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Meet the 2023 Half Initiative Production Assistant Intensive Mentees



12 participants have been selected into the Half Initiative Production Assistant Intensive Program in New York and New Jersey.


In an effort to create equal opportunities for women, BIPOC and minorities behind the camera, the Production Assistant (PA) Intensive creates an educational opportunity for emerging talent to learn how to be an episodic production assistant by training alongside production assistants on a Ryan Murphy production, supporting and working with the crew at all levels of production. Our mission is to provide them with a skill set to become a viable hire in the world of television production. 


The PA mentees work as paid production assistants and receive access to job training by working in the production office, on set and in departments they are interested in. Mentees receive opportunities to learn from production staff about their craft and the various aspects of physical production, reading call sheets, protocols for the flow of production and what makes a great PA who will succeed and move up. In addition, the Half Initiative hosts various workshops, panels and small group discussions with mentors from Ryan Murphy Productions to further their education and increase their industry network. Half PA mentees that are alumni of the PA Intensive also join orientation sessions to share their experience and offer advice to the incoming cohort. The Half Initiative works in partnership with all Ryan Murphy Productions, in collaboration with Disney, F/X, Netflix and 20th Century Studios. The 2024 application is open from February 1 - 29 at halfinitiative.com.


Since 2020, over 40 mentees have completed the PA Intensive and gone on to join camera and costume unions, become assistants to directors, showrunners and studio executives. Success stories include Eden Daniel, director’s assistant to Blitz Bazawule on The Color Purple, Ashley Benish, currently executive assistant to VP of Physical Production at Marvel, Imani Grant who joined the local 600 and Gurv Sindhu who is currently working on American Horror Stories as a full time set walkie PA. Past program mentors and advisors have included Tanase Popa, executive producer, Ryan Murphy Productions, Steven Canals, director/producer, POSE, Max Winkler, director/producer, American Horror Stories, Jamie McCall, Production Designer, American Horror Story, Joaquin Sedillo, director of photography, 9-1-1 and Paris Barclay, director/producer, Dahmer - Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story. 


Half Initiative PA Intensive mentees 2023

"The last few weeks have honestly been transformational and I am so thankful for it all!” - Kaylah Dilligard, 2023 Half PA mentee



Alexis Barry is a Howard University Alumna with a B.A. in T.V. and Film and a Minor in Political Science. She is an emerging creative director, producer, and content creator. She is based in the New York/New Jersey area. Alexis has had experience curating media content, facilitating on sets, compiling recap decks, and researching consumer marketing insights for numerous brands. Her most recent work in film was writing and directing her senior thesis short film called “Divine Timing”.  Alexis hopes to amplify her voice and increase representation of minorities through storytelling in film. One fun fact is that Alexis has an interest in fashion and has learned to sew through YouTube. 



Kaylah Dilligard. R​​esilient. Curious. Determined. These three words provide a loose umbrella of who Kaylah is as a person. Born and raised in Maplewood, New Jersey; Kaylah has always been quiet and reserved. Living in DC for 2 years gave her the opportunity to break out of her shell and truly grow into herself. Kaylah is a recent graduate of Howard University where she obtained her bachelor’s degree in TV & Film production. She was the 1st AC of a short film titled ‘Sincerely Jonah’ which won the first ever Focus Features Innovation and Creativity award in May. Since graduating, Kaylah has been doing freelance work to continue learning and building on her craft. Kaylah’s experience in film stems from her work with Secret Society Motion Pictures (SSMP). This is where her love for on set production and passion for cameras began to bloom. She has had the opportunity to be a production assistant, gaffer, set designer, producer and more for various music videos. Overall, Kaylah is a student. She never wants to stop learning and she hopes to grow into a great TV/film producer.



Matthew Gonzalez is a queer Puerto Rican from New York City and a curious creative with a passion for television and film. Matthew’s innate love for television along with his mother’s support inspired him on his journey to become a storyteller. He would share his zany stories to which she enjoyed and encouraged.She was the key person in his life who always motivated him to be his true self, and allowed him to learn that through storytelling he can bring joy to others. Matthew attended Montclair State University where he graduated with a BA in Psychology. Throughout his career, he worked in Customer Service and continued to stay creative and learn about the industry by attending Yellowbrick/NYU Film and TV Essentials course. Matthew wants to work in television and film to evoke emotions in others through entertainment. His goal is to amplify diverse stories for the BIPOC LGBTQ+ community by creating and developing television throughout his career.



Danielle Griffith graduated from Brooklyn College with a degree in Film Production and a minor in Television. She chose film because she loves to spotlight cultures/groups not often seen in the film/TV industry despite being so prevalent in her New York City childhood. She comes from a Black West Indian household, a culture rarely represented in the entertainment industry which she sought to remedy with her thesis short film, Hang Up. Since graduating college she has tried to follow through on her commitment by working as a producing intern at Besties Make Movies a small production company dedicated to bringing diverse, LGBTQ+, and female voices to film and TV. She worked as a PA on their short film Queen of Magic and on a sizzle reel for their web series Cash Grab. Within the year of 2023, she completed Reel Work’s PA Training Program Sponsored by Amazon Studios and her Maven Screen Media internship writing script coverage. Danielle has always loved filmmaking. She made her first independent short film in high school under the Tribeca Film Fellowship that subsequently screened at the Tribeca Film Festival. There is nothing she wants more than to be a part of actualizing the interesting stories fellow creators write as well as her own stories in the future.



