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First Class

Meet our mentees and mentors.

Are you interested in being a mentor for our next class of writers? Contact us at info@giantleapaccelerator.com

Lisa Sanaye Dring
Mentee

Lisa was honored as a recipient of the 2020/21 PLAY LA Stage Raw/ Humanitas Prize. She has been a finalist the Relentless Award, the Bay Area Playwrights Festival, the Seven Devils Playwrights Conference and the O’Neill Playwrights Conference. Kaidan Project: Walls Grow Thin, a play she co-wrote with Chelsea SuVon, was nominated for 8 Ovation Awards including Best Production (winner of 5). Lisa’s work has been developed/produced by The New Group, Actors Theatre of Louisville, East West Players, Circle X, SCF @ Son of Semele, Playwrights’ Arena, Rogue Artists Ensemble and with the DCA’s Reimagine Public Art Series. Lisa was a member of East West Players’ Playwrights Group and is a MacDowell and Yaddo Fellow. She’s acted on Shameless, Grown-ish, NCIS, Good Girls and Shut Eye, and as Danielle on two seasons of How to get Away with Murder. Lisa is the Associate Artistic Director of Circle X Theatre Co.

Lana Cho
Mentor

Lana Cho is a SoCal native and a graduate of USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. She got her start writing television through the Disney ABC TV Writing Fellowship. Her writing and producing credits include Greek (ABC Family), The Playboy Club (NBC), Arrow (The CW), The Get Down (Netflix), The Long Road Home (NatGeo), Minority Report (Fox), Timeless (NBC), Falling Water (USA), Four Weddings and a Funeral (Hulu), and I Know What You Did Last Summer (Amazon). She has previously sold pilots to 20th Century Fox, Showtime, and FX Network. Currently, Lana has a pilot set up at Hulu and a feature at Netflix based on Maurene Goo’s YA novel Somewhere Only We Know.

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Lee Hubilla & Tea Ho
Mentees

Lee and Tea are two goofballs who met at Magnet Theater in NYC as part of an all-Asian improv group called “Brown ABBA.” Lee (a Jersey-raised first-gen Filipina) and Tea (a Cali-raised Viet refugee) cast aside their East Coast/West Coast rivalry to join forces and uplift Asian stories. They use comedy to get people to let down their guards, question their assumptions, and come together.

Independently, Lee produced, wrote, and directed two shorts films for the Asian American Film Lab’s 72hr ShootOut (both placing in the top 40, with “Almond Milk” making the top 10). Tea was a semi-finalist for WeScreenplay’s 2021 Diverse voices and a semi-finalist for Ben Cory Jones’ (Insecure, Boomerang) TV writing program. Tea is currently a writing fellow in Lena Waithe’s inaugural Hillman Grad Mentorship Lab. Last year, Tea and Lee’s project “Wispy Business” was a finalist at HBO’s Women in Comedy Festival.

Sasie Sealy
Mentor

Sasie Sealy is an award-winning writer/director based in New York City, with a (still) lingering Southern drawl. She began her directing career studying photography with Gregory Crewdson and writing and performing with the sketch comedy troupe The Fifth Humour. However, her love of striking visuals and physical comedy soon took cinemaHc form and a lifelong addiction to filmmaking was born. Sasie’s debut feature film Lucky Grandma premiered at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival and had Sasie listed by The New York Times as one of “9 Filmmakers Who Should Be on Your Radar.” The film was released theatrically earlier this year to rave reviews and has appeared on multiple “Best of 2020” lists, including from Indiewire, New York Magazine, and Refinery29. Sasie was also recently included on the 2020 Alice Initiative list of Emerging Female Directors. Her shorts have screened at the Smithsonian Institute and festivals around the world, and she has twice been awarded the short filmmaking prize at the Tribeca Film Festival, with New York Magazine calling her film The Elephant Garden “one of the most touching and poignant films we’ve seen this year.” A fellowship and new short with HBO in 2014 led to a chance to direct episodic television and her first DGA nomination in 2016. Sasie is also a member of Bullitt Branded, the filmmaking collective and creative studio founded by Justin Lin and the Russo Brothers. Fresh out of film school, she first made her mark in the commercial world of fashion and beauty, and she continues to direct projects for everyone from Maybelline to Calvin Klein. Her commercial work has been featured in Vogue, Glamour, Style.com, and Refinery29. She is currently developing the television series Sugarland at Amazon, with Ilana Glazer executive producing. And is hard at work on her next movie.

