Central to HATCH is cultivating the next generation of creative leaders

Each year HATCH selects up to 10 “Groundbreakers” who have shown exceptional talent and dedication to their work.

Submissions have been received from nearly 100 countries, and these high-potential innovators have come from as far as Pakistan, Singapore, Australia, the UK, Uzbekistan, and across the US. Never has there been a more important time for our world to nurture these talents. Their stories transcend careers and commerce, and are centered on world evolution and how we solve substantial global problems and create new opportunities by inspiring and fostering a voice for the thought leaders who will lead us into the future.

So far, HATCH has sponsored more than 100 Groundbreakers and has impacted over 5,000 students directly.


Groundbreaker Alumni

Li Lu

Director, “Children of the Air”

Li Lu is a Los Angeles based director and producer. She was born in Suzhou, China and moved to the United States at the age of five. Daughter of two physicists, Li discovered her passion in prose. This quickly transitioned into a visual medium through photography, then ultimately into filmmaking. Raised on all three coasts and graduating high school in Sugar Land, TX, Li graduated from the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts with a concentration on writing and directing.

Her short films Autumn and Before the Flood have played numerous film festivals around the world such as New York’s Anthology Film Archives, Global Chinese University Film Festival in Hong Kong, and indieVIXENS at SXSW. Her music video work has been shown on networks such as Nickelodeon, MTV Asia, and Channel V. Her latest video has surpassed one million views on YouTube. Her producing credits include documentaries, narrative shorts, music videos for artists such as Mastodon and Young Man, and commercials for clients such as Mary Kay, Gilt Groupe, and Coca Cola.

Yuta Okamura

Director, Writer, “Waking Up”

Yuta Okamura is a young filmmaker who was born and raised in Japan. He now lives and works in Los Angeles. At the age of the 3, Yuta saw Godzilla for the first time, and became fascinated with the magic of cinema. Without access to a camera, he began painting his own one-frame monster movies, which later developed into more visual storytelling through filmmaking. After graduating high school in Japan, he moved to the United States to study film production at the USC School of Cinematic Arts, earning his BA degree in December 2011. Yuta has written, directed, and photographed dozens of short films, documentaries, music videos, and TV commercials, both in Japan and in the United States.

Jonathan Langager

Director/ Co-writer, “Josephine and the Roach”

Jonathan Langager is a filmmaker, animator, visual artist, composer, musician, and alum of the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts. After studying piano, violin and composition at Carleton College, he worked in politics and film for several years in New York City before moving to L.A. At USC, he has directed numerous short films, using the medium to explore his passion for music and visual design. For his work on “Josephine and the Roach,” he was nominated for the Princess Grace Award and received a grant from the Charles and Lucille King Foundation. The film received the ASC Student Heritage Award for cinematography. He has brutally slain hundreds of cockroaches, but now feels remorseful and ready to make amends.

Brion Riborn

Music Groundbreaker

A singer and songwriter from the Great Lakes State, Brion Riborn grew up with a young heart, an old soul, and a guitar. Both thoughtful and reckless, his music has been described as John Mayer meets Tom Petty with a dash of Nirvana. He’s played everywhere from arenas to house-shows to funerals to coffeehouses, and he likes it that way.

To him, every moment is the most important moment. As he puts it, “Whether there be one person or one-thousand people, it’s all about that moment and that time.” You can sense this at his live shows in the way he interacts with his fans, both during and after the performance. In December 2007, he released the 5 song EP “Etymbiosis”. The following year, he started work on a seasonal album that was released as a series of digital singles.

Throughout 2009, Riborn worked on the independent film “Annabelle & Bear”. Much of his music is featured on the soundtrack and throughout the film, which debuted in Detroit in February 2010 and continued on the film festival circuit throughout the year. Riborn recently finished up his latest release, “Mediocrity is an Adequate Lover” which, will doubtfully live down to its name. Both retro and modern in sound, the album can be streamed live at his website and is available online in most every way imaginable.

John Adam Smith

Music Groundbreaker

John was raised at the base of the mountains bordering Missoula, MT. His father bought him his first drum when he was two years old. Inspired by his father and artists like Duane Allman, Jerry Garcia, and Jimmy Hendrix, John started playing guitar at 12 years old, filling notebook after notebook with songs. When he was 17, he met another guitar player and songwriter and they starting playing and writing music together, calling themselves “Smitty and The Boss”. Later, a bass player and percussionist that played Eastern Indian Tabla drums arrived, and the band “CottonWood Draw” was formed.

With their unique original material, and danceable live performances, they developed quite a following, opening for bands like Railroad Earth, Trampled by Turtles and Darkstar Orchestra. Yet in time, John decided it was time to leave the band and focus on his solo project. He had been studying traditional West African drumming with master Djembe players such as Dibo Camera, Abdoul Doumbia, and Mamady Keita. “The influence on my music was extraordinary,” says the 26-year-old musician. “Their ancient rhythms infused my brain and opened my mind to an entire new world of music.”

