AT&T’s $1M Competition at Tribeca Launches Careers of Diverse Filmmakers

Video filmed and produced by Alana Winns and Christian Carew

An inclusive film program launched in 2017 by AT&T (No. 3 on the DiversityInc Top 50 Companies list) in collaboration with the Tribeca Film Festival, along with the year-round nonprofit Tribeca Film Institute (TFI), continues to provide underrepresented filmmakers the opportunity to tell important stories.

Sasie Sealy and Angela Cheng are the second winners of “AT&T Presents: Untold Stories,” earning $1 million to create their film. Sealy and Cheng impressed the Untold Stories Greenlight Committee, made up of industry leaders and film experts, with their vision for their project “Lucky Grandma” during a live pitch event in New York City on Wednesday.

The committee heard pitches for five films, deliberated and chose “Lucky Grandma” as the winner, which was announced at a luncheon celebrating inclusivity in storytelling.

AT&T Chief Brand Officer Fiona Carter, a member of the Greenlight Committee, spoke with DiversityInc Chief Operating Officer Carolynn Johnson about how the program impacts diversity and inclusion in the film industry.

“The Untold Stories program is not just another check to support a filmmaker on their journey through a long development process of making a movie,” Carter said. “This is about complete financing, distribution, mentorship and support, and a deadline of a Tribeca film premiere.”

Johnson asked Carter what career advice she could offer to underrepresented filmmakers in order to advance their careers.

“I would advise filmmakers to feel confident in telling the authentic story that you live everyday,” she said. “Many of us don’t have the benefit of living those lives and we want to see that authenticity on screen.”

Carter added, “Society in general wants to see entertainment reflect the world they live in.”

Actress and partner at Color Farm Media Erika Alexander with DiversityInc COO Carolynn Johnson at “AT&T Presents: Untold Stories” awards luncheon.

UCLA’s 2018 Hollywood Diversity Report suggests that the film industry at large should invest in hiring that is reflective of the U.S. population, which is almost 40 percent minority and at least 50 percent female. According to the report, in 2016, films with casts made up of 21 to 30 percent minority actors had the highest median global box office ticket sales and the highest median return on investment.

Sealy and Cheng are taking Carter’s advice and moving forward with telling their authentic story.

Left to right: Krista Parris, Sasie Sealy, Angela Cheng, Cara MarcousAT&T

In addition to the $1 million top prize, AT&T and Tribeca will help with awards submissions, qualifying screenings, advertisements and promotion of their film set to premiere at Tribeca in 2019. It will run across AT&T’s video platform. In addition, AT&T will also provide a $10,000 grant to the other four participating filmmakers to help achieve their film goals.

Winner of the 2017 Untold Stories competition, Faraday Okoro, will premiere his film “Nigerian Prince” on April 24 during Tribeca, which runs April 18-29.

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