Lena Waithe’s Hillman Grad Announces 2nd Annual Mentorship Lab For Marginalized Creatives

Lena Waithe and Rishi Rajani’s development and production company Hillman Grad Productions has announced the return of its mentorship lab which offers support and opportunities to marginalized creatives.

The Hillman Grad Mentorship Lab is an 8-month, tuition-free program that offers mentees the opportunity to enhance their creative skillset through personalized instruction from industry professionals, creating additional pathways to bring more people from diverse backgrounds into the entertainment industry.

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As part of the program, mentees will participate in a variety of workshops, educational resources, professional development, and networking opportunities for a cohort of diverse writers, actors, and aspiring creative executives.

Tracks include television writing, screen acting, and executive development, instructed by Carolyn Michelle Smith (co-director of Acting Track), Behzad Dabu (co-director of Acting Track), and Michael Svoboda (director of Writing Track), among others.

Participants will also have the opportunity to work with and directly interact with notable actors, directors, casting directors, editors, union reps, and publicists. Previous guests have included Cynthia Erivo (The Color Purple), Kendrick Sampson (HBO’s Insecure), Carmen Cuba (casting director), and Femi Oguns (CEO, Identity Agency Group), among others.

“Since the inception of Hillman Grad, it has been our ultimate goal to break down barriers to entry into Hollywood for new and diverse artists, while also ensuring they are paid for their art,” said the executive team at Hillman Grad in a statement. “The program was built around the idea of an informational coffee meeting. Many up and coming filmmakers were reaching out for advice and insights, and as that demand grew, we knew that there was a gap in the industry for a program like this – one that offered mentorship in an organized way while keeping the essence of an intimate, one-on-one connection at its core.”

They continued, “Our showcase this past year was a beautiful testament to the work of these talented individuals who met for multiple sessions to focus on their craft, learn together, and grow together. Off its success and the astounding number of jobs it led to for these artists, we are excited to see what another year of the program brings.”

Successful alumni of the mentorship lab include:

Mentee Nova Cypress Black (they/them) is now a staff writer on a Showtime series.

Executive mentee Ranard Caldwell (he/him) was hired as Director of Development for Sunny Hostin’s production company Roots & Wings.

Writing mentee Josh Fulton (he/him) can be seen next month off-Broadway in Obie award-winning playwright Aleshea Harris’s play On Sugarland at the New York Theatre Workshop.

Writing mentee Tea Ho (she/they) was hired as a writer’s assistant on the new HBO and A24 series adaptation of Viet Thanh Nguyen’s national best-seller The Sympathizer.

Acting mentee Juliana Aidén Martinez (she/they) was cast in Sofia Vergara’s upcoming Netflix limited series, Griselda.

Writing mentee Urvashi Pathania (she/her) was selected as a 2021 HBO Asian Pacific American Visionaries short film winner.

Writing mentee Arturo Luís Soria (he/him) was cast as a series regular in Apple TV+’s upcoming show Bad Monkey.

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