The IllumiNative Producers Program, a partnership between the racial and social justice organization and Netflix, has found its inaugural cohort.
Eight Indigenous Fellows — up from the originally planned seven — will each receive a $25,000 grant to develop their projects during the yearlong pathway program, first unveiled in December. The producers, selected from an applicant pool of hundreds, are all early- to mid-level but committed to a producing career.
“For so long, Hollywood has been an accomplice to the institutionalized erasure of Native peoples. We launched this program to combat the historical lack of opportunity and investment in Native storytellers and support the next generation of Indigenous producers,” IllumiNative founder and executive director Crystal Echo Hawk said in a statement. “We’re looking forward to a dynamic and collaborative program and are grateful to our partners at Netflix who are helping us team Indigenous creatives with resources and tools to advance their careers in the entertainment industry.”
Part of Netflix’s five-year, $100 million Fund for Creative Equity to support people from historically excluded backgrounds in behind-the-camera roles, the IllumiNative program will provide its producing fellows with monthly workshops, mentorship and feedback and networking opportunities with industry leaders.
“The Producers Program gives us the chance to change the trajectory of the entertainment industry, which for too long has excluded Native stories,” IllumiNative chief impact officer Leah Salgado said in a statement. “This cohort of Indigenous producers showcases the complexity and diversity of our community, and it is our belief that investing in and supporting Native producers will increase Native representation and create new opportunities to champion Native storytellers and stories.”
The inaugural IllumiNative Producers Program fellows and their projects are:
Ashley Browning (Towns of Pojoaque), LOVERS CYCLE: An overly optimistic young Native man struggles to accept the reality of his breakup that reluctantly plants him back to his family-owned laundromat.
taylor hensel (Cherokee Nation), ᎭᏢ ᎢᏁᎾ (WHERE ARE WE GOING?): A mosaic of memories from elders about their relationship to their homelands, told in the Cherokee language.
Princess Daazhraii Johnson (Neets’aii Gwich’in) lives on the traditional territory of lower Tanana Dere in Alaska and is developing a narrative film centering Gwich’in culture and language.
Ivan MacDonald (Blackfeet), BUFFALO STONE: Connected to Blackfeet culture and the iniskim, the stone that helps sing the buffalo back, the characters must navigate between past and present to overcome trauma.
Coyote Park (Yurok), DESTINY IN SEDONA: A feature film following two old lovers, a rough-edged trucker and a shapeshifting drifter, on a road trip from California to Arizona, and their venture intertwining with the lives of their lovelorn queer family.
Blake Pickens (chickasaw), THE HERMIT: In present-day Kentucky, a Chickasaw Catholic priest is investigating a legend that there’s a hermit guarding an ancient holy relic in the Appalachian hills. A folk myth.
Mato Standing Soldier (Oglala Lakota) RE: LOCATE: In 1962, three siblings from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota relocated to Los Angeles in search of greater opportunity than their people have ever known.
Kekama Amona (Kanaka Maoli), THE MAN AND THE TREE: A Hawaiian family comes together to prepare ceremonially for their elder’s transition from this world and, in the process, reaffirms their inherent connection to their land and the reciprocal cycle of life.