Actor and producer Lena Waithe has a lot on her plate, but she's always willing to lend a hand to up-and-coming filmmakers. That's why last year Waithe's production company, Hillman Grad Productions, debuted the Rising Voices program in partnership with job search site Indeed. Rising Voices aims to discover, invest in, and share stories created by BIPOC filmmakers. "We don't want money or accessibility to be a barrier between someone and their purpose or their destiny," Waithe said in a recent interview with All the Hats editor Teneshia Carr.
Rising Voices awards a $100,000 production budget to 10 filmmakers, who each produce a short film. They also provide mentorship, marketing, and distribution. Last year's participants premiered their projects at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York and created over 600 jobs.
"You don't have to be under the age of 35," says Waithe of her desire to give a voice to more diverse filmmakers, adding, "You don't have to be living in Los Angeles. You don't need to be able-bodied. You don't need to conform to the binary." Rather, Waithe feels these differences are strengths, and that different perspectives make for better stories. She says, "The journey for me is helping folks get their stories told. I'm there to introduce voices that aren't going to be safe and easy."
Between running Rising Voices, and Hillman Grad Productions, Waithe wears a lot of hats, but says as an entrepreneur, it's important to try different things, but not necessarily at the same time: "I think the entrepreneurial spirit in my mind is a mix of me being, 'OK, this I've kind of gotten a handle on. Maybe I can try something else.' I think lot of people
sometimes want to try a bunch of things at once, and they end up sort of not
getting, I think, as far as they would like. I think to me, it's about staying on one thing
for a really long time. Michael Jordan was like, 'I'm pretty good at basketball. Why don't I try baseball?"'