From the Native Lab to the Festival, A Fellow’s Journey Comes Full Circle
Tracy Rector (left) with 2011 Native Lab participants.
From the Native Lab to the Festival, A Fellow’s Journey Comes Full Circle
Tracy Rector at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.
From the Native Lab to the Festival, A Fellow’s Journey Comes Full Circle

From the Native Lab to the Festival, A Fellow’s Journey Comes Full Circle

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Tracy Rector participated at the 2011 Native Filmmakers Lab in Mescalero, New Mexico, and the 2011 Creative Producing Summit at Sundance Resort. Below she discusses her experience working on her Lab project, Clearwater, and attending the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.

Sometimes you just know when you’re in the right place at the right time. It's such a strong feeling, and when it hits, it’s very empowering. It hit me this past January at the Sundance Film Festival with my fellow Native Lab cohorts Jason Asenap, Ty Sanga, and Daniel (D.E.) Hyde (as well as the new Producing Fellows, Blackhorse Lowe and Kaz Kipp).

But that feeling didn’t come out of nowhere. For me, the transformation began taking shape during a Native Lab workshop last spring on the homelands of the Mescalero Apache in New Mexico. With the guidance of my peers and the leadership of the Lab, I was able to sit with my ideas, vet them with others, and dedicate the time necessary to develop our (co-director Lou Karsen and I) story. I left feeling motivated to shoot for the unknown and remain open to the seemingly infinite possibilities. When we wrapped our time together, I believe each filmmaker carried this newfound knowledge and growth back home. I returned to Seattle ready and energized to dive into Clearwater, a non-fiction story about the Suquamish Tribe’s relationship to the Puget Sound and the binding force of water for us all.

Over the course of last summer it was exciting to see the other Lab Fellows actively making their scripts come to life through collaboration. This sense of a shared responsibility, to be true to our own creativity while supporting one another, was incredible. In January, when we reconvened in Park City, it felt as if we hadn’t missed a beat.   

At the Sundance Institute Native Lab we were ushered into a collective moment that ‘yes we can succeed’ and that our presence had reason. For me the highlight came at the end of each long day, when the other Fellows and I would return to our condo and fortify our bond through the shared experience, laughing and telling stories long into the night. As the only woman in the group, I was happy to spend time with my brothers and learn from them. Our Native men have so much to share and carry such an important role in the creative process. To spend time with Ty, Blackhorse, Jason, and Daniel was a gift. There was a strong familial bond (damn, it felt just like family!) that was both liberating and inspiring.

As we trudged around Park City in the wet slush for a week during the Festival, alongside everyone famous or not, our common experience had real meaning. We had to work hard to be present and connect with producers, actors, funders, and the public. It is very important in any creative process to be able to communicate your vision to different groups. It was very satisfying to have these intellectual and emotional conversations as Native Lab Fellows.

I believe Sundance is doing something right now that no other group or organization is poised to do…it is building and supporting long term relationships between Native filmmakers that will bring about a powerful voice in storytelling. Because it is such a strong and recognizable brand, when it backs a person or project, people pay attention and doors open. I look forward to giving back to the Native Lab program one day with the same vigor that they have guided me. I hope to produce/direct a project that will not only honor the subjects of the film, but also bring a sense of pride to our Native Lab family. Thank you Bird, Owl and Sundance Institute for this life changing opportunity!