AT&T is ready for submissions for their 2019 Filmmaker Mentorship Program. This year's lead mentor for the program will be The Chi and Boomerang executive producer Lena Waithe.
According to the release, AT&T's mentorship "seeks to discover, incubate and empower emerging filmmakers from underrepresented communities to evolve their work, grow their audience and provide national distribution on platforms such as DIRECTV and DIRECTV Now." This marks the third year for the program, as well as the third year the program has worked with Fullscreen as its lead agency partner.
The program will offer five emerging screenwriters the chance to have their short film fully financed and produced by AT&T. Those five directors will be chosen by Waithe herself. She will pick her five from 10 participants, all of whom represent a vast array of identities including female, LGBTQ+, communities of color and other marginalized groups. The theme for this year's short films will be "growing pains," and will serve as a unifying thread for the films while allowing them to tell their own unique stories. This is the first year the program has utilized a theme to tie their mentees' short films together.
Waithe, with help from her producing partner Rishi Rajani, AT&T and entertainment company Fullscreen, will work with the mentees throughout the program, "from identifying talent to working alongside and advising during production as they create and launch their signature short films." The mentees will also be able to call upon a community of industry advisors, agents, casting directors and studio and production company executives. They will be able to receive counseling for many aspects of filmmaking, including how to pitch, manage budgets, direct and more.
Waithe will also incorporate music into the program by identifying unsigned and underrepresented musicians and producing music videos "to create exposure, commercial viability and distribution at various AT&T sponsored events."
“What I consider activism, and what I consider my craft, are one and the same. Telling Black stories, telling queer stories, working with up-and-coming talent - that's my way of dismantling the homogony of Hollywood,” said Waithe according to the release. “And mentorship is essential for underrepresented creatives. Their stories are necessary for our culture and our collective growth. I'm proud to have a hand in ushering in a new generation of storytellers through this program. AT&T is walking the walk, and that in itself is special for a global brand with a massive audience.”
“The Mentorship Program embodies AT&T’s companywide mission - to inspire human progress through the power of communication and entertainment,” added AT&T's Valerie Vargas, SVP, Advertising and Creative services. “The program creates both an openness to what is traditionally an exclusive industry, as well as a microphone for those creative voices telling beautiful, thoughtful and important stories that need to be amplified.”
Waithe is currently the voice of AT&T's "More For Your Thing" advertising campaign and was also honored as a cultural leader in the "Dream In Black" Black Future Month content initiative.
You can learn more about the mentorship program at AT&T.
Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images for BET