Frank Herrera, a Dominican American filmmaker from Bayonne NJ. Growing up, he mainly played baseball all his life, from little league to college level. Now as an NJCU graduate with a bachelor's degree in Media Arts, he’s had 5 years of video production experience. From pre-production to production to even post, he’s learned to work through the whole process. He has been a part of many independent projects for clients including commercials for clothing brands, short films and even music videos. Along with film, he also loves to make music. As a self-recording artist known as “AVX”, he’s directed/edited many music videos of his own along with the help of his peers. As a young filmmaker, he aims to bring people of all cultures together in the future stories he and his team creates. Inspired by A24, he is also on the path to developing his own film production company that brings new ideas to the film industry. He hopes to meet more creatives along the way that will invest into the company in order to bring more visions and concepts to life.



Chelby Joseph is a recent graduate from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, possesses an unwavering passion for storytelling. Growing up in Illinois, Chelby found solace in writing, especially since there wasn't much else to do in her town. With an impressive range of studies, including Dramatic Writing, Producing, and Mandarin-Chinese, Chelby is a true force to be reckoned with. Her pilot School Spirit was selected as a finalist in the prestigious 2023 Fusion Film Festival, which showcases up-and-coming talent in the entertainment industry. Additionally, her pilot How to Survive Past 18 is ranked as one of the top sci-fi scripts on Coverfly. With internship experience at entertainment powerhouses like HBO, SNL, Sony Pictures, and more, Chelby is dedicated to paving a way for herself in the industry and highlighting POC voices while she’s at it.



Lipton Khan is a budding Trinidadian-American filmmaker hailing from Rochester, NY. He’s a student at the SUNY Purchase Filmmaking BFA program and a young storyteller with hope for the industry’s future. He writes stories that focus on mental health, queer love, and coming into one’s own. As a minority a few times over, he prioritizes telling the stories of people who are underrepresented. He has worked as a writer-director, editor, and a production designer, and has fallen in love with the entire filmmaking journey in the process. Khan intends to be a storyteller whose stories truly touch people. He writes and creates for those like him– those who aren’t used to seeing themselves in front of or behind the camera.



Martin Olloren is a graduate from the University of Arizona, where he received his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film and Television. Coming from a STEM family, he was encouraged to follow in their footsteps. While he entered college as an engineering major, he knew his passion was in storytelling. Though reluctant, his parents had agreed to let him change majors. He applied to the school’s BFA program and was one of only 12 students selected to be in the program. Throughout his undergraduate career, he directed both scripted and unscripted films revolving around issues of immigration, homelessness, and LGBTQ+ issues. His most recent film, TWIXXX, premiered at the annual "I Dream in Widescreen" event held in Tucson, Arizona, where it won Best Filmmaking/Directing. It was later accepted into the LGBTQ+ Toronto Film Festival, where it won Best Performances. Since then, Martin has moved across the country to New York to continue pursuing my dream of telling the stories of the marginalized.



Alysha Prasad is a bisexual woman of color, who recently moved to New York City to pursue her dream of writing and directing her own films. She graduated summa cum laude from DePaul University with a Master of Science in Film and Television and a concentration in cinematography. She has been a freelance film writer for over three years and works as a staff writer and editor for Flip Screen. As a member of the accredited press, she has covered the Cannes Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, Sundance Film Festival, and Fantasia Film Festival. Her film reviews and articles have been published in online media outlets, such as One Room With A View, Film Daze, and Screen Queens.



Miga Purev-Ochir graduated from Harvard College in 2017 with a degree in studio arts with a focus on painting. During her senior year, she took electives in 16mm Bolex filmmaking and a lecture course about horror film. This combination sparked an interest in filmmaking that she has pursued since. She started her film career in Mongolia, her home country, and worked for several years in indie filmmaking, starting out as PA and, eventually, became a production coordinator. Miga made the transition to the camera department as a camera trainee last year, before moving to NYC. This past summer, she learned the ins and outs of set electric work through a training program organized by Reelworks and IATSE Local 52. Her goal is to gain production experience on a union production. In 5 years, she hopes to be a proud union member in NYC and working in the Camera and Electrical department (in what capacity, she isn’t sure, but eager to find out). In her free time, she enjoys film photography, knitting vests, and watching horror movies -- all of which she is always happy to discuss.



Sindell Thomas is from Long Island, New York and believes that the cinema is a place we can escape to and forget about all our problems, even if it’s for a few hours. He knows a memorable cinematic experience is a form of euphoria no other sense of joy can provide. Sindell’s favorite film genres are Horror, Non-Fiction and Action Adventure. His interest are directing and writing - and on the other hand, he wants to develop his skills in the camera, sound or grip department. Sindell studied at the University of Hofstra in New York where he earned his bachelor’s in film studies and production with a minor in criminology. Ultimately in the next 5 years he would like to direct his first Hollywood film. 



Oliver Zel is a queer, Cuban-American director and photographer based in New York. Currently enrolled in the Film/TV Production at NYU Tisch School of the Arts, Zel's bold editorial aesthetic, showcased through his prolific fine art (Oliverzel.com), has been exhibited at Art Basel and the ICA Miami, often exploring masculinity, queerness, and sexuality. In 2022, Zel released his debut short film, BLISTER, which garnered over 88k views and was awarded Best Film at several LGBTQ+ festivals nationwide.



Ryan Murphy’s Half Initiative produces a more inclusive entertainment industry by creating equal opportunities for women, BIPOC, and LGBTQ people and minorities behind the camera. The Director Shadowing Program mentors emerging and mid-career directors through one full episode of television. The Production Assistant (PA) Intensive provides access to mentorship, education and job opportunities with Ryan Murphy Productions. For more information visit www.halfinitiative.com.

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