Press release

Lena Waithe & Hillman Grad Productions Join Forces with Indeed to Showcase BIPOC Filmmakers through ‘Rising Voices’ Initiative

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Indeed, the world’s number one job site, today announced a partnership with Emmy Award-winning writer, creator and actor Lena Waithe and her company Hillman Grad Productions to create the ‘Rising Voices’ initiative which showcases the power of how jobs change our world. Rising Voices will uncover, invest in and share stories created by Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) filmmakers & storytellers around the singular theme of the meaning of work, and the idea that jobs can change us all. A creative call to filmmakers will begin today, with 10 finalists to be selected by the end of February.

“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,” stated Lena Waithe, CEO of Hillman Grad Productions. “We’re proud to partner with Indeed on the Rising Voices initiative to mentor the next generation of directors and give them real funding to get their films made.”

The selection committee, composed of executives from Hillman Grad Productions, Indeed and directors via creative studio Ventureland, will select 10 screenplays submitted by filmmakers, awarding each a $10,000 writing fee. From there, the 10 finalists will receive a total production budget of $1 million, $100,000 per film, plus a dedicated line production crew through Hillman Grad and 271 Films to produce a short film (under 15 mins). Each film will be allocated an additional $25,000 COVID budget to ensure the safety of the cast and crew.

Waithe will serve as a mentor to the filmmakers throughout this process, with additional guidance provided by an advisory panel featuring Rishi Rajani, president, Hillman Grad Productions; LaFawn Davis, Group VP of ESG, Indeed; and PRETTYBIRD filmmakers Calmatic, Paul Hunter and Melina Matsoukas through her De La Revolución Films banner.

“Lena Waithe is one of the most influential voices in the film industry, a trailblazer for underrepresented filmmakers and entertainers, and we are thrilled to partner with her,” said Indeed CEO Chris Hyams. “Indeed’s mission is to help people get jobs. 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.”

At least one film will be selected for use in a national TV advertisement for Indeed, while one or more filmmakers will be offered an additional $75,000 budget to create new work for Indeed as a non-exclusive filmmaker in residence.

“We created Rising Voices to help lower the barriers for filmmakers, and to showcase these stories in their own voice,” said Indeed’s LaFawn Davis. “We are particularly excited to partner with Hillman Grad Productions, whose mentorship will provide filmmakers experience and a path to a sustainable career beyond one single film.”

Filmmakers interested in participating should visit:

About Indeed

More people find jobs on Indeed than anywhere else. Indeed is the #1 job site in the world (comScore, March 2020) and allows job seekers to search millions of jobs in more than 60 countries and 28 languages. Over 3M employers use Indeed to find and hire new employees, making Indeed the largest job site in the US, Canada, and the world. More than 250 million people each month search for jobs, post resumes, and research companies on Indeed, and Indeed delivers 2.5X more hires than other branded job sites combined (BreezyHR, 2019). For more information, visit


Hillman Grad Productions is a development and production company committed to creating art that goes against the status quo and gives opportunity to marginalized peoples by providing a platform for diverse voices across all mediums. Founded by Emmy-Award winning writer Lena Waithe and Rishi Rajani, the company currently has projects at Netflix, Disney, BET, Showtime, HBO, Universal, MGM and Amazon. Their comprehensive slate includes the Sundance Film Festival 2020 award-winner The 40-Year-Old Version, Radha Blank’s groundbreaking film, which blends real life and fiction to follow its protagonist, a down-on-her luck New York playwright, who decides to reinvent herself and salvage her artistic voice by becoming a rapper at age 40. Netflix released the film globally on October 9th to rave reviews and it won Best Screenplay and was nominated for the Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director Award at the 2021 IFP Gotham Awards, received the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best First Film, won Best First Feature from the Toronto Film Critics Circle, received Directors to Watch” at PSIFF, won the “Next Generation Award” at LAFCA Awards, was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for Best First Feature along with a Best Comedy Nomination from Critics Choice, and received 3 NAACP Nominations for Outstanding Directing, Outstanding Writing and Breakthrough Creative (Motion Picture). Their first film released under this banner was Queen & Slim, which Waithe wrote and was directed by Melina Matsoukas; Universal Pictures released the film in November of 2019. Current projects include BET’s hit comedy series Twenties, which was picked up for a second season and recently nominated for Outstanding Comedy Series by GLAAD. Currently in development is a Sammy Davis Jr biopic based on his daughter Tracey Davis’ book Sammy Davis Jr.: My Father. The screenplay will be written by David Matthews with Waithe & Rajani producing alongside Sight Unseen Pictures. Additionally, it was recently announced Waithe penned the script for Universal’s forthcoming Talent Show. Cynthia Erivo is set to star in the drama with Waithe serving as an executive producer alongside State Street Pictures and Rajani will oversee for Hillman Grad Productions. Focus Features just announced it has teamed with Sight Unseen, Makeready and Hillman Grad Productions on the feature directorial debut of A.V. Rockwell, A Thousand and One. Other projects currently in various stages of production and/or development include: Them for Amazon; Untitled Kid Fury Project for HBO and Reawakening, Neil Paik’s Six by Eight Press short story for Amazon Studios.