Netflix and Native woman-led racial and social justice organization IllumiNative today announced the cohort of eight Indigenous producers set to participate in the first-ever IllumiNative Producers Program. Participants will include Ashley Browning (Lovers Cycle), Taylor Hensel (ᎭᏢ ᎢᏁᎾ (Where Are We Going?)), Princess Daazhraii Johnson, Ivan MacDonald (Buffalo Stone), Coyote Park (Destiny in Sedona), Blake Pickens (The Hermit), Mato Standing Soldier (Re:Locate), and Kekama Amona (The Man and the Tree). They were selected from hundreds of applicants based on experience, their commitment to being a lifelong producer, and the type of project they were working on.
The IllumiNative Producers Program will look to provide early- and mid-career Indigenous producers with a year-long training program to help advance their trajectories in the industry. Over the course of the year, the fellows will develop a current project, attend monthly workshops, and have access to network-building opportunities with their cohort, as well as mentors and leaders in the industry. Fellows will also receive a $25,000 grant to support their work, in addition to creative feedback and mentorship as they develop their project.
“We’re thrilled to announce the eight fellows selected to participate in the first-ever IllumiNative Producers Program,” said IllumiNative’s Founder and Executive Director, Crystal Echo Hawk. “For so long, Hollywood has been an accomplice to the institutionalized erasure of Native peoples. We launched this program to combat the historic lack of opportunity and investment in Native storytellers and to support the next generation of Indigenous producers. We’re looking forward to a dynamic and collaborative program and are grateful to our partners at Netflix who are helping us equip Indigenous creatives with resources and tools to advance their careers in the entertainment industry.”
“The Producers Program gives us the chance to change the trajectory of the entertainment industry, which for too long has excluded Native stories,” added IllumiNative’s Chief Impact Officer, Leah Salgado. “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 Native stories.”
The program officially kicking off today was launched in December of 2021, when Netflix partnered with IllumiNative, as part of its Fund for Creative Equity—an effort to help create more behind-the-camera opportunities for underrepresented communities within the TV and film industries. To learn more about it, click here. More information on the inaugural cohort and their projects can be found below.
Ashley Browning (Pueblos of Pojoaque)
Ashley Browning (she/her) is from the Pueblos of Pojoaque and Santa Clara.
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)
Taylor Hensel (she/her) is a citizen of the 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)
Princess Daazhraii Johnson (she/her) is Neets’aii Gwich’in and lives on the traditional territory of lower Tanana Dene in Alaska.
Developing a narrative film centering Gwich’in culture and language.
Ivan MacDonald (Blackfeet)
Ivan MacDonald (he/him) is an enrolled member of the Blackfeet Tribe.
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)
Coyote Park (he/they) is a 2Spirit transgender artist from the Kingdom of Hawai’i, based in Tongva Territory “Los Angeles, California”. Their cultural roots are within the Pacific diaspora, as they are mixed Korean, German, and Yurok (Native to Northern California).
Destiny in Sedona
Destiny in Sedona is 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)
Blake Pickens (he/him) is Chickasaw, based in Los Angeles.
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)
Mato Standing Soldier (AKA Mato Wayuhi) (he/him) is an Oglala Lakota artist from Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
In 1962, three siblings from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota relocate to Los Angeles in search of greater opportunity than their people have ever known.
Kekama Amona (he/him) Kanaka Maoli | O’ahu, Hawaii
Scott W. Kekama Amona (he/him), born and raised on the island of O’ahu, is an educator turned award-winning Kanaka Maoli filmmaker, whose creative approach and content centers on the Hawaiian value of makawalu (eight-eyes), a multiple-perspective mindset.
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.
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