Lena Waithe and Rishi Rajani‘s production company Hillman Grad Productions has announced that it has opened submissions for the second The Hillman Grad Mentorship Lab.
The initiative aligns with Hillman’s commitment to creating art that disrupts the status quo and providing a platform for BIPOC and underrepresented voices across all mediums. The lab will be spearheaded by Program Director Lacy Lew Nguyen Wright, Program Administrator Justin Riley, who will handle day-to-day operations under the direction of Waithe, Rajani and Chief Operating Officer Ericka Pittman. The mission of the initiative is to provide opportunities for marginalized creatives to connect, grow and accelerate their career in television and film.
The 8-month, tuition-free program offers mentees the opportunity to enhance their creative skillset through personalized instruction from industry professionals, creating additional pathways to bring more people from diverse backgrounds into the entertainment industry. Committed to infusing new narratives and perspectives in front of and behind the camera,
The Hillman Grad Mentorship Lab provides a robust slate of workshops, educational resources, professional development and networking opportunities for a cohort of diverse writers, actors and aspiring creative executives. Tracks include television writing, screen acting and executive development, instructed by Carolyn Michelle Smith (Co-Director of Acting Track), Behzad Dabu (Co-Director of Acting Track) and Michael Svoboda (Director of Writing Track), among others.
As an extension of the production company, the lab is a piece of the larger puzzle that is creating a sustainable pipeline of talent across film and TV (with plans to expand into other spaces including music, publishing, fashion, and more). Program participants have a chance to work with and directly interact with an impressive list of guests that includes actors, directors, casting directors, editors, union reps, and publicists.
Many of the names on the list are integrated with the company at-large, whether that is through a project, a client, or a partnership – even some started as part of the inaugural class and have already taken on positions within the HGP ecosystem. Almost all these guests are from underrepresented communities just like the mentees themselves. Previous guests have included Cynthia Erivo (The Color Purple), Kendrick Sampson (HBO’s Insecure), Carmen Cuba (Casting Director, Netflix’s Stranger Things), and Femi Oguns (CEO, Identity Agency Group), among others.
The Hillman Grad Mentorship Lab initially launched in December 2020 and was highly successful with more than 4,500 BIPOC filmmakers applying to the program. The initial session wrapped up in November 2021 with a showcase event on the rooftop of Neuehouse Hollywood, featuring screenings of the acting mentees’ tapes and live table reads of writing mentees’ scripts cast with professional actors. Copies of all mentees scripts, monologue tapes are available at the Hillman Grad website.In addition, Hillman Grad continues to showcase the regional, cultural and even linguistic diversity of the BIPOC filmmaker experience by providing access to underrepresented and marginalized communities. Within their inaugural program, 64% identified as Black/African American; 24% identified as Asian American; 12% identified as Latinx; 48% identified as Female; 20% identified as Non-Binary; and 40% identified as LGBTQ.
Success to date, includes
- Mentee Nova Cypress Black (they/them) is now a staff writer on Season 3 of L WORD: GENERATION Q.
- Executive Mentee Ranard Caldwell (he/him) was hired as Director of Development for Sunny Hostin’s production company Roots & Wings.
- Writing Mentee Josh Fulton (he/him) can be seen next month off-Broadway in Obie award-winning playwright Aleshea Harris’s play ON SUGARLAND at the New York Theatre Workshop.
- Writing Mentee Tea Ho (she/they) was hired as a writer’s assistant on the new HBO and A24 series adaptation of Viet Thanh Nguyen’s national best-seller THE SYMPATHIZER.
- Acting Mentee Juliana Aidén Martinez (she/they) was cast in Sofia Vergara’s upcoming limited series at Netflix, GRISELDA.
- Writing Mentee Urvashi Pathania (she/her) was selected as a 2021 HBO Asian Pacific American Visionaries short film winner.
- Writing Mentee Arturo Luís Soria (he/him) was cast as a series regular in Apple TV+’s upcoming show BAD MONKEY.
Applications are currently open and are due February 11. Finalists will be notified at the beginning of March, with The Mentorship Lab beginning on March 12.