As the Sundance Film Festival wraps up its first weekend of festivities, fans and film-goers were treated to star-studded movie premieres, panels, and events- many of which celebrated the accomplishments of new filmmakers as they debuted at the world-famous festival for the first time.

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One common theme amongst some of the festival’s most successful participants was that of mentorship and opportunity for growth. For a few lucky filmmakers, their mentor was none other than multiple-award winning artist, actor, and author Common, who spent some time at DirectTV’s Hello Lounge discussing his work with DirectTV and AT&T’s Hello Lab Mentorship Program as he described how he and other industry influencers were helping make dreams come true for many emerging filmmakers and artists.

In an hour-long panel discussion, Common, along with Melisa Resch and Shelby Stone, discussed how they were working to address diverse content creation, representation and intersectionality within the film industry through their mentorship program, an AT&T Hello Lab initiative that “connects emerging, multicultural and LGBTQ filmmakers with leaders in the entertainment industry to tell bold stories.”


Keeping in line with the festival’s 2019 theme of “Rise Up,” this year’s short films focused on the experiences of women, minorities, the LGTBQ population, and other underrepresented voices in mainstream media. The panelists each stressed the importance of not just representation, but accurate and quality representation of women and minorities within the film industry.

As hip hop and film continue to intersect, Common addressed how Hollywood and filmmakers can best handle diversity in movies that speak to the Hip-Hop community in creating roles that are not stereotypical or flat with one dimensional character that often more resemble a cartoon of the hip hop culture than the complex and dynamic reality that exists within the culture.

Common responded by saying that when making a movie about Hip-Hop that it’s important to find people who know Hip-Hop culture, stating:

“When you’re doing any culture, when you’re doing any film about a certain specific subject, you want somebody that’s educated on that subject so they can give a real representation of these people. Like me as an actor, I’m taken really seriously if I’m playing a role- like if I’m playing a chef, I’m going to sit and talk to as many chefs and zone in on the chef that I feel really represents my character and do my best to represent it well. So I think we’re going to approach films as, ‘So how is the Hip-Hop community being represented? How are people being represented? And I think when you represent truth in your films, you’re going to capture the truth of the Hip-Hop presence.”