Disney has announced its six finalists for its “Disney Launchpad: Shorts Incubator program”, which is a brand-new opportunity for directors from underrepresented backgrounds to present diverse perspectives, through the production of original, live-action shorts for proposed initial exhibition on the upcoming streaming service, Disney+.
The finalists were Aqsa Altaf, Stefanie Abel Horowitz, Jessica Mendez Siqueiros, Ann Marie Pace, Moxie Peng and Hao Zheng.
“We are so excited to work with these six wonderful and talented directors who have so much to say to the world and have such beautiful ways of saying it. We look forward to bringing their visions to life here in the Disney Launchpad program.”
said Mahin Ibrahim, Director, Diversity & Inclusion, Market, at The Walt Disney Studios, and the leader of the Launchpad program.
The selected shorts will have the opportunity to live on Disney+ and may be considered for further development for long-form or episodic motion pictures, based on the short’s quality, performance on the platform, future arc, and other factors, though future development is not guaranteed.
Here are some details on each of the finalists:
Aqsa Altaf was raised in Kuwait by Pakistani and Sri Lankan parents and graduated from USC School of Cinematic Arts before participating in the 2018 Werner Herzog mentorship. Her short film One Small STep played at the Cannes Film Festival 2019 and was shortlisted for the BAFTA Student Film Awards. She was nominated for the Young Director Award 2019 at Cannes Lions.
Stefanie Abel Horowitz directed theater for a decade before pivoting to film. Her second short film, Sometimes, I Think About Dying premiered at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, traveled the world on the Sundance Shorts circuit, garnered Abel Horowitz the Future Filmmaker Award from Palm Springs International Film Festival, and was shortlisted for an Academy Award. She is an alum of the 2019 New Voices Sundance Lab as well as a member of Lincoln Center Directors Lab. Her essay “He’s Your Destiny. Just Be Patient.” was published in The New York Times Modern Love 2019 column.
Jessica Mendez Siqueiros is a Mexican-American writer/director and actress. Her debut short film Pozole was an official selection of SIFF, LALIFF, Hamptons, Nashville, Indy Shorts, and over 60 film festivals internationally. The film took home the Jury Prize for Best Narrative Short Film (Comedy) at Cinequest. Selected as a director mentee in the AT&T Hello Lab Mentorship Program, she recently directed Adeline, The Great, under the guidance of Lena Waithe and Rishi Rajani, and distributed by DirecTV.
Ann Marie Pace is a writer/director raised in Tennessee and based in Los Angeles. Growing up Mexican American and bisexual and raised in a family of anthropologists, she is drawn to stories of identity and tells stories from multicultural perspectives to help create bridges of understanding. She received her MFA in Directing at UCLA; her thesis film Beyond The Gate, shot in the Brazilian Amazon, won first place in the DGA Student Film Awards Latino Category, Best Student Film at the Brazil International Film Festival, and was a Caucus Foundation Grant Winner.
Moxie Peng is a queer non-binary writer and director from Hunan, China. They started filmmaking in Beijing and now live in New York City and Los Angeles. Their shorts have been screened at NewFest, Hong Kong LGBT Film Festival, Cleveland International Film Festival, and more. Moxie recently graduated from the Filmmaking MFA program at NYU in 2020, and is developing their debut feature Tender is the Night.
Hao Zheng is a recent Student Academy Award-winning director (The Chef), with a BFA in Film Production from Emerson College and a MFA in Directing from the American Film Institute. His films have screened in over 50 international film festivals, including Short Shorts Tokyo and Interfilm Berlin, and were awarded the Best International Film Award at Show Me Shorts (New Zealand) and the AT&T Film Award. He has also worked extensively as an actor in Chinese films and television series.
The finalists were picked earlier this year and have been taking part in a three-month program consisting of classes, pre- and post-production, plus more. Each of the filmmakers was paired with a creative executive mentor at Disney and were challenged to create original films that fell under the inaugural theme of “Discover”.
While the Coronavirus situation has caused some production delays, the filmmakers and their mentors have been working remotely and they’ve begun casting for their shorts and picking their crew. Production will commence, once its safe to do so.
Roger has been a Disney fan since he was a kid and this interest has grown over the years. He has visited Disney Parks around the globe and has a vast collection of Disney movies and collectibles. He is the owner of What's On Disney Plus & DisKingdom.