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Lena Waithe's Hillman Grad Unveils New Class of 22 Emerging Filmmakers for its Mentorship Lab

Credit: Mária Alvarez

Lena Waithe has tackled all areas of film and television serving as a producer, screenwriter, and actress, and is helping aspiring creatives achieve success through her Hillman Grad Productions 2nd Annual Mentorship Lab program.

The program, which is spearheaded by Executive Director Lacy Lew Nguyen Wright, and Senior Advisor Justin Riley, received over 1,700 applications from around the world for its second year, in which 22 emerging filmmakers were selected to take part.

The Mentorship Lab program is self-funded by Waithe and sets out to mentor emerging creatives in film and television who represent marginalized groups. “As long as I can recall, my heart has always been about giving back to the next generation of storytellers, whether hosting writing workshops, coffee meetings on Saturdays to lend advice, or doing table reads on scripts,” said Waithe. “The diversity of the Mentorship Lab is unlike any other room in Hollywood where all voices are welcome,” she added.

This year's tuition-free Mentorship Lab will begin on March 18th after the participants arrive in Los Angeles, and span an eight-month-long period. During the course of the program, participants will take part in workshops, and have educational resources, professional development, and networking opportunities in areas such as television writing, screen acting, and executive development. This year's instructors will include Carolyn Michelle Smith (Co-Director of Acting Track), Behzad Dabu (Co-Director of Acting Track), and, Michael Svoboda (Director of Writing Track), among others. In addition, program participants also have a chance to work with and directly interact with guests that include actors, directors, casting directors, editors, union reps, and publicists. In the first year of the program actors such as Cynthia Erivo and Kendrick Sampson as well as casting director Carmen Cuba, and Identity Agency Group CEO Femi Oguns have participated as guests.

The participants selected for the 2022 class of emerging filmmakers to represent Creative Executives are Andy Park (Los Angeles, CA), Franco Chacon (Los Angeles, CA), Geralyn Smith (Los Angeles, CA), Jocelyn Waddell (Los Angeles, CA), Wai Wing Lau (Los Angeles, CA).

Nine participants were selected for the writers: Abi Rich (Boston, MA), Blake Williams (Los Angeles, CA), Charlene Little (Douglasville, GA), Cydney Fisher (Los Angeles, CA), Emily Teerasuphaset (Los Angeles, CA), Luveza Mubashar (New York, NY), Rubén Mendive (Los Angeles, NY), Van Newman (New York, NY), Victoria George (Los Angeles, CA).

Lastly, eight participants were selected to represent actors: Donnevan Tolbert (St. Clair Shores, MI), Jonny Williams (Los Angeles, CA), Kashayna Johnson (New York, NY), LaNora Terraé Hayden (Los Angeles, CA), Lee Hubilla (New York, NY), Lynnese Page (New York, NY), Michaela Obro-Ababio (New York, NY), and TJ Chester (West Palm Beach, FL).

In October, a showcase event will be held honoring this year's participants and their work. Previous participants have found success after the Mentorship Lab such as Executive Mentee Ranard Caldwell who was hired as Director of Development for Sunny Hostin's production company, Roots & Wings, and Josh Fulton who can be seen this month off-Broadway in the Obie award-winning playwright Aleshea Harris's play On Sugarland at the New York Theatre Workshop.


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