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In February, Lena Waithe’s production company Hillman Grad partnered with the job listings company Indeed to launch Rising Voices, an initiative to help ten up-and-coming BIPOC filmmakers boost their careers by creating their own short films budgeted at $100,000 each. After a successful inaugural outing, which yielded more than 650 jobs and saw the shorts premiere at Tribeca in June, Hillman Grad and Indeed are doubling – or, rather, tripling down – for another round.
This time, Indeed is investing $3 million in the second iteration of Rising Voices: $1 million for “Season 2” of the short film initiative, which again will allocate $100,000 production budgets to 10 filmmakers each, and $2 million to the new Production and Development Lab, a 12-month residency program for three filmmakers from Season 1 to develop and create content for Indeed.
The Lab is non-exclusive, which means that the three selected filmmakers – Johnson Cheng (Chinese American), Stacy Pascal Gaspard (Haitian) and Gabriela Ortega (Dominican-born) – are free to pursue and take on work for other companies during their tenure as an Indeed filmmaker-in-residence, which will pay them $100,000 each.
“We are thrilled to be bringing back the Rising Voices program with our partners at Indeed,” Waithe and Hillman Grad president Rishi Rajani said in a joint statement. “This year’s brilliant films and filmmakers proved that there are so many stories out there to tell, and so many artists ready to tell them. Creating these opportunities for underrepresented voices and kickstarting their careers is fundamental to our mission here at Hillman Grad. We are grateful to Indeed for their trust in us as we continue to grow this initiative.”
As in Season 1, the filmmakers selected for Rising Voices will receive mentorship and line production staff from Hillman Grad and returning program partners Ventureland and 271 Films, as well as a $10,000 writing fee for their short film scripts, which simply must illustrate how jobs can change the world. Submissions are due Jan. 4 and the final products will be screened at Tribeca in 2022. Season 2’s advisory panel, who will mentor and support the Rising Voices filmmakers, is composed of Waithe, Rajani and directors Calmatic, Destin Daniel Cretton, Justin Chon, Melina Matsoukas and Rayka Zehtabchi.
“I am ecstatic to expand our partnership with Lena Waithe and Hillman Grad Productions to our new production and development lab for three of the filmmakers we discovered last year, and to help another class of filmmakers be seen, heard and financed,” Indeed CEO Chris Hyams said in a statement. “The incredible work of the filmmakers in Season 1 of Rising Voices demonstrated our belief that talent is universal but opportunity is not. The proof is in the amazing achievements of the filmmakers since their premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival.”
Some of those accomplishments from the Rising Voices Season 1 filmmakers and their shorts include:
- Cheng’s Only the Moon Stands Still went on to win the Audience Award in the short film category at AFI Fest, where it was also a Programmer Pick
- Ortega, who is now developing Huella as a feature, was accepted into Sundance’s Art of Practice fellowship
- Deondray Gossfield and Quincy LeNear Gossfield’s Flames won Excellence in Cinematography as well as first runner-up for Best Local Short at Atlanta’s Out On Film Festival
- Kantú Lentz, whose Coche Bomba also screened at the Austin Film Festival, is preparing to make her episodic directorial debut with NBC’s Chicago Fire
- Boma Iluma (Comfort), a Young Guns 19 finalist, was chosen by producer Roman Coppola to helm one of the installments of feature The Seven Faces of Jane alongside directors including Ken Jeong, Gillian Jacobs, Gia Coppola and Xan Cassevetes
- Elisee Junior St. Preux’s Aurinko in Adagio also screened at Urbanworld
- Shelly Yo, whose Soft Sounds of Peeling Fruit also screened at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, is participating in Tribeca and Epic Games’ Writing in Unreal program with her feature Smoking Tigers
- David Fortune is developing a follow-up to Shoebox as well as a docuseries
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