AT&T Is Pairing Young Filmmakers With Celebrity Mentors to Bring Diverse Voices to the Screen

Hello Lab's new program supports rising talent

The diversity-focused mentor partnership hopes to help young filmmakers.
Photo Illustration: Dianna McDougall; Sources: Getty Images, AT&T

AT&T’s Hello Lab, a millennial and Gen Z-driven content studio, frequently partners with YouTube creators to help them produce out-of-the-box projects that just happen to be sponsored by AT&T.

The studio announced today a new program that will partner young filmmakers with award-winning professionals from the industry to help them create the project of their dreams.

AT&T refers to this as a diversity-focused initiative as it deals with issues and narratives from people of color, the LGBTQ community and women. Each young filmmaker will be paired with a mentor and an entire team of advisers like studio and production company executives, agents and attorneys.

Academy Award winners Octavia Spencer and Common are two of the mentors this year, along with Rick Famuyiwa, Desiree Akhavan and Nina Yang Bongiovi.

“There are a lot of film programs out there designed to empower young filmmakers,” said Octavia Spencer, in the press release for the announcement. “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.”

Spencer is mentoring Gabrielle Shepard with Mike Jackson, a partner at John Legend’s Get Lifted Film Co.

The five filmmakers in the program will debut their short films on DirecTV Now in the fourth quarter of 2017; AT&T’s Hello Lab will help the young group create high-quality work, and the support team will provide help with pitching their work, managing budgets and directing character-driven narratives.

“I wanted to be a part of this program because opportunity is everything. Connecting with young filmmakers, such as Nefertite Nguvu, is an honor,” said Common. “It’s the young and gifted visionaries who take the arts to levels we haven’t seen.” 

Common will mentor Nguvu with Shelby Stone, the president of production at his company Freedom Road Productions.

“I am blessed to have the career that I do, and hope to be able to support and inspire her artistic vision and goals through the AT&T Hello Lab Mentorship Program,” he said.

“Nurturing the next generation of creative minds is crucial for the entertainment industry,” said Valerie Vargas, svp of advertising and Creator Lab for 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.”