Academy Award winners Octavia Spencer and Common are just two the entertainment industry leaders who will guide filmmaking millennials as part of AT&T Hello Lab’s new mentorship program.

Other mentors include director Rick Famuyiwa, director and actress Desiree Akhavan and producer Nina Yang Bongiovi. They, supported by studio and production company executives, agents and attorneys, will help young filmmakers navigate everything from directing character-driven narratives, to pitching their work and managing budgets.

The short films will focus on coming-of-age stories around issues related to women, the LGBTQ community and people of color as part of the diversity-focused initiative.

Nurturing the next generation of creative minds is crucial for the entertainment industry, said Valerie Vargas, senior vice president, advertising and Creator Lab, AT&T.

“The AT&T Hello Lab Mentorship Program gives voice to filmmakers that may otherwise be silenced, and we can’t wait to see the ideas this unique group of creators develop,” she said.

The five filmmakers—Neil Paik, Matthew Castellanos, Nefertite Nguvu, Gabrielle Shephard and Sara Shaw—will debut their films on DirecTV Now at the end of the 2017.

“There are a lot of film programs out there designed to empower young filmmakers,” said Spencer in a statement. “But the word ’empower’ is a sort of a catch-all, isn’t it? What I love about this program is that it’s tactical. It’s enabling young filmmakers to make actual, physical work. It’s giving them the first crucial part of their reel.


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