Native Filmmaker Summit

Native Filmmaker Summit
September 6
10 a.m.-6 p.m.
The Chickasaw Cultural Center

Hosted by the Sundance Institute’s Native American and Indigenous Program, and co-hosted by The Chickasaw Nation and the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum, the Summit will include roundtable discussions, short film presentations, and presentations from Native Program Director Bird Runningwater (Cheyenne/Mescalero Apache), filmmaker Sterlin Harjo (Seminole and Creek), producer Chad Burris (Chickasaw Nation), and Oklahoma State Film Commission Director Jill Simpson.

The days events will include:

  1. Welcome--10 a.m.
  2. Film Screening
  3. Lunch
  4. The State of Native Cinema--Bird Runningwater, Sundance Institute
  5. Nurturing Creativity and Storytelling: What artist need to tell the best story possible
  6. Case Study: Making the Leap from Short Films to Feature Films
  7. Producing films in today’s ever-changing marketplace
  8. Film Forward Welcome Reception--6 p.m.

Participant Bios:

Bird Runningwater belongs to the Cheyenne and Mescalero Apache peoples, and was reared on the Mescalero Apache Reservation in New Mexico.  Since 2001 he has guided the Sundance Institute’s investment in building a global Indigenous film community and has supported a new generation of writers and directors whose films have put Native Cinema on the cultural map. Runningwater oversees the NativeLab Film Fellowship and the Indigenous Producers Initiative, both for emerging Native American/Alaska Native/Native Hawaiian filmmakers.  Runningwater has established filmmaker Labs in New Zealand and Australia, which have spawned such projects as The Strength of Water (NZ), Samson and Delilah (AUS), Bran Nue Dae (AUS) and Here I Am (AUS).  Among the filmmakers and projects he has identified for support include Sterlin Harjo’s Spirit Award-nominated Four Sheets to the Wind and Barking Water; Academy Award nominee Taika Waititi’s Eagle vs Shark and Boy; Billy Luther's Miss Navajo and Grab; Andrew Okpeaha MacLean's Sundance Film Festival Jury Prize-winning Sikumi and his feature debut On The Ice, which was awarded the Crystal Bear Award and the Best First Feature Prize at the 61st Berlinale; and most recently Aurora Guerrero's Mosquita Y Mari.  Forthcoming projects include:  Sydney Freeland’s Drunktown’s Finest  and Yolanda Cruz’ La Raya.  Before joining Sundance Institute, Runningwater was based in New York City and served as executive director of the Fund of the Four Directions, the private philanthropy of a Rockefeller family member.  Prior to joining the Fund, Runningwater served as program associate in the Ford Foundation’s Media, Arts, and Culture Program.  He is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma with degrees in Journalism and Native American Studies, and he received his Master of Public Affairs degree from the University of Texas at Austin’s Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs.

STERLIN HARJO  belongs to the Seminole and Creek Nations and is a native of Holdenville, Oklahoma. Interested from an early age in visual art and film, Harjo studied painting  at the University of Oklahoma before writing his first feature-length  script.  Since then he has studied screenwriting in the University of Oklahoma's Film and Video Studies Program and under the Sundance Institute's Feature Film Program. In 2004, Sundance Institute selected Harjo to receive an Annenberg Fellowship  which provided extended support over a two-year period to facilitate  the creation of his feature project. In 2006, Harjo was in the first class of United States Artists award recipients—he was also the youngest recipient.

Sterlin Harjo completed a year of development on his feature film script Four Sheets to the Wind through Sundance Institute’s Feature Film Labs, where he worked under the guidance of industry veterans such as Robert Redford, Stanley Tucci, Joan Tewkesbury, Susan Shilliday, Frank Pierson, Walter Mosley, and Antonia Bird. Sterlin’s  project was one of 12 chosen from a pool of almost 2,500 based  on the uniqueness of his voice, the originality of his story, and the  promise of this feature film offering something poignant to American  cinema.

Harjo has directed three short films including Crooked Little Heart, They’re Playing His Song, and Good Night Irene,  which premiered at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival and has gone on to play festivals around the world. It has also garnered awards including Special Jury Recognition at the Aspen Shorts Festival and Best Oklahoma Film at the Dead Center Film Festival in Oklahoma City.

In January 2007, Harjo’s first feature film, Four Sheets to the Wind, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. The film garnered warm responses from both audience’s and critics. Tamara Podemski won a Special Jury Prize for outstanding performance for her role in the film as Miri Smallhill.

