Top: Larissa Behrendt, Mitchell Stanley. Bottom: Lucy Hayes, Nora Niasari.
Writer/directors Nora Niasari and Larissa Behrendt and producers Lucy Hayes and Mitchell Stanley have been selected to participate in Australians in Film (AiF) and Screen Australia’s Mentor LA program.
The participants will be matched mentors writer Luke Davies (Lion, Beautiful Boy,) director Alethea Jones (Dollface, Queen America), Animal Logic CEO Zareh Nalbandian (Peter Rabbit 2, Batman Lego movie) and director of creative development, Columbia Pictures Jiao Chen (Ghostbusters: Afterlife and Unchartered).
Each participant will receive four one-hour sessions with their mentor; three online, and one face-to-face in Los Angeles once international travel restrictions are lifted. Each receives return airfares, and living expenses for five days in LA.
The meetings are designed to provide recipients with personalised, first-hand experience of the challenges and knowledge these mentors have learnt from working in the highly competitive Hollywood system. The knowledge provided will help not only bolster their careers, but the professional capacity of the broader Australian screen sector.
AiF executive director Peter Ritchie said the four selected recipients constitute an exciting next generation of new voices.
“These creatives represent some of Australia’s leading developing talent. They all are driven by a desire to tell unique and important screen stories,” he said.
“Given current global events and the direction of the international screen industry, Australians in Film, with the support of Screen Australia are excited to be providing this practitioner-development program that will empower these four screen creatives to tell their stories that have the opportunity to create change and to reach a large international audience.”
“We are incredibly grateful for the generosity of Luke, Alethea, Zareh and Jiao whose knowledge and wisdom will bolster the Australian screen sector and the stories we tell to the world.”
Screen Australia chief operating officer Michael Brealey said, “Congratulations to these four talented filmmakers. This is an incredible chance for them to gain insights into the US industry, get international perspectives on their own projects and advance their careers.”
Niasari, an Iranian-Australian writer/director will be mentored by Davies. In 2015, her Victorian College of the Arts (VCA) graduate film, The Phoenix (Simorgh) was nominated for an Australian Director’s Guild (ADG) Award, her 2017 short film Waterfall competed at the Melbourne International Film Festival and this year she is releasing her latest short film, TÂM, while developing her debut feature film, Shayda with producer Vincent Sheehan of Porchlight Films, and developing a project with American producer Gary Foster (Community, The Soloist).
“I’m thrilled to be selected for the wonderful Mentor LA program. Having studied Luke Davies’ screenwriting for many years, it is a dream come true to be mentored by him in this next stage of my career. Thanks to Australians in Film and Screen Australia for making this opportunity possible.”
Gamilaroi/Eualeya woman Behrendt will be mentored by Jones. A graduate from AFTRS and Harvard Law School, Larissa won the ADG Award for her documentary After the Apology, directed the Walkley-nominated documentary, Innocence Betrayed, and her documentary Maralinga Tjarutja recently screened on ABC TV.
“I am so grateful to Australians in Film and Screen Australia for this amazing opportunity to learn through a mentorship with Alethea Jones. This kind of career development is invaluable and I am deeply appreciative and excited about it! This is a chance to learn more about my craft and to think more clearly about my career goals from someone with great experience and insight.”
Nalbandian will mentor Hayes, whose short Lost & Found won AACTA and Screen Producers Australia Awards, and was nominated for an Annie Award and won the People’s Voice Award for Best Animated Video on the internet at the 2020 Webby Awards. Her television credits include the animated series Supa Phresh for Nickelodeon, the Screen Australia funded web series Movement, and multiple animated segments for Sesame Street.
“I’m thrilled and beyond excited to be taking part in the Mentor LA program. I have great respect for Zareh Nalbandian and Animal Logic, and I very much look forward to further developing and refining my skills as a producer under his guidance. I’m very grateful to Australians in Film and Screen Australia for providing this wonderful opportunity and can’t wait to get started! “
Wiradjuri man Stanley, who wrote and produced documentary Servant or Slave and produced Warwick Thornton’s documentary series The Beach, which recently aired on SBS/NITV, has been paired with Chen.
“Throughout my career I have been lucky to have learnt from many great practitioners in the Australian film industry, so it’s with deep gratitude and appreciation to be selected by Australians In Film, and Jiao Chen for Mentor LA 2020”.
“I very much look forward to the exchange and guidance offered throughout the mentorship, and through this I hope to strengthen and contribute to the Australian film industry”.
Previous Mentor LA recipients have included Kodie Bedford, Sarah Shaw, Felicity Abbott, Candy Bowers, Julietta Boscolo, and Que Minh Luu.