Top row are Destin Daniel Cretton and Marta Cunningham. Bottom row are Meg LeFauve and Silas Howard.

Australians in Film (AiF) and Screen Australia have revealed the mentor and masterclass lineups for this year’s Untapped initiative, which returns after being launched in 2021.

Designed to help Australian screen creatives aiming to fast track their careers and create meaningful professional relationships in Hollywood, the professional development program comprises a masterclass series from March to May for all applicants, with five selected creators or creative teams going on to a four-month development lab running from August to November.

Delivering masterclasses this year are filmmakers Destin Daniel Cretton (Shang-Chi), Marta Cunningham (Transparent), Silas Howard (Dickinson), and Meg LeFauve (Inside Out).

The mentors for the development lab include executives from James Wan’s Atomic Monster, Nicole Kidman’s Blossom Films, Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine, and Tanya Saracho’s Ojalá Productions. There will also be individualised story consultations and pitch coaching led by writing mentors Ellen Shanman and Patricia Verducci.

More than 800 new and emerging Australian writers and directors applied for the inaugural program, including Shannan Tamby Lim, who was selected as one of five finalists for his horror/drama series Salty.

The screenwriter said he couldn’t imagine his project without the guidance of Untapped.

“The story-driven feedback, the international perspective, the support of our mentors and peers. It’s helped me understand why making the work is so important to me and ultimately, why an audience will connect with it,” he said.

Fellow finalist Kylie O’Donnell, who was selected for her supernatural horror feature Deadname, described the program as “explosive”.

“With an incendiary mix of industry connections, expert feedback, and backstage insights, it’s propelled me years ahead in my career, and sent my project flying into the next phase of development,” she said.

AiF executive director Peter Ritchie said the results and reactions to the inaugural initiative spoke volumes.

“We expect most of the projects to go into further development as a result of the lab,” he said.

“The demand for screen content is at an all-time high, and AiF’s role, with the support of Screen Australia and our other partners, is to create substantial and meaningful professional bridges to key LA decision-makers and creatives, and in the process increase the quality of the output and grow the sector.”

Screen Australia CEO Graeme Mason said the agency couldn’t wait to support a new crop of filmmakers in 2022.

“Untapped, made possible thanks to additional funding provided to Screen Australia by the Australian Government, will continue to help Australian creatives make meaningful connections in the industry and be well-positioned to reach global audiences,” he said.

Untapped is presented with supporting from Screen NSW, Film Victoria, South Australian Film Corporation, and Scripted Ink. Industry Partners include Australian Directors Guild, Australian Writers Guild, Screen Canberra, Screen Producers Australia, Screen Queensland, Screen Tasmania, Screen Territory, Screenwest, and Screenworks.

First Nations Australians, culturally and linguistically diverse people, people with disabilities, LGBTQIA+ and people living in regional and remote locations are strongly encouraged to apply for Untapped.

Applications must be submitted by March 1. Find out more information on how to apply here.

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