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Filmmaker David E. Talbert Establishes HBCU Next At USC School Of Cinematic Arts

EXCLUSIVE: Jingle Jangle and Almost Christmas director/writer/producer David E. Talbert is launching HBCU Next, a fellowship program that will bring aspiring filmmakers from Historically Black Colleges and Universities to the USC School of Cinematic Arts (SCA) Summer Program.

Talbert conceived and funded HBCU Next alongside his wife and producing partner Lyn Sisson-Talbert as an opportunity to enrich the educational experience for students of Color. Within this program, participants will gain essential career insights and the creative skills required to develop more authentic portrayals of Black experiences and culture within screenwriting, filmmaking, and the evolving media landscape.

Talbert says, “Our overall objective is to foster an environment for students from HBCUs and USC to engage in cultural exchange, learning from one another’s experiences and backgrounds, and to provide access to an education conducive to giving Black storytellers a pipeline to the entertainment industry.”

“The industry gets to benefit from the uniqueness and authenticity of stories that that they might not be privy to,” adds the filmmaker.

He adds, “Having graduated from an HBCU, and working in the business for over 30 years, I understand it’s never the artistry or intellect, but the access, that keeps people of Color from finding their way in. HBCU Next was created to bridge that gap. Our Next is now.”

As part of the program, Talbert be will be mentoring students in directing and screenwriting. Students will have access to courses in advanced screenwriting, advanced directing, animation, producing editing and gaming.

Talbert is also planning on a roster of HBCU graduates to speak at HBCU Next including but not limited to Forest Whitaker, Tim Story, Ruth Carter, J.B. Smoove and Anika Noni Rose.

Added Elizabeth Daley, Dean of USC School of Cinematic Arts (SCA), “As we embark on this transformative journey, guided by the expertise of our esteemed SCA faculty and Mr. Talbert, we are committed to fostering and amplifying the diverse voices and rich cultural narratives these talented HBCU students will bring to USC, and eventually to the industry. Without a doubt, they are the next generation of trailblazers.”

The program’s first two participants, Directing/Producing Fellow Sha-Shonna Rogers and Screenwriting Fellow Imani Mullings, are current students at Morgan State University, Talbert’s alma mater.  Both fellows received round-trip airfare, full tuition, and housing, to attend the 2023 Summer Program at the USC School of Cinematic Arts campus in Los Angeles.

As the Directing/Producing Fellow, Rogers enrolled in Filmmaking Intensive which introduces students to the basic technical and aesthetic concepts underlying motion picture production. In this course, students collaborate with their fellow filmmakers in various core roles (director, producer, and cinematographer) on three digital short films.

Mullings took Advanced Screenwriting: Writing the First Draft Feature Screenplay, a class where students work with their instructors and peers in a “writers’ room” setting to complete the first draft of a three-act, full-length feature screenplay in under six weeks.

“HBCU Next was a once in a lifetime opportunity that gave us HBCU students a chance to shine,” says Mullings. “It enabled me to hone my skills as a writer, express myself through my storytelling, and made me feel even more excited for my future as a Black storyteller!”

Said David Weitzner, Director of the SCA Summer Program: “Programs like this can help us find the future leaders that will impact our industry. Sha-Shonna and Imani are model examples of the remarkably talented storytellers that are waiting to be discovered at HBCUs. The work they created this summer was simply extraordinary. We are so grateful to David and Lyn for their vision and generosity in establishing the HBCU Next program. We hope other industry partners will join us in awarding HBCU Next fellowships in the years to come.”

Talbert’s feature filmmaking credits also include First Sunday starring Ice Cube, Katt Williams and Tracy Morgan, and Baggage Claim starring Paula Patton, Taye Diggs, Jill Scott and Djimon Hounsou.


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