On February 16, 2021, The Hollywood Reporter broke with news that actor, writer, producer, entrepreneur and activist Lena Waithe has teamed up with job-search engine Indeed to create the “Rising Voices” initiative. The collaboration between Waithe’s development and production company Hillman Grad and Indeed, the world’s number one job site (comScore, March 2020), intends to provide more opportunities for Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) filmmakers to have their voices heard and stories told.
On “Rising Voices” initiative, Waithe says, “Our mission at Hillman Grad Productions is to provide opportunities for the filmmakers that Hollywood has ignored, support the talent that hasn’t had access to the business, and advocate for the artists who aren’t on studio lists.” Indeed’s CEO Chris Hyams echoes Waithe’s mission statement, “We know that talent is universal, but opportunity is not equally distributed. Together with Hillman Grad Productions, we know ‘Rising Voices’ will provide an extraordinary opportunity to historically underrepresented talent.”
“Rising Voices” is calling for screenplay submissions throughout the month of February that focus on themes of meaningful work and how jobs can act as powerful vehicles of change. There will be 10 finalists selected, all of whom will receive $100,000 each for the production of their films. The selection process will be undergone by a committee of executives from Hillman Grad Productions and Indeed, as well as members of Ventureland Studio. Along with the $100,000 funding, a production crew of Hillman Grad and 271 Films workers will be on site to assist with the 15-minute short films. An additional $25,000 COVID budget will be distributed to ensure the safety of staff. Waithe (CEO) and Rishi Rajani, president of Hillman Grad, along with LaFawn Davis of Indeed, and filmmakers Calmatic (“Old Town Road” video director), Paul Hunter and Melina Matsoukas of PRETTYBIRD will all act as mentors to the 10 finalists.
It is reported that at least one of the ten films will be used as a national TV advertisement for Indeed. There is also an opportunity for the finalists to be offered positions as non-exclusive filmmakers in residence for the job site with a $75,000 production budget. For those who are interested, check out the link for more information: https://www.hillmangrad.com/indeed-rising-voices.
Hillman Grad Productions was founded by Lena Waithe and Rishi Rajani and has already begun to define itself as a trailblazing “company committed to creating art that goes against the status quo and gives opportunity to marginalized peoples by providing a platform for diverse voices” (Hillman Grad). The company’s projects can be found on Amazon, BET, Disney, HBO, MGM, Netflix, Showtime, and Universal. Some of its recent successes include: Radha Blank’s The 40-Year-Old Version (2020) and Queen & Slim (2019), written by Waithe and directed by Melina Matsoukas for Universal Pictures.