Sundance Institute Helps Young Native Filmmakers

Jul 14, 2015

Advisors at the Sundance Institute Native Filmmakers Lab (Back L to R) Lucas Leyva, Beck Cole, Aurora Guerrero, Janicza Bravo, Blackhorse Lowe, (Front L to R) Sydney Freeland and Autumn Billie with writer/directors (left) Razelle Benally and (right) Randi LeClair.
Credit Photo by Bird Runningwater
Two young Native American writer/directors are being given the opportunity to receive expert assistance this week in the production of their first professional film projects.  

Bird Runningwater is director of the Sundance Institute’s Native American and Indigenous program. He says interest in and a commitment to Native American filmmakers goes back to founder Robert Redford. 

“So we do that through a number of ways,” Runningwater explains. “ We have grants, labs, fellowships, we offer mentorships for filmmakers and then we also have the platform of Sundance Film Festival.”

Runningwater says the Institute realized that although feature films and documentaries that started at its workshops and labs were getting made, short films weren’t reaching their potential.

“So, we did a redesign of our Native Filmmakers Lab to really find a way to give grants to filmmakers so that they can go into production,” comments Runningwater. “ So, we’ve picked two filmmakers who’ve been through a previous Native Lab and we’ve given them grants to go into production. But this workshop that we’re doing here in Santa Fe is really to put them through some deep creative exercises and to prep them for being on set with their shoot.”

The two filmmakers chosen for the Sundance Institute Lab are Razelle Benally, an Oglala/Navajo from Rapid City and Randi LeClair, a Pawnee tribal member from Oklahoma.

Bird Runningwater says both women are scheduled to start shooting their films within the next three weeks. He adds that offering them support and guidance is a continuance of goals the Sundance Institute has had for three generations of Native and Indigenous filmmakers.

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