Disney is Now Looking for Aspiring Directors

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Disney+ Launchpad program is looking for aspiring filmmakers to join the Disney family.

Disney+ is expected to launch later on this year and now Disney is launching a new program calling for filmmakers from underrepresented backgrounds to pitch their short films, which could possibly end up on the new streaming platform.

The new Disney initiative is called Disney Launchpad. Up to six filmmakers will be selected to make their short film for Disney+ over a 7-month program, which will see the filmmakers work closely with Disney mentors to script, develop and make an original piece of content.

“We get to see directors’ work, work with a director who has probably not gotten into the studio system, have new voices in our ecosystem and quite frankly, get an amazing piece of content out of the process as well,” said Julie Ann Crommett, vice president of multicultural engagement at Walt Disney Studios.

Barcelona, Spain. Jan 2019: Man holds a remote control With the new Disney+ screen on TV. Disney+ is an online video streaming subscription service, set to launch in the US in September.Illustrative – Image (Ivan Marc / Shutterstock.com)

The program launches on Monday and will take short film pitches until July 2nd, after which it will select the shortlist of filmmakers that will go on to make their short film. Julie Ann Crommett told Entertainment Weekly, the goal of the program is to find aspiring directors of diverse backgrounds who are traditionally underrepresented in the film industry. She described a director’s journey as moving along in three stages and using Ryan Coogler as an example –

Phase 1 being “that short film or initial project that allows for a director’s voice to break through and becomes the calling card for a step into the studio system,” often from an indie project such as Ryan Coogler’s Sundance hit Fruitvale Station;

Phase 2 is the “low to mid-budget film moment in a director’s career,” such as Coogler’s Creed;

Phase 3 is “where a director is directing one of our tentpole films with a large-scale budget,” specifically Coogler’s Black Panther.

In recent years, Disney has been working on bringing filmmakers of underrepresented backgrounds to direct major motion pictures. For example, Ryan Cooler directed the Oscar-winning movie “Black Panther”, Ava DuVernay for “A Wrinkle in Time”, and Chloe Zhao for The Eternals and Mulan, directed by Niki Caro.

The Disney Launchpad is seeking original ideas and not looking for movie adaptations or biopics. Crommett explains they hope to tell “stories of all different experiences and ideas and even genres” that work alongside Disney’s brand.

Black PantherLOS ANGELES – JAN 29: Michael B. Jordan arrives for the ‘Black Panther’ World Premiere on January 29, 2018 in Hollywood, CA (DFree / Shutterstock.com)

After making their short film for Disney+, filmmakers will then have the opportunity to build upon their short films to create a larger feature film or pitch new story ideas.  “Our goal is that this incubator is not one and done, the filmmaker is able to make the short film with us and then progress to the next stage of their career within the larger Walt Disney ecosystem,” Crommett said.

Launchpad is hoping to connect with filmmakers currently in the aforementioned Phase 1 stage and bring them into the Disney family. The program is open to all filmmakers who have made at least one piece of scripted, live-action narrative work at least five minutes long in the past 8 years.

“What we know is that there is this grey area between having graduated maybe from a film program, having gotten commercial work but haven’t been able to break into the studio system as such, and this program is really defined for people who fit in that area,” Crommett said. Once selected, the program will provide filmmakers with a stipend if they need to move to LA, and will allow filmmakers to hold their other jobs except for the days they need to be in production on their short. “The barrier entry in this industry is real from a financial standpoint,” Crommett said. “[Filmmakers] are free to hold down another job as part of their daily life and we anticipate several will, the program is designed as such to make it possible.”

From Disney+ Launchpad:

The Launchpad is a seven (7) month program and will include the following (please note that time frames and program parameters are subject to change):

  • Three (3) months of script development and professional development classes, specifically designed to strengthen your professional and storytelling skills.
  • Bringing the robust curriculum of the American Film Institute (“AFI”) to the Launchpad, classes will be led primarily by our educational partner, AFI, and held once or twice per week on the Disney studio lot in Burbank, California from 7pm – 10pm PT, with one (1) Saturday field trip to the AFI campus in Los Angeles.
  • A staggered production schedule, which will include: up to four (4) weeks of pre-production, principal photography, and up to six (6) weeks of post-production.

How to apply:

  1. Applications close on July 2nd at 12 pm (noon) PT.
  2. For more information and how to apply, click here.