This week, the Native American Media Alliance and its partners announced the selection of fellows for the 6th edition of the Native American TV Writers Lab.
Founded in 2016, the Native American TV Writers Lab is an intensive TV scriptwriting workshop that prepares Native Americans for a career as a writer. Its mission is to increase the number of Native Americans working behind the camera, thereby increasing the fair and accurate portrayals of Native Americans on television. According to WGA West’s 2020 Inclusion Report, the Native American and Indigenous population currently represents only 1.1% of working television writers.
The Native American TV Writers Lab offers fellows a five-week program, run by seasoned writing professionals, which includes daily workshops, seminars, and one-on-one mentoring. The goal is to allow each writer to develop and complete a pilot script within five weeks, while honing the skills that will allow them to advance to permanent writer positions.
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The Native American Media Alliance partners in setting up the lab include Sony Pictures Entertainment, the Cherokee Nation Film Office, Kung Fu Monkey Productions, Snowpants Productions, and the Decolonizing Wealth Project.
“We live in incredibly exciting times – we’re finally seeing TV shows about Native Americans, by native people, with native performers on both sides of the camera,” said William Jehu Garroutte (Cherokee Nation), who produces ABC’s. Black Horse and is director of education for the Native American Media Alliance. “As an alumnus of the first Native American TV Writers Lab, I am delighted to see this initiative continue to strengthen our community, empower our writers and storytellers. Each year, this program draws on an incredible community of talented artists. I look forward to the new and groundbreaking projects that the 2021 cohort has to offer. “
The fellows selected for the 6th edition of the Native American TV Writers Lab include:
- Alex Nystrom, an Ojibwa writer, director and producer from Minneapolis, Minnesota. After mixing independent films, Alex moved to New Orleans to pursue filmmaking full time. He rose through the ranks of the camera department on films such as Transformers: The Last Knight, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, 22 Jump Street, and many more. During this time, he wrote and directed several short films including Addam, who received the Promising Filmmaker Grant at the Louisiana Film Prize. Nystrom now resides in Los Angeles and works as assistant director to Amman Abbasi, director of Dayveon (Sundance Film Festival ’17) and the upcoming feature film, Quenching. He recently produced a short documentary for The Hindsight Project via Firelight Media, Reel South and CAAM which will premiere this year.
- Glenís Hunter (Shinnecock), a New York actress, writer and filmmaker based in Los Angeles. From an early age, she discovered the performing arts as a means of self-expression. Growing up in the Dominican Republic, then returning to New York City in 2001, she had the opportunity to embrace her multicultural diversity (black, Latin American and Native American) through spoken word, screenwriting, and writing. activism. After earning a Bachelor of Arts degree from SUNY New Paltz, she decided to get into acting and writing full time. Past writing credits include short films, such as Meeting at the restaurant, A walk in the park and Wake up. Wake up premiered at numerous film festivals in 2019, including LA Skins Fest.
- Diego Moreno (Pascua Yaqui), screenwriter from Tucson, Arizona. He received his BA in Film and Media Studies from Dartmouth College in 2018. His Native Horror screenplay, My-one-knee, won the Laing Memorial Screenplay Award in 2016. His most recent television project, Coyote Casino, is a 60-minute family crime drama set on an Indian reservation near the Arizona-Mexico border. Diego is currently a Masters of Fine Arts candidate in the American Indian Arts Institute’s Screenwriting Program.
- Andrina smith (Shinnecock), storyteller, writer and performer graduated from Emerson College with a theater degree in a pre-Hamilton world. She knew that if she wanted to see stories like hers, she would have to write them down. Growing up Shinnecock in the Hamptons (where his tribe is located), his work frequently explores identity, race, and life experience adjacent to 1%. She trained at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater so that she could explore all of these constructions, but in a fun way. Before the whole theater got dark, she performed monthly with Like Butter, her sketch team at PIT in New York City.
- Author and director Brian young, graduated from Yale University with a BA in Film Studies and Columbia University with an MA in Creative Writing and Fiction. A registered member of the Navajo Nation, he grew up on the Navajo reservation but currently lives in Brooklyn, New York. As an undergraduate student, Brian won a scholarship with the prestigious Sundance Ford Foundation with one of his feature film scripts. He has worked on several short films including Tsídii Nááts’íílid – Rainbow Bird and A conversation about race with Native Americans for the short documentary series produced by The New York Times. Brian is currently working on his second book with Heartdrum, an imprint of HarperCollins.
- Shelby ramirez, Navajo artist (Diné) and Mexican American from the Navajo Nation (Dinétah.) She grew up in towns on the border of the reserve, and has a strong love for her land and people. She studied cinema with a major in animation at Dartmouth College. His final project was an animation which won the ASIFA Animation Award from Dartmouth. Since 2015, she has worked on several television shows for Nickelodeon and Fox. She enjoys writing and drawing stories that have female minority roles. Her stories seek to shatter tropes and stereotypes, while addressing the experiences of modern Indigenous peoples. Shelby is a member of the Native American Animation Lab 2020.
- JohnTom Knight, proud member of the Cherokee Nation, born at Claremore Indian Hospital in Claremore, Oklahoma. Most recently, he was selected as a Fellow and participated in the 2nd Annual LA Skins Fest Native American Animation Lab. Thanks to this, he was able to meet and present an original series concept to the executives of Cartoon Network, Crunchyroll, Sony Pictures Animation and Kung Fu Monkey Productions. In 2019, JohnTom was selected as a finalist for the Walt Disney Writing Program. Subsequently, he was a production intern with [adult swim] where he could work Squidbillies, 12 oz. Mouse, Williams Street Exchange Shop, and more. During his time at [adult swim], JohnTom has written and created a number of original animated shorts that have aired on [adult swim] streams. Today, JohnTom works full time in the video game industry.
- Liz stephens, a Los Angeles-based enrolled member of the Choctaw tribe of Oklahoma. Interpreter of the first versions of the series The Moth, she is now the author of memoirs Days are gods on University of Nebraska Press, and contributor to a number of anthologies. His writings often tackle themes of memory and identity, in his current projects through a prism of blue collar workers and sex work, and rural and queer life, with, notes one reviewer, “humor. of an initiate and the humility of an observer. “With a doctorate in Creative Non-Fiction Storytelling and American Studies, she teaches dissertation at UCLA and young screenwriters at Chapman University. She is a recipient of the Frederick Manfred Prize for Western Literature and a finalist for the Documentary Prize. from Duke University. She runs a writer’s residency in Wonder Valley, Calif., in an off-grid cabin outside Joshua Tree, called Mojave Desert Arts. Current projects include pilots The future of birds, a girl’s race away from her childhood in a dystopian Mojave desert and Joshua tree, four 19-year-olds doing community service in Joshua Tree National Park in lieu of jail time.
- Jeremy charles, a writer / director / producer and Cherokee citizen of Oologah, Oklahoma. Indigenous representation in film is his mission, forming FireThief Productions in 2014. He is co-creator, director and producer for Osiyo, the voice of the Cherokee people, now in its seventh season. This series won 9 regional Emmys, including an Emmy for Best Director in 2017. Its short narrative film Totsu (Redbird) premiered in 2020 and won “Achievement in Film” at the LA Skins Film Festival. An original animated series in the Cherokee language, Inage’i (in the woods), is currently in production. His directing of Branjae’s “Everybody Needs” music video won the Judge’s Choice Graphex Award in 2018, and he took to the stage as the 2014 TEDx speaker. His films have been selected at numerous film festivals around the world.