By Rebecca Green
Having the right mentor can be life changing. It can lead to career advancement, expanding your network, feeling less alone, and can build confidence. Regardless of where you are in your career, we could all use a mentor to help guide us.
But finding a mentor can feel like searching for a unicorn.
Because of this, when I launched the Dear Producer Award, it was important to me to build a mentorship program into the Award to be able to impact the producing community in a broader way. To support more than just the four producers who received the Award.
Each recipient of the Dear Producer Award (Liz Cardenas, Megan Gilbride, Sabrina Schmidt Gordon, and Avril Speaks) was asked to choose one producer to mentor and commit to providing consistent and reliable mentorship for one year.
I am thrilled to shine a light on the four talented producers who were chosen for this mentorship program…
BRITTNY CHAPMAN is an aspiring producer born and raised in Philadelphia, forged by New York City, and now flourishing in Los Angeles. She began her career in fashion, interning for the fashion closets at JANE and InStyle Magazine. It was at these publications where she was educated in the art of styling and learned how fit, color, and pattern of garments can enhance one’s aesthetic.
Brittny’s passion for styling landed her in Los Angeles where she quickly transitioned from styling to costuming. Her first non-union costume position on Bounce’s LOVE THAT GIRL revealed to her how garments can aid in telling a story on screen. This experience motivated her to work toward getting into the Motion Picture Costumers Union Local 705, where she would have more opportunity to work on projects with all of the major studios. After a year of diligence, Brittny was able to work on the indie film HELLO MY NAME IS DORIS and the television show THE LEAGUE, to gain her days to become an active union member of Local 705. Since then, Brittny has also worked her way up the ranks to become a member of the Costume Designers Guild 892. Her membership and participation in both unions also lends to her leadership of her non-profit F.A.B.R.I.C. (Fighting for African American and Black Rights in Costumes), which provides networking, education and support for costumers and costume designers.
Recently, Brittny has shifted her focus to producing and is currently working with line producer, Bob Williams Jr., on the Ryan Murphy show 9-1-1. As Bob’s assistant, she also helps oversee 9-1-1’s Inclusivity Initiative, which exposes and educates historically excluded persons to the inner workings of television production.
Why Avril Speaks chose Brittny as her Mentee…
Brittny and I have similar backgrounds, both being from the east coast and both having transitioned to producing from other careers in the film industry. When I think about the future of producing, I think about people like Brittny—someone who acknowledges the realities of producing, but remains hopeful and optimistic about its possibilities. I look forward to mentoring Brittny because I believe we need more Black women producers who aren’t afraid to challenge the status quo.
From the South coast of Brazil, HELENA SARDINHA is a creative producer residing in Los Angeles. Under her own international production company, Driven Equation, she has built experience in narrative, documentary, and music videos. Helena’s films and television projects were present in festivals such as Sundance, Aspen, Palm Springs, SeriesFest, and many others. Helena participated in the Latine-focused Warner Media fellowship “TFT” and is a recurring faculty member at the Sitka Fine Arts Camp in Alaska. Her latest short, BEFORE DAWN, KABUL TIME premiered at Tribeca 2022, as part of the Rising Voices initiative created by Lena Waithe and supported by Indeed. Her first feature film, BARRY & JOAN, had its UK theatrical release at Picturehouse Cinemas, in the Spring of 2022. Sardinha is in post production for BEAUTIFUL, FL, a short part of the Disney Launchpad program, and under development for the feature length of HUELLA, in association with 271 Films. Helena Sardinha is a 2022 Sundance Producing Lab fellow.