Harjo’s new film Barking Water had a successful premiere at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, and it recently screened as a part of the highly acclaimed New Directors/New Film series in New York City.  Barking Water was the only American film that played in the Venice Days section of the 2009 Venice Film Festival. 

CHAD BURRIS (Chickasaw) is the founder of Indion Group of Entertainment Companies and developed the country’s first private film incentive for the state of Oklahoma. Formerly, Chad practiced law in the areas of corporate transactional, entertainment, and Indian law in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Chad has produced award winning films including Goodnight Irene, Four Sheets to the Wind, and Barking Water by Sterlin Harjo. Chad produced the award-winning short film Shimasani for Navajo director Blackhorse Lowe and executive produced the Michael Winterbottom feature The Killer Inside  Me, starring Jessica Alba, Kate Hudson and Casey Affleck, both of which premiered at Sundance 2010. 
In 2011 he executive produced the directorial debut film for Famke Janssen, Bringing Up Bobby, and more recently, the Nick Cassavetes feature Yellow. His latest film, Mosquita y Mari premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2012 and he was nominated for Film Independent’s Spirit Award for the Piaget’s 2012 Producer of the Year. Chad was awarded the Mark Silverman Fellowship for New Producers from Sundance Institute in 2007.

Chad has been a speaker on tax credit usage, entertainment law, and film finance for Sundance Institute, Tribeca and Smithsonian American Indian film festivals, the Producers Guild of America, and the Los Angeles Incentive Office. He is a former member of the advisory board for the Oklahoma State Film Commission, served on the Board of Directors of the Tulsa Girls Art School, was appointed Ambassador for Oklahoma Creativity Project by the Oklahoma Governor, serves as an Advisory Director for the non-profit Circle Cinema festival in Tulsa, Oklahoma, is the Entertainment Law chair for the Tulsa City Bar Association, and is a Board Member of NAPT (Native American Public Television).

JILL SIMPSON serves as Director of the Oklahoma Film & Music Office, overseeing a state industry that has had an economic impact of over $160 million since her appointment in late 2004. In that role, she markets Oklahoma as a viable location for producing motion picture, television and music projects and administers the Oklahoma Film Enhancement Rebate Program, an incentive for film productions. Her office provides resources for every aspect of production including personnel, locations, equipment and permitting. She also serves as a liaison to Oklahoma businesses, lawmakers and community leaders in an effort to increase awareness of the importance of the film and music industries in diversifying Oklahoma’s economy.

Since 2005, Simpson has successfully shepherded the passage of ten new bills into law. Each was designed to enhance the film and music industries. Under Simpson’s direction, the Film & Music Office’s key focus is to develop and grow a self-sustaining production environment within the state, whereby creating avenues for workforce training, development, and the nurturing of local talent.  Collaborative successes include numerous Oklahoma-made films being accepted into the Sundance Film Festival, MoMA’s “New Directors/New Films” program, the Venice International Film Festival, the Smithsonian Native American Film/Video Festival, New York’s Independent Film Project Rough Cut Lab and the South by Southwest (SXSW) Festival & Conference. On the music front, 2012 will mark the second year that the Oklahoma Film & Music Office has hosted The Buffalo Lounge, a popular and highly successful Oklahoma-branded venue in the heart of Austin’s SXSW festival, designed to promote Oklahoma filmmakers and musicians to an international festival-going audience, and to attract business into the state. Prior to joining the Film & Music Office, Simpson spent 18 years working in the entertainment industry in Los Angeles. Her production credits include the films Igby Goes Down, Rumble Fish, The War of the Roses, The Serpent and the Rainbow, Stand By Me, Tough Guys, Labyrinth, Sister Act, and Delirious and television shows Sisters, Lateline and Just Shoot Me.

Simpson has been a panelist at numerous film industry incentives workshops in Los Angeles and at Sundance Film Festival. She received the 2010 Distinguished Service Award from the Oklahoma Film & Video Studies Society. Simpson is an active member of the Association of Film Commissioners International and the Advisory Board of the Quartz Mountain Summer Arts Institute. Previously, she served on the boards of the deadCENTER Film Festival and the Oklahoma Creativity Project. She holds her Bachelor of Arts degree in Radio-TV-Film Journalism from the University of Oklahoma.