific American Visionaries short film winner and was selected for 2022 Indeed’s Rising Voices.
– Writing Mentee Arturo Luís Soria (he/him) was cast as a series regular in Apple TV+’s upcoming show BAD MONKEY.