Disney’s ‘Launchpad’ Shorts Schedule Announces Season 2 Filmmakers (EXCLUSIVE)


Disney Plus has announced the movies and filmmakers for the second season of Disney Studios Content’s “Launchpad,” a collection of live-action shorts.

Selected from nearly 2,000 applicants, all from underrepresented backgrounds, the selection of filmmakers includes six screenwriters (Jasmine Johnson, Kevin Park, WAW Parker, Xavier Stiles and the married screenwriting team of Joel Perez and Adrian Ferbeyre), five directors (Alexander Bocchieri, Erica Eng, Spencer Glover, Cashmere Jasmine and Gabriela Ortega) and a writer-director (Niki Ang). Their six shorts, based on the theme “connection”, will debut on the streaming service in 2023.

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After the successful launch of the pipeline program last year, the Disney team has been working to up the ante with Year Two. Disney Senior Director Phillip Domfeh, who is leading the initiative’s second season, recounts Variety that the team asked: “How can we develop and expand our impact? And how do we continue to take our program to the next level? »

The pipeline program therefore added a writing track, which allowed directors and screenwriters to apply, while the first season was only for multi-hyphenated filmmakers.

“One of the most obvious opportunities was to bring writers into the program,” says Domfeh. “They’re really, really important in this industry and often overlooked, and we believe diversity starts on the page before it happens on camera.”

That meant filmmakers applied separately, sending their writing and directing samples to the Disney team for review before being paired with another writer or director.

Domfeh and the Disney team began their selection process by analyzing the scripts. “Let’s identify the stories that we are most passionate about, the stories that resonate with us, the stories that we feel like we haven’t seen,” he says. “And then find the right directors to bring them to life.”

From there, the team hoped for a “little bit of magic” to find the right chords.

“There’s a je ne sais quoi to cinema, and you see a short film that someone has made, and then you see a script,” Domfeh begins. “For example, we have a female director, Gabriela Ortega, whose sample was more on the horror side of the film, kind of surreal, compared to that storyline in ‘Beautiful, Fl.’ which had these very dynamic elements. and boosted – like I know that sounds weird, but we think these two would really, really vibe.

He adds: “The vision is always looking for authenticity, never trying to categorize a storyteller or say that’s the only type of thing they can bring, but trying to bring what we have ahead. us in the truest way possible.

The Launchpad team then introduced the filmmakers to each other via email. “When everyone tuned in, I breathed a sigh of relief,” admits Domfeh. “Everyone raves about the filmmakers they work with, so we got it.”

Like “Launchpad” Season 1, the program was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic; after the filmmakers were told they had been selected in December, they were welcomed into a virtual orientation instead of meeting in person.

During this orientation, however, the filmmakers were surprised by a special guest – Carlos López Estrada, the Oscar-nominated director of Disney’s “Raya and the Last Dragon.”

“He shared from the bottom of his heart what it’s like to take this journey as a filmmaker coming out of the independent space – this rough work environment, pull yourself by your boots – into the studio environment, which is without a doubt very different,” says Domfeh. “We really want to keep doing that and creating those connecting moments for filmmakers. We have other exciting things planned.

Estrada is just one of the main Disney strengths the filmmakers will interact with, in addition to Disney’s senior creative executives who will mentor them throughout the program.

“It takes a lot of people from a different point of view to do a great job, but we definitely saw it as an opportunity to try to connect with the filmmakers and have someone in their life who understands the journey. “Domfeh said.

The new group of filmmakers also received valuable advice from the Season 1 crew on working within the studio system.

“They were dying to take them in and create an extended community where each season the other cohort teaches them all their lessons and imparts all their wisdom,” Ibrahim says. “They did a panel where it was about lessons learned from Season 1, how to shoot on a studio production, how to shoot successfully during COVID.”

The general theme of the Filmmakers’ Councils centered on compliance with union regulations.

“One of the key themes of Launchpad is to provide this training opportunity for our filmmakers – whether they are from the theater, from the independent world, from film school, who have absolutely no idea or exposure to this it takes to make a film in the studio”, says Ibrahim. . “After going through that process, they now know that making a $200 million movie is the exact same union process, but with more resources.”

