Shadow And Act has the exclusive news of the mentees and projects chosen for the AT&T Hello Lab Filmmaker Mentorship Program with this year’s lead mentor, Lena Waithe.
AT&T’s Hello Lab mentorship program “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 offers five emerging screenwriters the chance to have their short film fully financed and produced by AT&T Hello Lab. Those five directors were chosen by Waithe herself. All participants represent a vast array of identities including female, LGBTQ+, communities of color and other marginalized groups. The theme for this year’s short film is “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 Hello Lab 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.”
The projects, directors and writers selected are below:
1/ 30 (rom-com) – Writer Malik Aziz, Director Vishnu Vallabhaneni.
Logline: On the first day of Ramadan, a young architect attempts to fast with his fiancé for the first time while also trying to win a major contract for his firm
The Fat Friend (dramedy) Writer Jasmine Johnson, Director Jessica Mendez Siqueiros
Logline: A woke boarding school student questions her commitment to activism when she finds herself with no friends, countless enemies and facing some very serious accusations that threaten to get her expelled.
Postmarked (drama/magical realism) Writer Angela Carbone, Director Malakai
Logline: After uncovering a trove of long-lost letters, a ten-year-old boy goes on an adventure to find the person who sent them.
Fragile.com (thriller) Writer Brittany Menjivar, Director Alison-Eve Hammersley
Logline: A teenage girl with acting dreams, an empty wallet, and a broken heart is approached by a charming man who promises her fame, fortune, and affection—if she agrees to livestream herself crying for his niche website, Fragile.com.
Spilt Milk (drama) Writer Mechi Parada Lakatos, Director Cierra Glaude
Logline: Single mom Ximena moves back in with her parents while struggling to care for her infant son. She reconnects with her ex-partner, Lena, who is now raising the child they conceived of together with the sperm donor they chose, and the old wound is reopened.
You can check out the official bios for each of the participants below:
Reigning from Mobile, Alabama, Cierra ‘SHOOTER’ Glaudé is a southern belle whose heart & hustle has landed her on crews of features & TV shows including SELMA, Girls Trip, A Wrinkle in Time, Queen Sugar, and Twenties. She made her directorial-debut at Urbanworld in 2017 with her short ‘Last Looks’ starring Rutina Wesley (Queen Sugar, True Blood) which is featured on Issa Rae’s Youtube Channel as apart of the #ShortFilmSunday lineup. Like the black women writers, directors, & showrunners she has been blessed to work with, Cierra aims to build cinematic worlds where POC, women, and the LGBTQ community can see themselves represented without due cause.
Alison received her BA in film production from Emerson College and MFA in directing from AFI. She was hired as the first female staff producer/director at the media company, All Def Digital, and has been featured in digital publications including Voyage LA, The Reel Women, and Free the Bid, which highlights female filmmakers. Her short film, YOU’LL ONLY HAVE EACH OTHER, won the Women in Horror Film Festival Night Mare award and was nominated for Best Director Short and Best Thriller Short at the 2018 Nightmares Film Festival as well as Best Short Film Screenplay at the 2019 Crimson Screen Horror Film Festival. She is continuing to develop various projects that utilize horror as a means to explore character.
Jessica Mendez Siqueiros
Jessica Mendez Siqueiros is an award-winning Mexican-American writer/director & actress on a mission to normalize complex & authentic narratives about the Southwest Mexican-American community through film. Her filmmaking style is highly cinematic and composed, described by Remezcla as “reclaiming a vision of storytelling often only associated with white creators”. Her short film Pozole screened at the Seattle Int’l Film Festival and took home the Jury Prize for Best Narrative Short Film (Comedy) at Cinequest 2019, qualifying for the 2020 Academy Awards.
Born in India and raised in Texas, Vishnu’s work often regards the repercussions of being a body stuck between ethnic and social identities. While at UT Austin’s Film program, Vallabhaneni wrote, directed and edited the short film, “Sunshine and Rain”. The film played at festivals around the nation before acquiring distribution online and is now a part of a feature incubator program with David Patrick Lowery as a mentor. Vishnu currently works at Justin Simien’s production company, Culture Machine, is the head writer and producer of the NPR podcast, Don’t @ Me, and continues to make films with a focus on pushing Indian representation beyond chicken tikka masala and chai lattes.
