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AT&T Hello Lab Introduces Diversity-Focused Mentorship Program

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PAIRING EMERGING FILMMAKERS WITH HOLLYWOOD PROS TO CREATE THEIR SIGNATURE WORKS 

Academy Award® Winners Octavia Spencer and Common Among Mentors to Rising Talent

AT&T* Hello Lab, a collection of original entertainment created by, for and with Millennial and Gen Z audiences, has launched its Mentorship Program.  It’s a new initiative that brings together entertainment industry leaders with aspiring filmmakers from diverse backgrounds as they create their signature work. The five filmmakers will debut their short films on DIRECTV NOW in the fourth quarter of 2017.  DIRECTV NOW gives you your favorite premium TV and made-for-digital video content with no annual contracts, set-top boxes or installation.

The 2017 AT&T Hello Lab mentors include:

  • Academy Award® Winner Octavia Spencer (Best Supporting Actress, The Help, 2012)
  • Academy Award® Winner Common (Best Original Song, Selma, 2014)
  • Rick Famuyiwa (director, Dope, Confirmation)
  • Desiree Akhavan (director/actress, Appropriate Behavior)
  • Nina Yang Bongiovi (producer, Fruitvale Station)

In addition, each filmmaker will be supported by a community of industry advisors, including studio and production company executives, agents and attorneys. Each of these mentors have overcome barriers to make important projects that touch on an impressive range of issues and narratives as people of color, LGBTQ community members and women.

"There are a lot of film programs out there designed to empower young filmmakers. 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," asserts Octavia Spencer, who is mentoring Gabrielle Shepard in tandem with Mike Jackson, who is a partner at John Legend’s Get Lifted Film Co.

AT&T Hello Lab will help each filmmaker create a high production quality signature film and provide support as they break into the entertainment industry. Advisers and mentors will counsel the filmmakers on pitching their work, managing budgets, and directing character-driven narratives. The shorts will all celebrate young adults and all tell a unique “coming of age” tale. 

"I wanted to be a part of this program because opportunity is everything.  Connecting with young filmmakers, such as Nefertite Nguvu, is an honor. It's the young and gifted visionaries who take the arts to levels we haven’t seen. I am blessed to have the career that I do and hope to be able to support and inspire her artistic vision and goals through AT&T Hello Lab Mentorship Program," says Common, who is mentoring filmmaker Nefertite Nguvu alongside Shelby Stone, the president of production at his company Freedom Road Productions.

“Nurturing the next generation of creative minds is crucial for the entertainment industry,” said Valerie Vargas, senior vice president – advertising and Creator Lab, AT&T. “The AT&T Hello Lab Mentorship Program gives voice to filmmakers that may otherwise be silenced, and we can’t wait to see the ideas this unique group of creators develop.”

"We’re beyond humbled to join arms with these industry leaders who have catalyzed change and believe in the importance of supporting and amplifying new voices. The excitement around the films coming from the teams at AT&T and Fullscreen, as well as the mentors, advisors and mentees, is palpable. There is no doubt that this will lead to exciting, important and powerful work," says Billy Parks, executive producer and EVP of Otter Media.

Fullscreen Media, a next-generation entertainment company, is majority owned by Otter Media, a partnership between AT&T and The Chernin Group.

Along with their one-on-one mentors, the mentees will receive meaningful guidance from a group of established industry advisors who include Judy McGrath (Founder & President, Astronauts Wanted), Mike Jackson (Co-Founder, Get Lifted), Cameron Mitchell (Agent, CAA), Bianca Levin (Partner, Gang, Tyre, Ramer & Brown), Ivana Lombardi (SVP, Film, Chernin Group), Kevin Iwashina (CEO and Founder of Preferred Content), Roberta Marie Munroe (Producer, Director, Writer), Brickson Diamond (Founder, The Blackhouse Foundation), Emily Best (CEO and Founder, Seed&Spark), Damian Pelliccione (CEO and Founder, REVRY) and James Lopez (Head of Motion Pictures, Will Packer Productions).

Program mentees include:

  • Neil Paik (filmmaker)
  • Matthew Castellanos (filmmaker)
  • Nefertite Nguvu (filmmaker)
  • Gabrielle Shephard (filmmaker)
  • Sara Shaw (editor/director)

More on the filmmakers and their projects:

Candid by Gabrielle Shepard (mentored by Octavia Spencer)

LoglineFaced 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. 

Bio: Gabrielle 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.

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Yoshua by Matthew Castellanos (mentored by Nina Yang Bongiovi)

LoglineA group of outcast teens must flee their hometown of South Central to protect their big blue alien friend from a ban against its kind.

Bio: Matthew 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 twelve digital television shows on artist Tyler, the creator's network GOLF MEDIA. This August, Matthew's first linear television show NUTS + BOLTS premieres on the network VICELAND, which he's serving as both executive producer and director.

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The Lost by Neil Paik (mentored by Rick Famuyiwa)

LoglineThe events surrounding a highly publicized protest altercation are played out from three differing points of view.

Bio: Neil M. 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.

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The Last Two Lovers At The End of The World by Nefertite Nguvu (mentored by Common)

LoglineA 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.

Bio: Nefertite Nguvu is a graduate of New York’s School of Visual Arts, where she obtained a B.F.A in Film. Her thesis project at SVA won the award for outstanding screenplay. Nefertite 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 currently available worldwide via Video on Demand.

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How to Bury a Hatchet by Sara Shaw (working title) (mentored by Desiree Akhavan)

Logline: After their youngest child is diagnosed with terminal cancer, an estranged family reunites and struggles to overcome their dysfunction. 

Bio: Sara 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 '14), Adam Leon's Tramps (Toronto '16), Theresa Rebeck's Trouble (SIFF '17), and Desiree Akhavan's forthcoming The Miseducation of Cameron Post.

*About AT&T

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