Film crews are now in the script development phase of the year-long program, with filming expected to begin over the summer.

“We’re so excited,” Domfeh said of their progress so far. “These stories are crazy. They’re beautiful, they’re funny, they’re dynamic, they’re scary. There’s such a beautiful plethora and vibrancy to the stories that we’re going to tell.

He admits that a few of the projects brought him to tears. “It’s hard to make me cry after reading a script, and it’s happened many times,” he says. “It was a sign that the storytellers were manifesting the theme of connection in an unspoken way that I didn’t see coming. They’re a really imaginative and creative group.

Domfeh is thrilled with how the new lineup adds to the entire Launchpad program, representing a collection of stories that will only grow in impact as new movies launch on Disney Plus each season. “As we go on, there will just be this treasure trove of storytelling,” he says.

Launchpad’s inaugural class is already seeing success outside of the pipeline program, notes Mahin Ibrahim, director of representation and inclusion and content talent journeys. Season one filmmaker Ann Marie Pace is set to direct an episode of Disney Plus’ “High School Musical: The Musical – The Series.”

“She’s being prepared right now on set,” Ibrahim reports. “Part of what we tried to do [with Launchpad] is to open that door; it’s all about access and opportunity, creating over 100 creative connections between our filmmakers and creative executives across the company and our various brands.

Pace directed the short “Growing Fangs” during the Launchpad program, which impressed the Disney Branded TV team and helped them land the “High School Musical” gig. (Note: Pace was also a Disney employee, working as a media creative coordinator for the Disney Channel.)

“They snuck up on his short, which was a testament to [Pace] really understood the brand, and they just thought it was a perfect fit,” says Ibrahim, adding that Pace is an LGBTQ filmmaker and that “HSMTMTS” showrunner Tim Federle was especially keen to help elevate the next generation of LGBTQ talent. .

“This is just the beginning of what we hope will be thousands of success stories for our launchpad filmmakers,” she says.

The lineup of Season 2 “Launchpad” shorts (with working titles) and filmmakers are:

“Beautiful, FL” – Director: Gabriela Ortega; Screenwriters: Joel Perez and Adrian Ferbeyre
A teenage girl struggles to get spare parts from her eclectic trailer park neighbors and fix the family RV in time to share the special flavor of her tia abuela at the annual Beautiful, FL ice cream contest.

“Black Belts” – Director: Spencer Glover; Screenwriter: Xavier Stiles
KJ, a quirky middle schooler and martial arts movie nerd from Compton, challenges the best dojos in South Los Angeles, wearing his uncle’s old black belt. But when her veteran dad gets too involved, the two learn there’s more to life than just being on her toes.

“The Ghost” – Director: Erica Eng; Screenwriter: Kevin Park
Clarice Cheung, 12, feels invisible in her family, especially next to her older sister Naomi. But when a powerful ghost appears in their home, the estranged sisters will have to team up and stop it before their family is torn apart forever.

“Maxine” – Director/Writer: Niki Ang
Nervous about introducing her first girlfriend to her family, a queer student receives help from the spirit of a long-lost relative during the Hungry Ghost Festival.

“Project CC” – Director: Cashmere Jasmine; Screenwriter: Jasmine Johnson
A brilliant child scientist must reconnect with her beauty influencer sister when a cloning experiment goes awry.

“The Roof” — Director: Alexander Bocchieri; Screenwriter: W.A.W. Parker
After being sent to stay with his grandfather, a teenage Cheyenne discovers a secret that connects him to his family and community in ways he never thought possible.

For more information on the program, including a complete list of all semi-finalists and finalists, visit https://launchpad.disney.com/2021directors#finalists.

[Pictured: Top row (left to right): Niki Ang, Alex Bocchieri, Erica Eng, Adrian Ferbeyre. Middle row: Spencer Glover, Cashmere Jasmine, Jasmine Johnson, Gabriela Ortega. Bottom row: Kevin Park, W.A.W. Parker, Joel Perez, Xavier Stiles]

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