Sundance Institute – Native and Indigenous Film Program

Grantee:  Sundance Institute – Native and Indigenous Film Program
Location:  Los Angeles
Award:  Regional Collaboration Pilot Program 2013
Discipline:  Regional Collaboration Pilot Program
Web Site:

This remarkable program created a fellowship to provide direct support to emerging American Indian, Native Hawaiian, and Alaska Native filmmakers.

The Native Lab Fellowship was a two-stage development opportunity that provided support to emerging Native film artists working in the U.S. Four Native filmmakers with film projects at early stages of development — Razelle Benally, Ciara Leina’ala Lacy, Jeffrey Palmer, and Brooke Swaney — were chosen for Fellowships. From May 23 to 27, 2012, Sundance Institute presented the Native Filmmakers Lab on the Mescalero Apache Reservation in New Mexico. This was the fourteenth annual Native Lab and the fourth consecutive one to be held at Mescalero. The Lab served as an entry point for the Fellowship, guiding the four Fellows through an artistically rigorous process of mentorship from four esteemed Creative Advisors. Fellows screened the works of Creative Advisors, including Miss Navajo, Inside Deep Throat, JFK, and The Carter, followed by in-depth conversation about their creative processes.

A public screening of Billy Luther’s GRAB was also hosted for members of the Mescalero community one evening, which was the most positively received of any screening presented to date in conjunction with the Lab. Their creative journey was mirrored by the Apache rite-of-passage ceremony that coincided with the Lab, which began with a sunrise dance on the first day and closed with a Ga’an fire dance on the last night.

Following the Lab, the Native Program provided continuing support to advance projects from development through distribution. The Fellowship provides access to the Institute’s full range of Labs; ongoing screenplay development; public screenplay readings; community screenings; in-kind donations; and strategic introductions to potential funders and collaborators. Ty Sanga, 2011 Native Lab Fellow, attended the Creative Producing Summit with his project After Mele, along with Native Producer Fellow Kaz Kipp, who attended with her project Alaska Is a Drag.

Fellows also joined the annual Native Forum at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah to attend specially curated screenings, participate in Industry Meetings, and network with film professionals who advised them on the business of cinema. The four Fellows selected this year also reconvened at the Native Forum during the Sundance Film Festival in January 2013.

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