EXCLUSIVE: Hillman Grad Productions has named the 22 creatives selected for its second annual Mentorship Lab, geared toward uplifting marginalized creatives in film and television, which launches in Los Angeles on March 18, and will wrap up with a showcase event in October.
Those participating include creative executives Andy Park, Franco Chacon, Geralyn Smith, Jocelyn Waddell and Wai Wing Lau; writers Abi Rich, Blake Williams, Charlene Little, Cydney Fisher, Emily Teerasuphaset, Luveza Mubashar, Rubén Mendive, Van Newman and Victoria George; and actors Donnevan Tolbert, Jonny Williams, Kashayna Johnson, LaNora Terraé Hayden, Lee Hubilla, Lynnese Page, Michaela Obro-Ababio and TJ Chester.
The eight-month, tuition-free program funded by Hillman Grad’s CEO and Founder Lena Waithe 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 entertainment, both in front of and behind the camera. It provides a robust slate of workshops and educational resources, along with opportunities for networking and professional development, offering instruction on topics including television writing, screen acting and executive development.
More than 1,700 creatives from across the country applied for the second edition of the program, spearheaded by Executive Director Lacy Lew Nguyen Wright and Senior Advisor Justin Riley. Carolyn Michelle Smith (Co-Director of Acting Track), Behzad Dabu (Co-Director of Acting Track) and Michael Svoboda (Director of Writing Track) will lead instruction, with assorted actors, directors, casting directors, editors, union reps and publicists also to offer their expertise.
“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.”
“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,” added 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.”
Hillman Grad ultimately plans to expand its lab to encompass creatives working across such areas as music, publishing and fashion, among others. Members of its inaugural class who have made moves to swiftly advance in their careers include Executive Mentee Ranard Caldwell, who was hired as Director of Development for Sunny Hostin’s production company, Roots & Wings; Writing Mentee Josh Fulton, who can be seen this month Off-Broadway in Obie award-winning playwright Aleshea Harris’ play On Sugarland at the New York Theatre Workshop; Writing Mentee Tea Ho, who was hired as a writer’s assistant on the new HBO and A24 series adaptation of Viet Thanh Nguyen’s national bestseller, The Sympathizer; Acting Mentee Juliana Aidén Martinez, who is currently filming Sofia Vergara’s upcoming limited series at Netflix, Griselda; Writing Mentee Urvashi Pathania, who was selected as a 2021 HBO Asian Pacific American Visionaries short film winner and for Indeed’s 2022 edition of Rising Voices; and Writing Mentee Arturo Luís Soria, who was cast as a series regular on Apple TV+’s upcoming show Bad Monkey.
Hillman Grad Productions is a development and production company founded by Waithe and Rishi Rajani that is committed to creating art that redefines the status quo and providing a platform for BIPOC and underrepresented voices across all mediums. It currently has projects set up at Netflix, Disney, BET, Showtime, HBO, Universal, MGM, Amazon, WBTV and Focus Features. Projects currently in the works at the company include the fifth season of Showtime’s The Chi, the second season of Amazon Prime’s Them, BET+’s Birth of Cool, the Disney+ film Chang Can Dunk, Focus Features’ A Thousand And One, and a Mary Tyler Moore documentary titled Being Mary. Projects in development include a Sammy Davis Jr. biopic based on his daughter Tracey Davis’ book Sammy Davis Jr.: My Father, which Waithe and Rajani are producing alongside Sight Unseen Pictures; and the Universal drama Talent Show penned by Waithe, which has Cynthia Erivo set to star. Waithe will also exec produce that title alongside State Street Pictures, with Rajani overseeing it for Hillman Grad.
Must Read Stories
Subscribe to Deadline Breaking News Alerts and keep your inbox happy.