Meet The 5 Up-and-Coming Writers of the AT&T Mentorship Program for 2019!
The AT&T Hello Lab Mentorship Program is seriously changing the game when it comes to diversity and inclusion within Hollywood. The program came into existence in order to spotlight Hollywood voices from underrepresented groups, including people of color, women, and the LGBTQ+ community. Led by Emmy® award-winning actress, writer and producer Lena Waithe, the program pairs five promising screenwriters with five up-and-coming directors to bring their creative visions and projects to life. Starting in June, the mentees attended workshops, table reads, learned how to pitch their projects, and launch into production in August. After six months the program culminates with a premiere night on November 7, held at Neuehouse in Hollywood, which has become an industry hub in the last several years. After the premiere, the program provides additional support on a person-by-person basis as well as distribution support for the projects, ensuring that the world will get to see what these hardworking mentees have been able to bring into existence.
To be picked as a mentee is a huge accomplishment. As the program leader, Waithe is extremely hands on. In an interview with Complex magazine, Waithe spoke about the process in selecting the 10 mentees:
“What we really try to do is [get] people who are great, who we don’t have to babysit. I think there’s this sort of weird misconception that just because someone is new, they usually don’t know what they’re doing. It just means they haven’t gotten an opportunity yet to show their stuff.”
Let’s take a look at the five writers that Waithe knew had to show their stuff to the world!
Mechi Parada Lakatos – “Spilt Milk”
The Argentinean-American writer and filmmaker as well as Los Angeles native earned her BFA in screenwriting from Emerson College. She’s also currently pursuing her master’s in divinity at Harvard University. Mechi uses her work to explore the complexities and flaws in women, and focuses on themes such as sexual assault, feminist politics, gender, socioeconomic and cultural intersectionality, and sexuality. Mechi’s project for the program is bringing queer brown women and their children to the screen.
Her project, “Spilt Milk,” 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 sperm donor.
Brittany Menjivar – “Fragile.com”
Currently a junior at Yale University studying English and Film, Brittany is also a music journalist for the pop culture website, The Young Folks, where she interviews and photographs rock bands. In 2018, she directed, wrote, and performed in “McDeath: An American Play.” It was an original Macbeth adaptation that centered around high schoolers in the ‘90s, and premiered at Yale’s Lighten Theatre in November.
Her project, “Fragile.com,” 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.
Jasmine Johnson – “The Fat Friend”
Writer Jasmine Johnson earned her BFA from New York University as well as her law degree from Georgetown University. Jasmine’s resume includes interning for both Saturday Night Live and at the ACLU. She has taken comedy classes and has also represented juveniles in court. Currently based in Los Angeles, Jasmine works in law firms during the day and spends her nights and weekends writing and creating.
Her dramedy, “The Fat Friend,” 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.
Malik Aziz – “1/30”
The award-winning actor, writer, producer, and director is a Kansas City, Kansas native who currently lives in Los Angeles. His projects have garnered critical and audience acclaim. His short film, “Lady In My Life,” (which he wrote, directed, and starred in), was featured on BET’s “Lens on Talent,” “African American Short Films,” and Aspire/ABFF Independent’s Short Film Showcase. He also had two scripts selected as a semifinalist for the Sundance Screenwriters Lab in 2011 and 2012.
His romantic comedy, “1/30,” follows a young architect on the first day of Ramadan as he tries to fast with his fiancée while also attempting to win a major contract for his firm.
Angela Wong Carbone – “Postmarked”
The native New Yorker’s work seeks to explore and dive into topics surrounding cultural identity, diversity, inclusion, and the female experience. Angela serves as a contributing writer for the blog of activist Eileen Kelly, and her stories have been featured in Lulu Yao Gioiello’s Far Near, a curated cross-cultural book series which broadens perspectives of Asia. She’s currently developing a radio play centering on the Asian American lens with comedian Brian Park (CollegeHumor), as well as a pilot with Camrus Johnson (The Sun is Also a Star, Batwoman) and Evan Shapiro (former Sundance TV, NBC, and IFC executive).
Her drama and magical realism project, “Postmarked,” 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.
The 2019 class for the AT&T Mentorship Program is bursting with talent and diverse voices. It’s clear from not only their experience but the current projects that they’re developing that these are the folks who are going to change the entertainment industry. They’re changing the game and they each have a unique story to tell. They’re all trailblazers, and we can’t wait to see where they go!
Stay tuned as we continue to cover the AT&T Mentorship Program and spotlight the directors next!