EXCLUSIVE: In a competitive situation, Paramount+ has won rights to and will be developing Yellow Bird, a one-hour drama series based on Sierra Crane Murdoch’s Pulitzer Prize finalist Yellow Bird: Oil, Murder and a Woman’s Search for Justice in Indian Country. The project hails from Reservation Dogs co-creator Sterlin Harjo and writer-director Erica Tremblay, Beau Willimon and Jordan Tappis’ Westward Productions and Michael London’s Groundswell Productions (Snowfall).
Harjo and Tremblay will co-create and executive produce the potential series with Willimon and Tappis of Westward Productions and London and Shannon Gaulding of Groundswell. Murdoch and the book’s subject, Lissa Yellowbird, will also be executive producers of the show, which is being produced in partnership with Paramount Television Studios.
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Yellow Bird the series is described as a true crime show, a family drama and an immersive look at modern Native American life. Newly released from jail, Lissa Yellowbird returned to her reservation in North Dakota in the midst of one of the largest oil booms in modern history. Her attempts to reconcile with her estranged family were complicated when she became obsessed with a young oil worker’s disappearance. An amateur sleuth from the wrong side of the law, Yellow Bird ultimately exposed a sweeping criminal conspiracy of murder and corruption, healing her own family in the process of helping the oil worker’s mother find closure regarding her son’s fate. She has gone on to investigate cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women nationwide, which will be the focus of subsequent seasons.
Author Murdoch has continued to document those efforts, most recently in a special one hour episode of This American Life titled “A Mess to be Reckoned With.”
Harjo (Seminole/Mvskoke) is the co-creator, with Taika Waititi, and showrunner of Reservation Dogs for FX and also directed the pilot. Harjo attended the Sundance Institutes Filmmakers Lab for his first feature Four Sheets to the Wind. His second feature Barking Water premiered at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival and the Venice Film Festival. His feature documentary This May Be The Last Time, which premiered at Sundance in 2014, tells the story of his people’s connection to song and intertwines that with the story of his grandfather’s disappearance from the Seminal County town of Sasakwa. He also has a podcast called The Cuts With Sterlin Harjo where he interviews the best and brightest of Indigenous artists and thinkers.
Tremblay is an award-winning writer and director from the Seneca-Cayuga Nation. Her short film Little Chief premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. She was a 2018 Sundance Native Film Lab Fellow. Earlier this year, she was awarded the Walter Bernstein Screenwriting Fellowship and the Maja Kristin Directing Fellowship. Tremblay is a current Sundance Screenwriters and Directors Lab fellow. She was recently honored as a 40 Under 40 Native American. Tremblay lives on Cayuga Lake in upstate New York where she is studying her Indigenous language.
Groundswell Productions is a film and television company currently in production on Snowfall for FX.
Harjo is repped by Circle of Confusion, APA and Del, Shaw, Moonves. Tremblay is repped by WME and Ragna Nervik. Murdoch and Yellowbird are repped by ICM Partners. Groundswell is repped by WME and Goodman, Genow, Schenkman. Westward is repped by Adam Berkowitz of Lenore Entertainment Group and Schreck Rose Dapello Adams Berlin & Dunham.
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