Lena Waithe’s Hillman Grad has promoted veteran executive Rishi Rajani to CEO.
In his new role, Rajani will oversee all divisions across Hillman Grad, guide the company’s overall strategic and creative direction, and develop new business partnerships. Waithe will retain her position as founder and chair.
Since joining the company in 2018 as president of film and television, Rajani has played a key role in furthering Hillman Grad’s mission to “create art that redefines the status quo by amplifying and celebrating the stories and voices of diverse, historically marginalized communities across all industries.”
“Rishi Rajani has worked tirelessly to help make Hillman Grad what it is today,” stated Waithe, announcing the promotion. “I’m honored to work alongside him as we embark on a new chapter in our company. Our goal is to not only open doors for the next generation, but to also keep those doors open for generations to come.”
Born in London, and raised in upstate New York and Portland, Ore., Rajani?graduated from NYU before rising through the ranks as a film and television development executive at 20th Century Fox, UTA, Paradigm and Studio 8.
Under the Hillman Grad banner, Rajani executive produced “The Chi,” “Twenties” and “Boomerang,” as well as the Sundance award-winning film “The 40-Year Old Version.” His upcoming feature film projects include “A Thousand and One,” starring Teyana Taylor for Focus Features; the Disney Plus original, live-action movie “Chang Can Dunk”; “Being Mary: The Mary Tyler Moore Documentary,” the first authorized biography of the iconic actor and producer; and the Verzuz documentary “Gifted & Black” for Amazon Prime Video.
Since its inception in 2015, and under Rajani’s leadership, Hillman Grad has grown to include six divisions and twenty employees, rising to become one of the most prominent companies in entertainment.
Hillman Grad Productions, the company’s film and television development and production arm, is home to the producers behind films like “The Forty-Year-Old Version” and “Queen & Slim,” with upcoming projects set at Netflix, BET, Disney, Amazon, Universal and Focus, and a multi-year exclusive overall deal with Warner Bros. Television Group.
The banner has diversified to cover music (under the newly formed Hillman Grad Records with Def Jam Recordings), book publishing (in partnership with the independent company Zando), podcasts and fashion. Rajani was instrumental in those developments, working to secure partnership deals with the aforementioned companies, as well as Audible, in a multi-project development deal that launched the company’s podcast division.
The company also recently launched two, inclusivity-focused initiatives: The Hillman Grad Mentorship Lab and the Rising Voices Initiative in partnership with Indeed, which allowed ten BIPOC filmmakers to create short films with a production budget of $100,000 each. Rajani originated the Rising Voices director fellowship and serves as an executive mentor for the Mentorship Lab. He also launched a South Asian mentorship program under “The Salon.”