EXCLUSIVE: Mentorship Matters, an initiative aimed at boosting opportunities for emerging writers of color, has been officially unveiled, along with the participants in its inaugural 2021-22 cycle.
Developed by executive producers/showrunners, including Aaron Rahsaan Thomas (S.W.A.T.), Raelle Tucker (Sacred Lies, True Blood), Gianna Sobol (Counterpart) and Melinda Hsu Taylor (Nancy Drew, The Vampire Diaries) with sponsorship by AMC Networks, Amazon, The Walter Kaitz Foundation and Sony Pictures Entertainment, the year-long mentorship program provides consistent, in-depth mentorship and creative advocacy from a committed showrunner. The first set of pairings will connect 23 leading showrunners with promising mentees to foster growth and build invaluable industry contacts.
The program includes meeting at least monthly in addition to offering guidance with developing and polishing an original writing sample, panels and seminars with high-level industry professionals, and opportunities to meet agents, managers, and executives.
Mentees were selected from over 1,200 applicants throughout the U.S., with varying experiences and backgrounds. As part of the submission process, potential mentees were asked to provide a completed pilot script, a short introductory video, letter of interest and bio/resume.
“With writers rooms getting smaller – when we hire a staff, we naturally turn to our showrunner colleagues for referrals,” said Tucker. “Because that’s what our business has always been based on – genuine relationships. But for BIPOC writers without access to those connections or the opportunity to foster those relationships and earn those referrals, the path is often hopelessly roadblocked. This program is a way for showrunners to use our circles of influence, our experience and our own writers rooms to help address a systemic problem.”
The 2021-2022 Mentees include: Akin Salawu, Albert Wang, Amadou Diallo, Anna Khaja, Carlton Gillespie, Chelsea Urech, Danny Scaife, Diego Moreno, Drew Metcalf, Farah Jabir, Grace Ding, Isabella Cohen, Lagueria Davis, Leticia Ayroza, Madonna Refugia, Michelle Hsu, Omar Willis, Paloma Riojas, Phylicia Pearl Mpasi, Rah Johnson, Saeed Crumpler, Shannon Hawkins, Urvashi Pathania.
“Often in our industry, when writers of color earn entry level jobs, the feat is treated as the finish line, rather than a starting point for expanding the way our stories are told,” said Thomas. “Mentorship Matters offers part of the next step: advising and championing writers navigating sometimes treacherous waters. This is an opportunity to nurture and build careers.”
Here is the full roster of the showrunner mentors: Aaron Rahsaan Thomas, Alan McElroy, Alexander Woo, Andrew Chambliss, J. David Shanks, Erica Oyama, Erin Levy, Gabriel Garza, Gianna Sobol, Graham Roland, Hilly Hicks, Ian Goldberg, Ira Parker, Jennifer Cacicio, Kelly Galuska, Lewaa Nasserdeen, Melanie Marnich, Melinda Hsu Taylor, Niceole Levy, Peter Ocko, Raelle Tucker, Valerie Armstrong, Vera Santamaria.
“By being selected for Mentorship Matters, a deserving new writer earns a meaningful professional connection with a working showrunner who is invested in growing the mentee’s career. It’s an honor that has an immediate usefulness in the real world,” Taylor said.