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Ben Kim
Mentee

Ben Kim is a television writer quarantined in Hacienda Heights, California with with his fiancé and pug, Pickles. After growing up in the deep purple state of Georgia, he went on to receive an MFA from the FSU Film School. He writes one-hour dramas that amplify Asian Americans. Ben was previously a writers’ assistant and writers’ production assistant on Ava DuVernay’s Queen Sugar. Before the pandemic, he enjoyed group fitness classes with old Chinese ladies and cooking for whomever would taste his food.

Matt K. Turner
Mentor

Born in Hawaii, Matt K. Turner’s childhood was a wild ride through nudist colonies, snake wranglers, and long stay in a small a cabin with no running water or electricity. He eventually made it to UC Santa Barbara where he graduated with honors in Film Studies, only to make a bold career change to music. After years of late night DJ gigs and running his own record label, Turner returned to his roots in film and wrote the independent dramedy feature Family Weekend, starring Matthew Modine and Joey King. Turner then branched out into television through the ABC Writing Program, which led to a staffing position on the ABC drama The Family, starring Joan Allen. These days Turner likes to keep things interesting by working on projects in both film and television. In film Turner has been busy adapting IP for major studios such as Playstation/Sony and Universal. In television he worked on the final season of the hit Starz drama Power before jumping on to the upcoming spin-off Raising Kanan for two seasons. Turner is currently a writer/producer on the highly anticipated NBC limited series The Thing About Pam, starring Renee Zellweger.

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Ryan Kim
Mentee

Ryan Kim is a Creative Writing MFA graduate from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. He was a 2019 Nickelodeon Writing Program Semi-Finalist. He’s had short fiction published in Lunch Ticket, Ariel Chart, Hidden Chapter, and The 22 Magazine, and non-fiction published in Reclaim, Popula, RipRap, and Ricepaper.

Dennis Lee
Mentor

Dennis Lee was born and raised in Chicago. After graduating from the University of Chicago, he moved to New York City to aVend Columbia University’s M.F.A. Film Program. While at Columbia, his thesis short film, JESUS HENRY CHRIST, received numerous awards, including the Academy of MoHon Picture Arts and Sciences Student Academy Award. After graduation, Dennis moved to Los Angeles, where he was selected to the prestigious ABC/Disney Television Workshop. As an ABC Directing Fellow, he shadowed on such hit TV shows as ALIAS, BROTHERS & SISTERS, DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES, and GREY’S ANATOMY. Dennis made his feature film debut with FIREFLIES IN THE GARDEN, a semi-autobiographical drama, which he wrote and directed. Financed by Senator Entertainment, the film stars Ryan Reynolds, Willem Dafoe, Emily Watson, Carrie Ann Moss, Hayden Panettiere and Julia Roberts. FIREFLIES IN THE GARDEN made its world premiere at the Berlin Film Festival, 2008. Dennis made his second feature film with JESUS HENRY CHRIST. Based on his award-winning short film, the family comedy stars Michael Sheen and Toni Collette, and is executive produced by Julia Roberts. The film had its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival, 2011. In 2015, he co-founded Atomic Features, a multi-media production company. Under the banner of Atomic Features, he produced IMPERIUM, starring Daniel Radcliffe and Toni ColeVe. Released domestically by Lionsgate Premiere, IMPERIUM opened to rave reviews.

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Julie Lew
Mentee

Julie Lew began her career filming live music concerts and working in the camera department on various film and television sets. She helped oversee production of the Emmy Award-winning interactive series ARTIFICIAL and the revival of the hit web series EMMA APPROVED, based on Jane Austen’s novel. Showrunner Bernie Su let Julie join the writer’s room of EMMA APPROVED, because although she had no prior writing experience, she possessed a lot of extraneous knowledge about Jane Austen. She’s been interested in making a living out of coming up with stories ever since. Julie recently graduated from USC’s Peter Stark Program. By day, she works at a production company, and by other parts of the day and night, writes and produces her own projects. Julie aspires for her work to spark conversations about positive social change, and to use her voice to challenge prejudice, fight discrimination, and uplift diverse stories.

