Launched in 2017, the program seeks to discover, incubate and empower emerging filmmakers from underrepresented communities to evolve their work, grow their audience and provide national distribution on platforms such as DIRECTV and DIRECTV NOW.
This year’s program will offer 5 emerging screenwriters the opportunity to have their work fully financed and produced by AT&T. Waithe will handpick 5 up-and-coming directors to direct the short films. All 10 participants will represent a range of diverse identities including LGBTQ+, female, communities of color, and more.
Waithe, with support from her producing partner Rishi Rajani, AT&T, and Fullscreen, will be a resource for mentees throughout the whole process – from identifying talent to working alongside and advising during production as they create and launch their signature short films.
Each of the mentees will also have access to a community of industry advisors, studio and production company executives, agents and casting directors. They will be counseled on pitching their work, managing budgets, directing character-driven narratives and everything in between.
New to the program this year will be the introduction of a unified theme across all short films. The theme, “growing pains,” will serve as a common thread uniting the films while also giving the writers and directors freedom to express their unique, individualized perspective.
In addition to her focus on the films and filmmakers, Waithe is also expanding the mission and scope of the program to incorporate music by identifying unsigned, underrepresented musicians and producing music videos to create exposure, commercial viability and distribution at various AT&T sponsored events.
“What I consider activism, and what I consider my craft, are one and the same. Telling black stories, telling queer stories, working with up-and-coming talent – that’s my way of dismantling the homogony of Hollywood,” said Waithe. “And mentorship is essential for underrepresented creatives. Their stories are necessary for our culture and our collective growth. I’m proud to have a hand in ushering in a new generation of storytellers through this program. AT&T is walking the walk, and that in itself is special for a global brand with a massive audience.”
“The Mentorship Program embodies AT&T’s companywide mission – to inspire human progress through the power of communication and entertainment,” said Valerie Vargas, SVP, advertising and creative services, AT&T. “The program creates both an openness to what is traditionally an exclusive industry, as well as a microphone for those creative voices telling beautiful, thoughtful and important stories that need to be amplified.”
Waithe’s commitment to the Filmmaker Mentorship Program further expands her work with AT&T. She is currently the voice of the brand’s national “More For Your Thing” advertising campaign, and was also recently honored as a cultural leader in the “Dream In Black” Black Future Month content initiative.
For the third year, AT&T has enlisted Fullscreen as its lead agency partner for the program.