EXCLUSIVE: The South Asian talent incubator, 1497 has selected 11 finalists out of 382 submissions for its inaugural Writers Lab. The next step will be narrowing it down to three mentees who will participate in the Lab’s program.
Under the virtual mentor program, the trio of mentees will work with Sundance filmmaker and veteran script consultant Adrienne Weiss. From there, the selected mentees will get mentorship from acclaimed filmmakers Gurinder Chadha (Blinded By the Light), Aneesh Chaganty (Searching), and Maryam Keshavarz (Viper Club). 1497 will then tag in and introduce the mentees to an industry advisory group chich includes Gersh agent Louise Keshaviah, Brillstein Partners manager Ken Lee and Management 360 manager Priya Satiani. They will offer guidance to the mentees to help build a successful career roadmap.
“We are incredibly excited to see such an overwhelmingly positive response,” said 1497 co-founders Adeel Ahmed, Lipica Shah and Kamran Khan in a joint statement. “The fact that we felt compelled to add an extra spot to our finalists goes to show the amazing talent that was on display.”
For those of you wondering, the name “1497” refers to the last year that Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka (what many refer to as South Asia) was free from colonization. This is the opportunity for the South Asian community to reclaim their ancestry and tell their stories.
1497 has assembled an impressive Selection Committee that will help narrow down the finalists to three mentees, which will be unveiled August 24. The Committee includes Sharbari Zohra Ahmed (Writer: Quantico), Nina Anand Aujla (Producer), Teddy Alvarez (Filmmaker), Jaclyn Backhaus (Writer: India Pale Ale, Men on Boats), Sola Fasehun (Lit Agent: Buchwald, Founder: The Distribution Collective), Sameer Gardezi (Writer: Modern Family, East of La Brea, Founder: Break The Room), Nishika Kumble (Vice President, Development & Production at Le Train Productions), Nikitha Menon (Director of Development, Ladies’ Car Productions), Heather Morris (VP of Development Lean Machine), Madhuri Shekar (Writer: The Nevers, Evil Eye ), and Musa Syeed (Filmmaker: Valley of Saints, A Stray, Menashe, Lecturer at Harvard).
Read the finalists below and their projects below.
Umber Bhatti – Stretch It Out
A Pakistani, Muslim-American teen longs to lose her virginity only to realize she has subconsciously ingrained the rules of her religious upbringing, making it impossible for her have sex. So, she and her best friend set out on a mission to ease her nerves and get her laid before her senior year comes to an end.
Toby Fell Holden – White Lies
Charismatic but troubled teenager Eve dreams of being an actress and escaping her fractured coastal town, but her fantasy world collides dangerously with reality when she falls for new Muslim student Aisha, and can’t escape her own web of lies.
Sofian Khan – The Ones We Left Behind
An African-American soldier, Cole, struggles to help his friend Shah, an Afghan interpreter who saved Cole’s life, to find safety in the aftermath of war.
Puja Maewal – The Diplomat
An Indian American playboy joins the Foreign Service to continue his party lifestyle abroad, but gets caught up in a web of espionage when he is framed for a political assassination in India and must become a reluctant spy to clear his name.
Shilpa Mankikar – August
A South Asian American journalist uncovers a vast network and conspiracy when she rattles the nest of white supremacists. She must protect her family and her life.
Sabir Pirzada – The Burning
A Muslim American family is beset by a possession in which a priest and imam must team up to perform an exorcism.
Swetha Regunathan – Sundarbans
An adrift young photographer finds an anchor in her father over a sweltering summer in the Sundarbans – a rough-and-tumble delta region in West Bengal, India – after she discovers he’s going blind and battling both human and unhuman forces that threaten to sink paradise forever.
Ria Sardana – Every Which Way
27-year-old Nina, who is out to everyone who knows her but her mom and dad, has to go home to help her parents prepare for her dad’s surgery. While home, she crosses paths and starts a relationship with an old high school friend, Jess, who not only lost her mom recently, but also came out later in life. Through these shared experiences, Nina realizes the importance of connecting more with her parents and gets to experience the closest thing she’ll get to a high school queer romance.
Kaushik Sampath & Prashanth Vanchy – Qualia
When a 12-year old girl with cerebral palsy discovers that her astrophysicist father had secretly made contact with an extra terrestrial intelligence, she’s pursued by government agents that lead her to uncover an extraordinary truth, threatening her very existence on earth.
Kalyan Sura – Memory Lanes
In a future where memories are recreated, a tech-genius with falsified memories strives to topple the insidious memory manipulating corporation run by her husband.
Cairo Smith – The Heart of Sri Katava
In 1930s colonial Sri Lanka, a local teenager and his friends battle the odds to make their island’s first feature film – and discover a world of ancient myth hidden within the jungles.