1497 Mentor Lab Announces Mentees; Directors Mira Nair, Geeta Malik, And Minhal Baig To Contribute Mentorship

1497 has selected three finalist for their Features Lab. 

The Lab’s first year was held virtually, and the second year was hybrid, held virtually and in-person. For its third year, 1497 is conducting the Lab as an in-person, immersive, artistic retreat in Malibu, California, during which each Mentee will be paired with a pod of four Mentors from whom they will receive script feedback and career guidance. Mentees will also work with filmmaker and veteran script consultant Adrienne Weiss to further develop their scripts, with a particular emphasis on the emotional journey of their stories.

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1497 Mentors Lab Unveils Finalists For Third Annual Features Lab


The Black List Features Lab Sets 2021 Stories, Writers And Mentors

“We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: we started the 1497 Features Lab to empower writers in the South Asian diaspora to tell whatever stories they want to tell, regardless of the societal, industry, or stereotypical expectations that so often confine writers in our community to certain genres and cultural storylines,” Ahmed, Khan, and Shah said in a joint statement. “All the Finalists met this challenge, so it wasn’t an easy decision for us and our Selection Committee to make. We’re so excited to support our newest Mentees and see how their stories continue to move the needle for South Asian representation on screen.”

This year’s Mentor Pods include Oscar and BAFTA nominated Mira Nair (Monsoon Wedding, The Namesake, Mississippi Masala), recipient of the Academy Gold Fellowship for Women and the Academy Nicholl Fellowship Geeta Malick (India Sweets and Spices, Abbott Elementary), and Sundance favorite Minhal Baig (Hala, We Grown Now), as well as Mohammed Ali (Authentic), Uzma Hasan (Little House Productions), Raj Raghavan (ColorCreative), Kishori Rajan (Random Acts of Flyness), Priya Satiani (Entertainment 360), Rabia Sultana (Sultana Films), and 1497 Features Lab Alums Sofian Khan (The Interpreters), Kaushik Sampath (Grooming), and Iesh Thapar (Alien Kulture).

In the past 2 years, 1497 has supported 6 Mentee-driven projects. Since then, Mentee Sofian Khan was nominated for an Emmy for his documentary, The Interpreters which inspired his script The Ones We Left Behind; Swetha Regunathan’s script Sunderbans was selected for the Cine Qua Non Storylines Lab; Toby Fell-Holden’s script White Lies was selected for the Edinburgh International Film Festival’s Talent Lab and secured another round of development financing from BFI.

Being a Mentee was “an invaluable experience,” said alum Iesh Thapar. “The 1497 Lab was a rare opportunity for me to connect with expert mentors, amazing industry representatives, and other South Asian filmmakers, who are all truly dedicated to championing diverse stories and unique perspectives.”

Read about the selected 2023 Mentees and their projects below:

Maya Bastian The Devil’s Tears
In a remote jungle village within war-torn Sri Lanka, a community fractured by conflict is forced to come together to defend themselves from a parasitic infection that rains from the skies above.

Jhanvi Motla Mr. & Mrs. Patel
New managers of the El Mirage motel, the Patels are met with challenges that not only disrupt their business but virtually crush their marriage.

Aden Suchak Fast Life
In upstate New York, an entrepreneuring Muslim corner store owner finds himself in a spiraling crisis when a local mobster gives him one week to launder $250,000 in cash

Two Selection Committees worked through all of the submissions to narrow down the pool of applicants to the Semifinalists and then to the 11 Finalists. A third Selection Committee comprised of established writers and producers then worked with 1497 to select the Mentees for the third annual Features Lab. 1497 is proud that the industry guests in the Selection Committees and Mentor Pods for this year’s Lab include representation from all eight countries that currently comprise South Asia (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka). Applications were open to screenwriters of South Asian descent from across the globe, and the response was overwhelming.

The organization was founded by Adeel Ahmed, Kamran Khan, and Lipica Shah in 2020 to support and uplift talent of South Asian descent and challenge their historical exclusion from and underrepresentation in the American film and television industry. The name 1497 signifies the year before colonization began in the geographic area now known as South Asia.

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