HBO announces winners of the 2020 HBOAccess Directing Fellowship

HBO has selected the ten winning emerging directors to participate in the newly revamped 2020 Directing Fellowship. The ten directors will take part in a series of master classes with top industry speakers.

Typically, the program supports three directors interested in a career in television by giving them the opportunity to shoot a pilot presentation that eventually airs on all HBO platforms. However, in an effort to support talent throughout this global pandemic, HBOAccess has decided to pivot from producing the presentations this year and instead increase the number of directors accepted into the program.

“Every year we are overwhelmed with the amazing talent introduced to us through this process, and this year was no different,” said Kelly Edwards, Senior Vice President of Talent Development, WarnerMedia Entertainment. “It’s unfortunate that this year’s class won’t have the same experience as those before them, but we are confident that we have created an equally productive and invaluable curriculum that will help these directors take the next steps in their careers.”

The HBOAccess Directing Fellowship is a biennial program designed to foster diverse directing talent. It includes a series of master classes taught by industry professionals, including lessons on creative topics such as story and character development and the technical aspects of production and post. In the event HBO is unable to resume pilot presentations in the future, WarnerMedia will continue to support the directors by offering visiting director opportunities on WarnerMedia shows, (once production schedules return to normal) and introductions to creative executives throughout the WarnerMedia ecosystem, including HBO, HBO Max, WB, DC, Cartoon Network, and TNT/TBS.

The HBOAccess Writing and Directing fellowships alternate each year. Submissions for the 2021 HBOAccess Writing Fellowship will open on Wednesday, February 3, 2021 through FilmFreeway.

Below are the 10 finalists:

Emil Gallardo is a Mexican American writer/director born and raised in LA currently living in Oakland. He aims to make unforgettable stories that stand out for their authenticity and willingness to confront uncomfortable truths. His latest film, 1, 2, 3, ALL EYES ON ME is no exception.

Faraday Okoro is a New York City based Nigerian American filmmaker. He attended Howard University and NYU Graduate Film School. In 2017, he received a $1 million grant from AT&T to direct his debut feature NIGERIAN PRINCE (2018), which was Executive Produced by Spike Lee and distributed by Vertical Entertainment and DirectTV.

Studied at Emerson College and AFI, Hao Zheng is a recent Student Academy Award winning director transitioned from being a professional actor in popular Chinese films and TV shows. With recent short films getting international recognition including Show Me Shorts New Zealand (Best International Film Award), AT&T Film Award, Nowness Awards, Short Shorts Tokyo, Aspen Short Fest among more than 80 film festivals, he is developing a range of multicultural projects in both China and the U.S.

Jessica Petelle is a director and a producer of film and television. Her debut film, ALL GOOD, premiered at Palm Springs International ShortFest. Her short film, AGE OF DYSPHORIA, starring Laura Vandervoort and Gordon Pinsent, is currently on the festival circuit. She recently completed the Women in the Director’s Chair Career Advancement Module in Toronto.

Juan Pablo was born and raised in Santiago de Chile where he started his career as a writer and director. After receiving a Fulbright Scholarship, he moved to Los Angeles, California where he obtained an MFA in Directing from the AFI Conservatory. His award-winning work continues to be presented at dozens of film festivals around the globe, including the New York Film Festival, the Seattle Film Festival and the Stockholm International Film Festival

Lanre Olabisi’s directorial work includes AUGUST THE FIRST and SOMEWHERE IN THE MIDDLE both of which are distributed by Film Movement. Combined, his films have screened at over 70 film festivals around the world including SXSW and Karlovy Vary. His work has been nominated for an IFP Gotham Award as well as a Black Reel Award. Lanre’s latest short film, A STORYBOOK ENDING, is set to premiere in the fall of 2020.

Marielle Woods is an award-winning, queer-identifying filmmaker who thrives in the high-stakes world of action storytelling. After cutting her teeth in docudrama television, recreating shark attacks and mob shootouts for Discovery Channel and Animal Planet, she spent much of the last seven years working as a Stunt Department Coordinator on projects including BABY DRIVER, BRIGHT, and WESTWORLD. Woods likes to push emotional buttons and visual boundaries, telling stories that make audiences think – with a few explosions or car chases along the way.

A writer/director from Colorado, Rammy Park tells stories about fierce and conflicted characters trying to make sense of an incomprehensible world. She is a Film Independent Fellow twice over (Project Involve 2019, Episodic Lab 2018) and an MFA graduate of Columbia University’s Film Program. A former journalist and designer, she is currently staffed on Amazon’s The Wheel of Time.

An alumnus of Morehouse College and USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, Tarik co-created, directed and co-wrote CLASS, an eight-episode original series that premiered on YouTube. The series has been viewed over 1.2 million times. Tarik’s follow up short BUSHBABY, a comedy about gentrification in Brooklyn, got Tarik selected to be a part of Ryan Murphy’s Half Foundation, where Tarik shadowed an episode of SCREAM QUEENS. He then shadowed Oz Rodriguez on two episodes of SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE. Tarik currently performs sketch and improv at the UCB theater as a member of the group Cornbread Kitchen.

Zao Wang is a bilingual director born into a family of filmmakers in Beijing and raised alternately on the backlot of the old Beijing Film Studio and Jackson, Mississippi.  After receiving his MFA from NYU’s Film Program and creating numerous award-winning shorts, he was mentored by J.J. Abrams as Bad Robot’s Directing Fellow and helmed his first feature in China.  Zao’s work is dark and humorous with a beating heart that always revolves upon the nuance of human relationships.

Held in even calendar years, the HBOAccess Directing Fellowship selects 3 candidates to participate in a biennial program designed to foster diverse directing talent. The program includes a series of master classes which lead into the production of a pilot presentation. Instructed by industry professionals and mentored by HBO, HBOMax, and Turner executives, the program covers a variety of subjects ranging from the creative elements of telling a story through film and working with actors, to the technical aspects of production and post. Upon completion of the workshop the fellows are then given a budget and crew to direct a short presentation allowing them full immersion in a true industry production. Every directing fellow is given the opportunity to shadow an HBO, Turner, or HBOMax series. Silicon Valley, VEEP, Perry Mason, Deadwood, Ballers, and Insecure are just a few of the series which have participated in the program. Pilot presentations from this program have gone on to screen at SXSW, Tribeca, the New Orleans Film Festival, Seriesfest, and a host of other premiere festivals around the country and garnered multiple awards. The 2014, 2016, and 2018 presentations currently air on all HBO platforms.

Alternating with the Directing Fellowship and held in odd calendar years, the HBOAccess Writing fellowship is a year-long program which kicks off with a master class intensive covering story structure, character development, securing representation, as well as other topics to help the fellows succeed in the industry. Following the workshop, participants are mentored by HBO creative executives as they develop a full-length pilot script. The scripts are then optioned for consideration for the directing program.

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