Malakai is founder of the non-profit, Made In Her Image, which educates girls and young women of color within media and technology. They’ve collaborated with the likes of giants such as Disney, Paramount, Universal, and the Sundance Institute. By providing opportunities of exposure, the girls emerge from the program curating their own films, scripts & content and more. Malakai directed the documentary Black Girls Code that has showcased at the Cannes Film Festival Short Film Corner and tech spaces such as Google and Facebook. Additional achievements include being a 2016 Horizon Award winner at the Sundance Film Festival, a Contemporary Forum Artist through the Phoenix Art Museum grant, and a recipient of the Adrienne Shelly Foundation grant. Her most recent short film, Souls, will have its premiere at the American Black Film Festival in 2019. Malakai is a graduate of SCC Film School and holds a BA in Communications from Grand Canyon University.
Malik Aziz is an award-winning actor, writer, producer, and director whose work in front of and behind the camera has garnered critical and audience acclaim. In 2009, Malik wrote, directed, and starred in ‘Lady In My Life,’ a popular short film that has been featured on several major showcases, among them BET’s ‘Lens on Talent’, the nationally syndicated show ‘African American Short Films’, and most recently Aspire/ABFF Independent’s Short Film Showcase. His script ‘American Muslim’ was selected as a semifinalist for the 2011 Sundance Screenwriters Lab, and ‘Mo and Jess’ achieved the same distinction in 2012. In 2014, he returned to working behind the camera with his first holiday short film, ‘Santa’s Third Wheel’. He was also the Associate Producer on ‘Trojan War’, the popular documentary by Aaron Rahsaan Thomas about the Pete Carroll Era of the USC Trojans football program. Malik is a native of Kansas City, Kansas and currently resides in LA.
Inexhaustibly curious and a native New Yorker, it is only natural Angela started her film career when she was discovered as an actor in Rome, Italy. Since her start, she has collaborated with dozens of filmmakers from international backgrounds as both an actor and producer. As a writer, Angela has always sought to explore and expand topics surrounding diversity, cultural identity, inclusion, and the female experience. She is a contributing writer for activist Eileen Kelly’s blog Killerandasweetthang and her stories have been featured in Lulu Yao Gioiello’s Far Near, a curated cross-cultural book series broadening perspectives of Asia. Her screenwriting has garnered multiple festival accolades (Screencraft Film Fund Shortlist 2018) and she is currently developing several projects, including a radio play on the Asian American lens with comedian Brian Park (CollegeHumor), and a pilot, The Labors of Lulu, with Camrus Johnson (the Sun is also a Star, Batwoman) and Evan Shapiro (former Sundance TV, IFC and NBC executive).
Jasmine Johnson has a BFA from NYU and a law degree from Georgetown. She interned at Saturday Night Live and at the ACLU. She has taken classes at UCB and represented juveniles in court. Jasmine and her student loans currently live in Los Angeles, working in law firms by day while devoting nights and weekends to writing.
Mechi Parada Lakatos is an Argentinean-American writer and filmmaker born and raised in Los Angeles. She holds a BFA in Screenwriting from Emerson College and is currently pursuing a masters degree in divinity at Harvard University. She is passionate about writing as a vehicle to represent imperfections and complexities in women, and her writing is most often focused on themes surrounding sexual assault, gender, feminist politics, cultural and socioeconomic intersectionality, and sexuality. Her screenwriting has been recognized by the Austin Film Festival, the National Young Arts Foundation, Blue Cat, and Page International. She has written and directed for the stage as well as the screen, and her original play, Seventeenth, premiered at the Boston Center for the Arts in 2015.
Brittany Menjivar is a junior at Yale University studying English and Film. In 2018, she wrote, directed, and acted in McDeath: An American Play, an original Macbeth adaptation about high schoolers in the 1990s; the show debuted at Yale’s Lighten Theater in November. This year, she wrote, directed, and acted in original children’s play Library Pirate at Yale’s Nick Chapel Theater and served as the cinematographer for short films Pródigos (dir. Chayton Pabich Danyla) and It’s Me Again (dir. Carrie Mannino). She has been a music journalist for pop culture website The Young Folks since her senior year of high school, which means that you can often find her photographing shows and interviewing rock bands. Her creative inspirations include Damon Albarn, Madeleine L’Engle, S.E. Hinton, and Jordan Peele.
Photo: Shayan Asgharnia