Diane Paragas
Mentor

Diane Paragas is an award-winning writer/director, editor, cinematographer and producer of narrative features, documentaries and commercials. In 2019, Paragas completed her debut narrative feature, Yellow Rose, about an undocumented Filipino-American teen pursuing a dream to become a country music singer. The film won over a dozen Grand Jury and Audience Awards and was distributed by Sony Pictures theatrically in 2020 to critical acclaim receiving certified fresh status on Rotten Tomatoes. Yellow Rose made history by being the first Filipino American film theatrically distributed by a major Hollywood studio. She owns and operates Civilian Studios a Brooklyn based production company. In 2012, she co-directed Brooklyn Boheme, a feature length documentary about an African American arts movement that she made in tandem with writer and critic Nelson George. The film which featured Spike Lee, Chris Rock, Rosie Perez and many others premiered on Showtime and went on to win the Black Reel Award for TV Best Documentary. Paragas is currently in pre-production for a bold feature documentary about a wrongfully convicted undocumented immigrant called “The Three Lives of David Wong” that uses puppetry to tell its story. The film is being supported by Sundance Creative Producing Labs, the Bertha Foundation and the Center for Asian American Media. Ms Paragas is a 2020 recipient of the prestigious Creative Capital Award.

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Kevin Ramlal
Mentee

Kevin Ramlal is a Canadian-born, Texas-raised South Asian with roots in Trinidad as well as Tanzania. Growing up with multiple cultural influences, Kevin focuses on stories about outsiders and the idea of belonging, always with a genre slant and a fusion of comedy and drama. His recent screenplays, spanning shorts, TV pilots, and features, have placed in multiple screenwriting competitions. He got his start in storytelling after teaching himself video editing while simultaneously working backstage on his high school theatre productions. Kevin graduated from the University of Southern California with a BFA in Film & Television Production. He has produced and directed music videos, web-series, short films, documentaries, and VR experiences. Professionally, Kevin has run the gamut of entertainment with experience in music, advertising, digital content creation, and literary management. Most recently, Kevin worked on Freeform’s Kal Penn Approves This Message.

Matthew Okumura
Mentor

Matt is currently writing on a flagship series for Paramount+. He has previously staffed on Amazon’s LEVERAGE: REDEMPTION reboot and CBS’s BLOOD & TREASURE. He was also a Co-Producer on AMC’s INTO THE BADLANDS.

Before making the jump to writing, Matt was VP of Development for Millar Gough Ink, a production company created by screenwriters Al Gough & Miles Millar.  While there, he was fortunate to work on such genre properties as Sam Raimi’s SPIDER-MAN 2 and SMALLVILLE.

A graduate of the Peter Stark Producing Program at USC, Matt got his start interning at Sony Pictures and DreamWorks where he once saw a chimpanzee kiss Steven Spielberg. It remains the highlight of his career.

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Ivan Tsang
Mentee

An MFA Graduate of NYU TISCH, Ivan Tsang was most recently a 2019 HBO Access fellow where he developed an original pilot that HBO re-opHoned in March 2021. Previously, Ivan moved to LA to write for the rising generaHon of Asian American influencers, and shorts and sketches he wrote during that time have been viewed over a 100 million times. Viral success opened many doors and as a result, Ivan was able to write and develop feature films for over half a dozen production companies. Currently, Ivan is writing original features for both JUBILEE MEDIA and DEXTER STUDIOS.

April Shih
Mentor

April Shih is a Los Angeles-based television writer/producer and filmmaker. April aVended film school at NYU Tisch School of the Arts. She has been a fellow of the Sundance Episodic Story Lab, CAPE New Writers Fellowship, CBS Writers Mentoring Program, and the inaugural Film Independent Episodic Lab. She has written for FX’s critically acclaimed comedy YOU’RE THE WORST, MRS. AMERICA (starring Cate BlancheV), and UNDONE (on Amazon) and DAVE She received the WGA Award for her writing in Mrs. America. She currently is a Supervising Producer on DAVE.

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