Lena Waithe has been making her rounds since winning an Emmy in 2017 for Master of None. With her Showtime series The Chi renewed for a third season and BET’s Boomerang taking flight, the writer and producer will now serve as Lead Program Mentor for AT&T’s Hello Lab Filmmaker Mentorship Program.
The program will grant five screenwriters a piece financed and produced by AT&T. Waithe will pair these writers with up-and-coming directors to help bring their visions to life, with “an emphasis on a diverse pool of participants of women, people of color, and from the LGBTQ+ communities.” Waithe sat down with Complex to discuss the process of the program and how important it is to have inclusion in Hollywood.
“I think that what excites me so much is that me and my executive [Rishi Rajani] over at Hillman Grad, we really are big into not just mentorship, but we’re always searching, looking for new talent,” said Waithe. “We found that we had a lot of really cool interesting directors in our pocket, a lot of really cool writers that we knew that we were trying to put on shows and help get their shows made.”
Waithe, who participated in the mentorship program before, was selected to ensure that young filmmakers that have proper experience get a real opportunity. This goes hand-in-hand with the constant aim for diversity in filmmaking, bringing in authentic perspectives from those that have been in those shoes.
“The industry is constantly looking for people of color, women, people who are queer, people who are not able-bodied because they know it’s almost like a mandate—you can’t just have a bunch of white guys directing your sh*t,” Waithe explains further. “Everybody has to be on their A-game because if somebody’s a new person, they’re coming in, they’re hungry, they’re ready, and they’ve got a story to tell, I’d rather go with that new person with a new, fresh perspective, who is coming ready to work.”
Waithe also remembers John Singleton, who passed away following complications of a stroke on Monday (April 29). She looks back on how his approach inspired her to be more of the same:
“The thing about it is, John is somebody who was a hardcore, real brotha. He was a real dude, in every sense of the word, and I think anybody knows what I mean by that. He wasn’t this cheesy guy who was saying cheesy sh*t. He would be like, ‘You gotta tell the truth.'”
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