Pillars Fund

Pillars Recap: Pillars Artist Fellows Take on LA

Posted By Pillars Fund  /   March 28, 2023

Happy Graduation to our first-ever cohort of Pillars Artist Fellows!

Our directing and screenwriting fellows are taking the entertainment industry by storm after a year of mentorship, growth, and community building. Recently, our fellows gathered in Los Angeles to present their work to a full room of mentors, industry leaders, and community members.

But first, our President and Co-Founder Kashif Shaikh told the story behind our fellowship.

Pillars President Kashif Shaikh wearing a grey sweater, black bomber jacket, and jeans stands in front of a clear lucite podium speaking into a microphone

Our partner Riz Ahmed explained why it’s so important for the industry to support Muslim storytellers.

Actor Riz Ahmed wearing a grey button-up sweater and black cap stands in front of a clear lucite podium speaking into a microphone

Then we handed the mic to each of our fellows to hear about their creative journey and future projects.

Pillars Artist Fellow Ali Imran Zaidi wearing jeans and a blue and white striped sweater stands in front of a clear lucite podium speaking into a microphone. To his right is a large projector screen

Pillars Artist Fellow Aqsa Altaf wearing a beige mock-neck sweater and linen pant smiles and holds a microphone in one hand while holding up a presentation clicker in her other hand

From joining prestigious writers’ rooms to selling their work to major companies, our graduating fellows have already made exciting moves!

Pillars Managing Director of Culture Change Arij Mikati wearing a pink pantsuit stands in front of a clear lucite podium speaking into a microphone with a line of 10 fellows standing to her right

After the showcase, we gathered for a reception to celebrate the conclusion of our inaugural Pillars Artist Fellowship.

Pillars Muslim Narrative Change cohort member Zaheer Ali wearing glasses and a black leather jacket speaks with another reception attendee in an outdoor courtyard

Pillars Artist Fellows Nausheen Dadabhoy and Ali Imran Zaidi speak with a reception attendee in a room full of people

Our powerhouse Culture Change team, Aya Nimer (Program Manager) and Arij Mikati (Managing Director) were an essential part of bringing this showcase and fellowship to life.

Pillars Program Manager Aya Nimer and Managing Director of Culture Change Arij Mikati stand arm in arm. Aya is smiling at the camera while Arij looks at Aya smiling

The next day, our fellows participated in their closing session, featuring a visit from director and cinematographer Bing Liu, best known for directing the Oscar-nominated documentary “Minding the Gap.”

At the head of a conference table, Pillars Managing Director of Culture Change Arij Mikati looks thoughtfully at Bing Liu who has his right arm up in conversation

The fellows were also thrilled to speak to actress, screenwriter, and producer Mindy Kaling, who shared how she runs a writers’ room.

At the head of a conference table, Pillars President Kashif Shaikh smiles at Mindy Kaling who is speaking with her palms facing up

After engaging with our guest speakers, our fellows were able to share their final reflections on the program with each other and celebrate their graduation.

All 10 of the Pillars Artist Fellows pose and smile in a line with Mindy Kaling in the center

And that’s a wrap on our 2022-23 Pillars Artist Fellowship! We are incredibly grateful to the mentors who instructed our fellows, the advisors who guided them, and the sponsors who made the Pillars Artist Fellowship possible. Special thanks go to our partners at Left Handed Films and sponsors at Netflix and Amazon Studios. This program would not exist without their expertise, generosity, and dedication.

You can learn more about the Pillars Artist Fellows’ past and upcoming work on our website.



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