Seeking new sounds and means to expand his songwriting, John started playing slide guitar and experimenting with open tunings, which eventually lead to the discovery of his new love for lap steel, dobro, and weissenborn slide guitar. This March, he put together a tour in Australia and played from Melbourne, Victoria to Sidney, New South Wales. Throughout his journey John was fortunate enough to spend time with artists like Harry Manx, Jeff Lang, John Butler, and Xavier Rudd. Talking with them about music and their journeys brought so much inspiration and was truly a needed part of his journey.

“My purpose is to sing and share the connection with the people. So many hardships and troubles we all see through our lives, and we must strive to keep positive and follow our dreams amongst the chaos”. With his debut album on the road to completion, John was ready to broaden the project and invite the energy of other musicians along for the journey. In summer 2012, “The John Adam Smith Band” was born, their first album set to release late this November. John is in love with this chance to share his words with the wonderful folks that take the time to listen.

Courtney Yovich

Music Groundbreaker

Courtney’s a singer/songwriter from Bozeman, Montana who released her first album “Waiting to be Told”, in July 2012 and has already won several songwriting awards (the first at age 8), including a Top 20 finish in last year’s CMT/NSAI Song Contest. Since appearing at HATCH in 2011, Courtney continues to create and impress with her mature voice and musical motivation. I Am Entertainment magazine says of her debut album, “If she keeps this up, she’ll be one of the most successful music artists in the business.”

Music videos for the title track and “Happy To Be Here” were shot in July, just in time for Courtney to wrap up her summer and start thinking about her senior year in high school. Courtney is slated for a second appearance at the prestigious Pensacola Beach Songwriter’s Festival in October and also to play at the Frank Brown Festival on the Gulf Coast in November. In 2013, she’s been booked through Live on Stage to tour as a trio with CJ Watson and Genesis Green. If her recent sold-out debut at Nashville’s world-famous “Bluebird Café” is any indication, you might want to get your tickets early.

Leif Christian

Music Groundbreaker

Leif Christian gets his distinctive sound from a variety of backgrounds, but always stays true to the origins of blues, rock, folk, and soul. Classical piano at a young age ignited his passion for music, and he began playing guitar at age 16. A variety of influences and ideas infused with his own originality and sound create a unique listening experience, innovative and forward thinking, while still paying tribute to the masters and real rockers of the past. An appearance on the Trail 103.3’s Live and Local Lunch in January of 2012 revealed a continuation of Leif’s trajectory as a groundbreaking musician.

With fellow musician, Willard, Christian founded The Montana Musicians and Artists Coalition, (MMAC) a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the music and art scene across Montana. The organization provides a network for collaboration and promotion of musicians and artists by coordinating local events and concerts and facilitating recording projects. MMAC brought the “Musicians Showcase” to the Missoula bar, Brooks and Browns; a weekly event that brings together Montana musicians from a variety of genre and provides a venue to reach new audiences and work with other musicians. The event produced a Showcase Sampler album—intended to be first in a series. MMAC also sponsors local music competitions to promote aspiring musicians. Meanwhile, Christian continues to pursue his own music and announced two album projects and a rock single release early in 2012.

Marcus Stokes

Filmmaker, 'Chains'

Marcus Stokes started his filmmaking career as a visual effects artist at George Lucas’ Industrial Light and Magic (ILM). After several years creating effects for films such as Star Wars Episode I, The Matrix II & III, and I Robot, Marcus began his career in directing. He joined the Director’s Guild of America after completing a national commercial campaign for General Motors and quickly transitioned into narrative filmmaking. His first film, entitled “The Catalyst”, was a critical success at film festivals and was subsequently acquired by HBO. In addition to his film projects, Marcus has also worked on documentaries, music videos, and even the NAACP Image Awards. Marcus’ talent, that which won him the best editing award for his film, “Chains”, is still turning heads, most recently with his commercial for Scion. Look for his latest sci-fi thriller, “Echo”.

Melanie & Adam Hall

Filmmakers, 'Sudden Death'

Sudden Death!, the film that brought Melanie and Adam Hall to HATCH 2010, has won more than 10 awards and has been nominated for more than 20. Since it’s premiere in August of 2010, it has played in more than 30 film festivals around the world. While adding their talents to various major motion pictures and other film productions, Adam and Melanie have founded Mildy Fearsome Films with Death! co-producer, Nick Jones. Their latest production “Research”, a web series, just premiered at the Gangrene Film Festival.

Dean Dyson


Dean Dyson currently resides in Melbourne, Australia, where he continues to pursue and develop his architectural interests, in both conceptual studies and built works. In 2011, his entry “The Renaissance Tower of Brisbane” won the Brisbane Ideas Competition and forwarded his vision of making architecture far more recognizable, approachable and understandable. The project recognized that in a world where natural resources are being stretched to the limits of human consumption the value of food and water becomes ever more important in world sustainability.

In order to create ecological change, first our cities must change. Through transformative and adaptive design, a semi-active Brisbane River shoreline landscape is revolutionized into a living working landscape capable of reinventing the city of Brisbane for a future as ‘The Australian hub of sustainability.’ Subsequently, Sucker Punch Daily published the project and SPIN Magazine featured Dyson as an emerging talent in architecture.