AT&T Hello Lab Launches Mentorship Program With Big Names

Octavia Spencer Rick Famuyiwa Common

A year after its launch, AT&T Hello Lab has unveiled a mentorship program designed to pair entertainment industry leaders with aspiring filmmakers from diverse backgrounds as they create new short films. The mentor list this year: Oscar winner Octavia Spencer, writer-director Rick Famuyiwa, Common, Desiree Akhavan and producer Nina Yang Bongiovi. Five filmmakers have been chosen, with their finished works to debut on AT&T’s DirecTV Now in fourth-quarter 2017.

In addition to a mentor, each filmmaker will be supported by industry advisors including studio and production company executives, agents and attorneys. Together they will counsel filmmakers on pitching their work, managing budgets, and directing character-driven narratives. The shorts will celebrate young adults and all tell a coming-of-age tale for audiences that want stories that reflect their voices: women, people of color and LGBTQ.

“Nurturing the next generation of creative minds is crucial for the entertainment industry,” said Valerie Vargas, SVP Advertising and Creator Lab at 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.”

Advisors include Judy McGrath (founder and president, Astronauts Wanted), Mike Jackson (co-founder, Get Lifted), Cameron Mitchell (CAA agent), Bianca Levin (Gang, Tyre partner), Ivana Lombardi (SVP Film, Chernin Group), Kevin Iwashina (CEO and founder, Preferred Content), writer-producer-writer Roberta Marie Munroe, Brickson Diamond (founder, The Blackhouse Foundation), Emily Best (CEO and founder, Seed&Spark), Damian Pelliccione (CEO and founder, Revery) and James Lopez (Head of Motion Pictures, Will Packer Productions).

Here are the five mentees and their projects:

By Gabrielle Shepard (mentored by Octavia Spencer)

Logline: 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.

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.

By Matthew Castellanos (mentored by Nina Yang Bongiovi)

Logline: A 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 12 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, on which he’s serving as both executive producer and director.

The Lost
By Neil Paik (mentored by Rick Famuyiwa)

Logline: The 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.

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

Logline: 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.

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.

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 2014), Adam Leon’s Tramps (Toronto 2016), Theresa Rebeck’s Trouble (SIFF 2017), and Akhavan’s forthcoming The Miseducation Of Cameron Post.

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