Fawzia Mirza, Roshan Sethi, And Zoya Akhtar, Join Fourth Annual 1497 Features Lab As Mentors

Zoya Akhtar (The Archies), Fawzia Mirza (Queen of My Dreams) and Roshan Sethi (A Nice Indian Boy) are set to join the 1497 Features Lab as mentors.

Returning for a fourth year, the nonprofit 1497’s annual Features Lab will again offer mentorship, script development and industry access to elevate and advance the careers of screenwriters of South Asian descent. After expanding the lab to a fully in-person format last year, this year’s program will include an intensive Retreat and subsequent Pitch Day. The retreat will take place October 23-28 in Malibu.

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The 1497 Features Lab, the group’s signature impact program, entails three rounds of rigorous evaluation by independent selection committees to ultimately discover three mentees to invest in. Each mentee is then paired with a pod of mentors — comprised of an established filmmaker, producer, industry representative, and a 1497 Features Lab alum — from whom they receive feedback on their scripts and access to exclusive resources and career navigation.

In addition to meeting with their mentors individually during the retreat, mentees will also have the opportunity to work with Columbia professor Adrienne Weiss focusing on the emotional journey of their film through workshops with actors and participate in engaging master classes and fireside chats to provide additional professional development and inspiration.

“The 1497 Features Lab is a complete game-changer for South Asian creatives in film,” said 2023 mentee Maya Bastian. “I gained valuable insight into both my feature script and my career, and I now have a clear direction on how to move forward. The attention to detail was wonderful and the atmosphere the team created was simply incredible.”

Along with Akhtar, Mirza and Sethi, this year’s industry guests in the mentor pods include Talha Asad (HBO), Aanch Khaneja (Superspecial), Karim Lakhani (head of development at Yvonne Orji’s in and thru), along with returning mentors Mohammad Ali (Authentic), Raj Raghavan (Issa Rae’s ColorCreative) and Priya Satiani (Entertainment 360). 1497 alums Jaclyn Backhaus, Toby Fell-Holden and Swetha Regunathan will join the cohort for peer-to-peer support. Additional guests will be announced.

Taking into account all the guests in the mentor pods and selection committees and the additional advisors, the 1497 Features Lab team will again highlight representation from all eight recognized South Asian countries: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, The Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

“We always strive to foster an inclusive space where individuals of all backgrounds feel acknowledged, while championing our community’s voices by empowering them to write without boundaries,” said the 1497 co-founders in a joint statement today. “Over the last three years we’ve seen the impact of our Lab firsthand and are thrilled to witness the remarkable strides our Mentees’ careers have taken since participating.” Notable Mentee achievements following their time in the 1497 Features Lab include acceptance into the Sundance Lab, receipt of a Blumhouse Screamwriting Fellowship, and placement in a Netflix writers room. One Mentee’s next project will be produced by Barry Jenkins’ Pastel.

Founded in 2020 by Adeel Ahmed, Kamran Khan and Lipica Shah, 1497 is an organization dedicated to supporting and uplifting artists of South Asian descent and challenging their historic exclusion from and underrepresentation in the American film and television industry. Their name signifies the year before colonization began in the area now known as South Asia, and they have established themselves as a reliable leader in the efforts to increase authentic and diverse representation of South Asians in the entertainment industry.

“Our commitment to challenging the status quo is unwavering, and we actively translate our principles into intentional action,” said Ahmed, Khan and Shah. “We take pride in our organization’s growth, which allows us to provide increased value to our Mentees and the South Asian creative community.”

In just the last year, the organization has hosted a launch event with Hasan Minhaj, produced the second annual 1497 South Asian Lodge at the Sundance Film Festival where speakers Mira Nair, Ritesh Batra, Alok Vaid Menon and others joined, and co-hosted a dinner to celebrate the South Asian filmmakers at SXSW with Lilly Singh and most recently an Eid event with Gold House.

Applications for the 2024 Features Lab opened on April 19 for global applicants exclusively on Coverfly. The deadline to apply is May 25 and the application fee is waived until May 5. Filmmakers from all South Asian backgrounds, experience levels, and geographic regions are encouraged to apply. Applicants must be at least 18 years old, have a complete draft of a narrative feature film, and be eligible to be in the United States for the duration of the lab retreat. More details: 1497’s website and FAQ. Follow @1497org on Instagram.

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