Calling All Native Filmmakers: 5 Reasons to Apply for the Native Producing Fellowship

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© Sundance Institute | Brandon Cruz

It seems so long ago that I was applying for the Time Warner Native Producing Fellowship, yet it’s been less than a year. I wasn’t sure what it meant to be a Fellow, but I knew I wanted to be a part of the growing community of Native American filmmakers. So, I applied with my first feature project as a producer called The Land.

I had been developing the project for at least a year at that point with my producing partner, Stephen Love Jr., and the writer/director Steven Caple Jr. We had shot a short tonal reel based on the feature and had already raised a large portion of our financing. We were starting conversations to secure the rest of our financing, and were set to shoot the summer of 2015­­–whatever it took we would be shooting the film that summer.

With the project and a team I believed in, I applied for the Native Producing Fellowship and was fortunate to be accepted. Now that I’ve been through the Lab (which included the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, the 2015 Creative Producing Summit, and continued support from the Native Program) I feel that I have an opportunity to offer some insights. Be sure to apply by the October 2 deadline:

1. The Festival:

You have an opportunity to really make an impact on your career here. Everyone preaches networking, but this is truly a place where you can make connections that can last a lifetime. You’re in a creative place where everyone’s goal is to make great art, and there are people with varying levels of skill and experience. If you work hard enough, you can make some really meaningful and valuable connections in your short time at the Festival.

2. The Other Fellows:

This is quite possibly one of the most important parts of being a part of this amazing fellowship experience. To be put quite frankly, there are not enough Native Americans creating content or being given the chance to create content. However, through this program you are put in the unique position to be in a room with all Native and Indigenous people who are being given a chance to show the world their stories. This only happens with this sort of fellowship, so creating a strong bond with your other fellows is critical!

3. Your Film:

The reason you applied is because you wanted to advance your film, and this program offers incredible opportunities to help push your project over the hump to getting it made. Not only by being a part of the program does your project now have the support of Sundance Institute, you also now have the support of the Native Program team and a new group of creative people who can offer help in countless ways.

4. Your Career:

Your film is very important, but so is sustaining a career and making the next one. This is where you can really benefit from this fellowship. It puts you in a position to be able to make new relationships, expose people to your current project and future project, and share your career goals with people who can advise and guide you.

5. The Native Program Team:

One of the most beneficial parts of being a part of this fellowship is the team that puts the entire thing together. These are the people who will always be able to answer your questions, be a confidant, and are always just a phone call away. They’re an amazing resource, and they’re wonderful people! You don’t want to overlook this part of the program because it can make all the difference in your experience as a Time Warner Native Producing Fellow.

About the Author

Blake Pickens is a 2015 Native Producing Fellow from the south side of Oklahoma City, from a neighborhood known as the Flats. Despite the community’s rampant drug use and gang wars, Blake found his way into storytelling with a writing position at National Lampoon. He later attended the Peter Stark Producing Program at USC where he and his producing partner, Stephen Love Jr., formed their company BS Pictures. They are currently in pre-production on the Steven Caple Jr.’s film The Land and in development on The Friendship Nine with producer Nina Yang Bongiovi. Blake is a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma.
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© Sundance Institute | Brandon Cruz