Rishi Rajani knows what it’s like to climb the rungs in Hollywood: He rose from an agency mailroom to become the president of Lena Waithe’s Hillman Grad Productions before turning 30. On the latest MovieMaker Interviews podcast, he talks about how the company plans to help others rise up, too.
Rajani is the president of Hillman Grad Productions, the company behind Queen & Slim and BET’s Twenties, among many other projects. The company aims to help Hollywood outsiders tell their own stories. One long-term goal is an incubator in which people without Hollywood connections could live together, rent-free, while they pursue their projects.
“We have this dream of starting an incubator in L.A. that people would apply to, and send their creative dreams and ambitions and aspirations—and whether you want to be a writer, a director, an actor, a producer—and we’d have this awesome house-compound here that you could come live in, live rent-free, get money to make things, get set up with your first job,” Rajani explains.
You can listen above, or on your favorite podcast platform:
Look for our full profile of Rajani in the upcoming issue of MovieMaker Magazine, which also profiles LuckyChap Entertainment, the company founded by Margot Robbie, Tom Ackerley, Sophia Kerr and Josey McNamara.
Here are highlights from our interview with Rishi Rajani, with timestamps:
1:50: Rishi Rajani interview begins.
2:00: We talk about The 40-Year-Old Version, Radha Blank’s debut film, premiering at the Sundance Film Festival.
3:45: Rishi Rajani talks about his job interview with Lena Waithe.
4:00: “Bringing other people up… has really been the core mandate of everything we do.”
5:40: How an unsuccessful collaboration ultimately got Rajani his job.
9:30: “If you’re truly going to be supporting younger voices, you have to get their stuff made.”
11:30: His Malawi-born father’s love of American Westerns.
15:50: Let’s talk about overcoming nepotism.
19:00: The rich-intern problem, and how Hillman Grad wants to fix it.
21:00: How high you have to score on The Black List to draw Hillman Grad’s attention.
31:30: Let’s talk about Queen & Slim.
34:00: Rishi Rajani offers advice for people who want to produce movies.
36:35: Why working your way up from the mailroom is no joke.