Meet the 5 Up-and-Coming Directors of the AT&T Mentorship Program for 2019!
When it comes to advocating for inclusion and representation within the entertainment industry, the AT&T Hello Lab Mentorship Program is leading the way on and off the screen. The program exists in order to shine a light on filmmakers from underrepresented groups, including people of color, women, and the LGBTQ+ community. This year, the program is led by Emmy® award-winning actress, writer, and producer Lena Waithe, who pairs up five promising screenwriters with five up-and-coming directors to bring their creative visions and projects to life. The program runs from June to November and allows the mentees to attend incredible workshops, have their projects filmed, produced and marketed by AT&T in partnership with Fullscreen. At the end of the program, there is an exciting premiere night where the mentees’ projects will be showcased.
Waithe and her producing partner, Rishi Rajani, select the mentees who will be part of the program. Speaking to Complex magazine about the selection process, Waithe said, “It’s really on us to take people that are responsible, take people that are ready, take people that we’ve been following for a few years. It all works hand-in-hand, but we don’t put them on the position unless we know that they’re ready for it.”
Let’s meet the directors who are ready for it!
Cierra Glaudé – “Spilt Milk”
The Mobile, Alabama native already has quite an impressive resume. She has worked on the crews of TV shows and movies including Selma, Girls Trip, A Wrinkle in Time, Queen Sugar, and Twenties. In 2017, she made her directorial-debut at Urbanworld with her short film, “Last Looks,” starring Rutina Welsey (Queen Sugar, True Blood). The short was also featured on Issa Rae’s YouTube Channel as part of the #ShortFilmSunday lineup. Cierra’s vision includes building cinematic worlds where people of color, women, and the LGBTQ community can see themselves and their stories on the screen.
She will be directing the project, “Spilt Milk,” which centers around a single mother who must move back in with her parents while caring for her infant son, as well as re-connecting with her ex-partner and the child she’s raising that the former couple conceived via a sperm donor.
Alison-Eve Hammersley – “Fragile.com”
Alison earned her BA in film production from Emerson College and her MFA in directing from AFI. She broke ground as the first female staff director and producer at the media company, All Def Digital, and has also been featured in numerous digital publications for her work as a female filmmaker. Her short film, “You’ll Only Have Each Other,” won several horror and thriller short film awards. She is developing various projects which focus on using horror as a means to explore character.
She is directing the project “Fragile.com,” which follows a broke teen girl who dreams of being an actress and the charming man who promises her fame and fortune if she agrees to livestream herself crying for his website, Fragile.com.
Jessica Mendez Siqueiros – “The Fat Friend”
An award-winning Mexican-American writer, director, and actress, Jessica is on a mission to highlight and normalize complex and authentic stories about the Southwest Mexican-American community through her filmmaking. Her short film “Pozole” screened at the Seattle Int’l Film Festival and won the Jury Prize for Best Narrative Short Film for Comedy at Cinequest 2019, qualifying it for the 2020 Academy Awards.
She is directing the project “The Fat Friend,” which follows a boarding school student who must question her commitment to activism when she realizes she has no friends, a ton of enemies, and faces serious accusations that could get her expelled.
Vishnu Vallabhaneni – “1/30”
Vishnu was born in India and raised in Texas. His work often centers around what it means to be a body stuck between ethnic and social identities. Vishnu wrote, directed, and edited his short film, “Sunshine and Rain” while part of UT Austin’s Film program. The film hit the national festival circuit and acquired online distribution. It is now part of a feature incubator program with David Patrick Lowery serving as a mentor. Vishnu currently works at Justin Simien’s production company, Culture Machine, and is producer and head writer of the NPR podcast, Don’t @ Me. He is continuing to create stories that focus on Indian representation. He is directing the project “1/30,” which is a romantic comedy that follows a young architect on the first day of Ramadan as he tries to fast with his fianceé while also attempting to win a major contract for his firm.
Malakai – “Postmarked”
Change-maker Malakai is not only a filmmaker but also the founder of the non-profit, Made In Her Image, which serves to educate girls and young women of color within technology and media. The program has collaborated with Disney, Paramount, Universal, and the Sundance Institute. Malakai also directed the documentary, “Black Girls Code,” which showcased at the Cannes Film Festival Short Film Corner, as well as on Google and Facebook. Malakai was also a 2016 Horizon Award winner at the Sundance Film Festival.
She is directing the drama and magical realism project, “Postmarked,” which follows a 10-year-old boy who discovers a bunch of long-lost letters, and goes on an adventure to find the person who sent them.
All of these directors are game-changers and trailblazers. They’re bringing to light stories that need to be heard. The AT&T Mentorship Program is providing a platform for these stories to be created and for them to be seen. We can’t wait to see how these directors continue to change Hollywood and the entertainment industry for the better.