Why Liz Cardenas chose Helena as her Mentee…
It was important for me to select a Latina producer as my mentee, and I was so glad to find myself having several wonderful and qualified women to choose from. It is with great joy that I select the very talented and kind producer, Helena Sardinha. After coming highly recommended from colleagues and the Sundance Institute, where Helena was a 2022 Producing Lab Fellow, I bonded with her on both a personal and professional level during the 2022 Sundance Creative Producers Summit. She was attending with the feature version of her 2022 Sundance short, HUELLA, which I loved and which resonated with me. She and her producing partner on the film, Domenica Castro, and I discussed at length our unique backgrounds and how we shared similar values — the importance of family and friends in our lives, the types of diverse stories we want to put out into the world, and our desire to create a tribe so-to-speak of collaborators based on trust, mutual respect, and good communication. I was not only inspired by Helena’s drive, determination, and openness to learn and grow, but also her spirit and warm nature. I think she’s in the perfect spot in her career to benefit from such a mentorship and I look forward to nurturing her on her producing journey as she moves from short films to features.
STEFFIE VAN RHEE is a Dutch documentary filmmaker and producer, based in New York, who believes in the power of telling personal stories to catalyze (social) change and create a deeper understanding of different realities and experiences. She is a 2021 Film Independent Documentary Lab fellow, a 2020-2021 Impact Partners Documentary Producers fellow, and holds a BA in Journalism from the University of Applied Sciences in Utrecht and a graduate degree in Documentary Media Studies from The New School. Her recent credits as co-producer include BATTLEGROUND (Tribeca 2022) and the Netflix original documentary series RACE: BUBBA WALLACE.
Why Sabrina Schmidt Gordon chose Steffie as her Mentee…
I met Steffie while teaching, when she was a visiting graduate student from the Netherlands. I was impressed by her deep commitment to this work and to the impact she hoped to achieve. Over the years, Steffie has reached out to me for feedback or advice about various projects, and our conversations have spanned everything from the art of storytelling and film structure, to career development and navigating some of the opaque and treacherous aspects of the industry, to the ethics of documentary work, and the tremendous responsibility it brings. Our interactions have never felt extractive; she has always led with appreciation and thoughtfulness, and is also generous– reaching out just as often to share an opportunity, offer an acknowledgement, or to simply say hello. I look forward to continuing our conversations, and am so pleased to have this formalized opportunity to contribute to the career development of such a lovely, dedicated, talented spirit.
MONIQUE WALTON is an independent producer of fiction films and documentaries. She produced Annie Silverstein’s debut feature BULL, which premiered at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival – Un Certain Regard, and was nominated for three Independent Spirit Awards. BULL is currently being released by Samuel Goldwyn Films and Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions. She produced the documentary feature HOLLOW TREE, directed by Kira Akerman, which is set to premiere at the 2022 New Orleans Film Festival. Other credits include Jesse Klein’s WE’RE STILL TOGETHER and PAHOKEE, directed by Ivete Lucas and Patrick Bresnan. She has produced numerous short films, including Silverstein’s SKUNK, winner of the jury award at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival- Cinéfondation. Her short films, DARK MATTERSand THE BECOMING BOXT, were recently featured on the Criterion Channel as part of the Afrofuturism program. Walton’s films have been supported by Cinereach, The Sundance Institute, San Francisco Film Society, Austin Film Society, International Documentary Association, and Film Independent. She was a 2016 Sundance Creative Producing Fellow, a 2020 Rotterdam Producing Fellow, and a 2021 Cannes-Producers Network Fellow.
Why Megan Gilbride chose Monique as her Mentee…
Rebecca gave us several helpful prompts when it came to considering mentees, very much including “a fellow producer you’d like to spend time with.” Monique wildly checks this box. She is discerning, honest, laughs easily, and has spent the early part of her career making beautiful work. She’s a regionally-based filmmaker, living in Austin, TX, and a member of both the Documentary Producers Alliance and the VP, Emerging Producers at the Producers Union. In short – she’s making great work while also making the work better for everyone. Choosing Monique gives me the chance to cast the spotlight on her and her filmography, be a resource to her as she gets her dynamic slate out into the world, and explore a framework that combats the gap in mentorship for mid-career producers – all excellent opportunities for the year ahead.