Lena Waithe’s Hillman Grad Foundation is on a mission to not only support the next generation of creatives but also to equip them with the resources necessary to thrive.

Justin Riley, the company’s Vice President of Operations and Business Development, sat down with AfroTech to share the latest initiatives geared toward helping others.

From its Mentorship Lab for writers, actors, and executives to its filmmaking program — Rising Voices — a partnership with Indeed, and more, Hillman Grad Foundation is creating direct pathways for people to move into the industry.

Supporting Creatives

“We’re able to leverage our various projects to bring on new talent and bring their stories to life,” Riley told AfroTech. “Overall, it’s a special experience and something I’m very proud of.”

The program, which is completely free, equips participants with what’s needed to fully enjoy its benefits.

Those benefits include the latest initiative in partnership with Indeed where 10 filmmakers will have the opportunity to receive $100,000 to produce their project.


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Click here to access the application, now open until Nov. 11.

Access To Capital

“Capital is everything, and not everyone has access to the appropriate level of funds to bring an idea to life,” said Riley. “We have to understand that it’s a privilege to live in Los Angeles, to have access to relationships and resources to bring your creative ideas to life.”

He added, “Gratefully our technology has moved in a tremendous way and we have powerful storytelling instruments right in our pockets with our phones, but that is just one step of being able to produce amazing content. When you give people financial resources, you also give people the opportunity to dream.”

Working Alongside Lena Waithe

As a personal friend to Waithe, Riley also opened up about witnessing his friend’s growth over the years.

“I’ve known Lena before she was known by the world. To watch her success firsthand has been pretty special, and more importantly, seeing her stay true to herself throughout this whole process has been special too,” he recalled. “Giving back has been in her heart since the very beginning. When I met her 10 years ago, she was always trying to find out ways to help people in her capacity then. Now, as the founder of Hillman Grad and having the success that she does, she has continued to amplify that through these mentorship programs and leveraging her own projects to introduce new voices.”