The Black List, IllumiNative And Sundance Institute Unveils Inaugural Indigenous List

EXCLUSIVE: The Black List, along with IllumiNative and the Sundance Institute have selected the nine scripts for the inaugural Indigneous List, which spotlights some of the best (if not the best) Indigenous film and television writers living and working within the U.S.

Submissions for The Indigenous List kicked off in June and closed in September. The Native-led nonprofit Illuminative launched to increase the visibility of Native peoples in American society. They challenge negative narratives, stories, and stereotypes about Native peoples and provide tools to develop an accurate representation of voices of Native peoples.

Here are the scripts selected for The first Indigenous List in alphabetical order:

BUNKER BOSS by Joey Clift
After a nuclear war forces most of humanity into underground bunkers, a total loser must become the inspirational leader of a bunker known to execute any leader that drops below a 60% approval rating. (Animated)

FANCY DANCE by Erica Tremblay & Miciana Alise
Following the disappearance of her sister, a Native American hustler kidnaps her niece from her white grandparents and sets out for the state powwow in the hopes of keeping what’s left of their family intact.

FIREBIRD by Kathryn Machi
After earning the chance of a lifetime to dance her dream ballet in France, a talented teenage Cherokee ballerina and her cowboy father search for her estranged mother, who left them years ago to chase her own dreams abroad.

LORDS OF THE EARTH by Blackhorse Lowe
LORDS OF THE EARTH is about two star-crossed lovers searching for each other amidst the backdrop of a harsh and violent New Mexico territory in 1863. In the film, Hastiin Hashke’ is a Navajo man who longs to be reunited with his wife, Taa’deezbaa, who was abducted into slavery.

MOLOKA’I BOUND by Alika Maikau
After several years in prison, Kainoa wants nothing more than to reestablish a relationship with his son and Hawaiian heritage, but old friends and new circumstances threaten to derail his path.

POI DOGS by Bryson Chun
When a small-town, high-end Hawai’i dog groomer learns that a hit was put on her on the Dark Web, she has to race to find the culprit among her friends and family before it’s too late.

THE BLIND by Sterlin Harjo
When the teenage son of a Native American hunter is murdered by a group of backwoods drug dealers, the mourning father decides to exact revenge on those responsible for his death and the corruption in their small town.

THE WILDEST WEST by Blake Pickens
Riley works as a theme park attendant at Seven Flags Over Texas, a miserable establishment full of tyrannical customers that make obscene demands. But when a spot opens up to play Geronimo in the park’s annual Wild West Show, he sees an opportunity to stop hawking hot dogs and become closer to his real goal of becoming an actor.

TINDER ON THE REZ by Brooke Swaney & Angela Tucker
Just because you are 35 and living back on the Rez with your parents, your brother and his two kids, doesn’t mean you can’t get laid, right? Don’t ask Lenny. It’s a sensitive topic.

The Indigenous List follows Black List partnerships with GLAAD, CAPE, Latinx and Muslim organizations, and organizations for people with disabilities to identify and celebrate great screenplays and writers from communities traditionally underrepresented in front of and behind the camera.

“IllumiNative is proud to partner with the Sundance Indigenous Program and The Black List to showcase the immense talent of Native writers,” said Crystal Echo Hawk (Pawnee), Founder and Executive Director of IllumiNative. “These writers, and the more than 6 dozen other scripts submitted during this process, shows the growing talent, diversity and strength of Indigenous storytellers. Now more than ever, it’s important that we continue to support opportunities for Indigenous peoples to shape, author, and control our own narrative- these scripts show the depth and range of stories Native writers are creating. Our research shows that there is a strong demand among audiences for authentic Native stories and content. We are hopeful that 2021 will represent a groundbreaking year for Native representation. We look forward to continuing this work and seeing these stories on our screens.”

“The Sundance Institute’s Indigenous Program team and I congratulate these extraordinary storytellers whose scripts have been selected for the Inaugural Indigenous List — they offer not only some of the most unique voices of Indigenous film and television writing, but also offer a glimpse of what our American popular culture landscape will be shaped like when Indigenous voices are recognized and included” said Indigenous Program Director N. Bird Runningwater (Cheyenne/Mescalero Apache). “These scripts represent the breadth of authenticity that Indigenous writers bring to their work and are a testament to the craft and creativity that happens when Indigenous voices tell their own stories. We are proud to have partnered with The Black List and IllumiNative to elevate these Indigenous writers and we can’t wait until these stories make it to screens for audiences everywhere.”

Black List founder Franklin Leonard added, “I’ve known Bird Runningwater since my earliest days in the industry and have, since then, admired the consistent, heroic work that he’s done on behalf of storytellers in the Indigenous Community, the community more broadly, and on behalf of all of us outside it in doing so. It’s a real honor to be partnered with him, the Indigenous Program team at the Sundance Institute, Crystal Echo Hawk, and everyone at IllumiNative. I look forward to these and many more stories from Indigenous writers gracing screens of all sizes.”

Eligible writers were able to submit their scripts for consideration via from June 24 through September 27. Both features and pilots were selected for the first Indigenous List, and all scripts come from Indigenous film artists working within the United States. Read the requirements below.

  • Indigenous film artists working in the U.S. were eligible to submit scripts to this partnership
  • Any kind of story was eligible and would be considered
  • Feature film scripts, half-hour scripts and one-hour episodic scripts will be considered for this partnership
  • All levels of experience were considered for submitting writers
  • Submitting writers answered the following questions: What is your Tribal Nation/First Nation? Please describe how your Native culture has supported your ideas and process as a screenwriter?



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