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Lena Waithe partners with Indeed to spotlight rising Black filmmakers

Waithe inks a deal
Lena Waithe arrives for Showtime’s “The Chi” FYC Event on April 10, 2019, in West Hollywood, California (Photo credit: / DFree)

Hollywood producer and writer Lena Waithe has partnered with Indeed to launch the “Rising Voices” initiative, which will showcase how jobs change the world.

“Rising Voices” will uncover, invest in and share stories created by Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) filmmakers and storytellers around the singular theme of the meaning of work, and the idea that jobs can change us all.

Waithe and her Hillman Grad Production company, along with Indeed, will be selecting 10 finalists in an open-call for aspiring filmmakers until the end of February.

“The Chi” creator told Deadline in a statement, “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. 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. Each person selected will win a $10,000 writing fee and from there, the 10 finalists will receive a total production budget of $1 million.

Each film will be allocated a $100-thousand budget plus a dedicated line production crew through Hillman Grad and 271 Films to produce a short film under 15 minutes. Every movie will also be allocated an additional $25,000 COVID budget to ensure the safety of the cast and crew.

Indeed CEO Chris Hyams further commented to Deadline about the program, adding, “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. 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. Waithe will serve as a mentor to the filmmakers throughout this process as well.

More information on Rising Voices can be found at

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