By Benjamin Yazza
A Sundance Institute workshop specializing in native short story development gathered more than native filmmakers. Wednesday Evening, the workshop hosted by ArtServe in Fort Lauderdale, Fl., filled a room with eager participants wanting to communicate their ideas.
“Our film festival is only a small piece of what we do,” Sundance Institute Program Director Bird Runningwater said. “What we do is conduct labs and fellowships and mentorships. This workshop is apart of our outreach and public education process.”
The workshop aims to help young filmmakers compose their stories and offers a space to create meaningful relationships with fellow members of the community.
Shaandiin Tome, 2017 Sundance Native Filmmaker’s Lab Fellow, presented her short film “Mud (Hastl’ishnii).” She highlighted the construction of her short film by speaking about the pre-production process of storyboarding and scene scouting, as well as gave insight into her work with the Sundance Institute and what it offers up-and-coming filmmakers.
“[Sundance Institute] offers a lot of fellowships and grants, and I know that a lot, sometimes they go unused because people don’t apply, sometimes they don’t have enough applicants and so they feel like there’s not a powerful enough story,” Tome said.
Tome, who served as writer, director and cinematographer, received the No Bro Zone grant endorsed by Borscht, a Florida production company. The grant is an initiative to present production funds to female-identifying applicants without the inclusion of a male producer.
“We’re a Miami initiative, so it’s more Miami stories, and by default those are more diverse and they’re not stories that are often told,” Borscht co-founder Lucas Leyva said. “The Miccosukee and Seminole [tribes] are such a big part of Miami culture and I’d love for more work to be done.”
Outreach specialist of the Seminole Tribe, Everett Osceola described the workshop as an opportunity to teach young Indigenous filmmakers how their own stories can be adapted.
“It’s brought some people out tonight that I did not know made films or did script writing,” Osceola said. “One person even told me they produced a short film that I didn’t even know. I believe this is bringing people out of the woodwork.”
Attendees of the event shared their personal projects with one another while also touching on their own diverse backgrounds. They were broken up into four groups to create an intimate environment for sharing while also allowing for an open reception following the workshop.
“It’s inspiring to me. I kind of feel like I do have a story to tell but I just haven’t really found my voice yet or I haven’t taken that first step in that journey,” said Miranda Motlow, workshop participant. “Seeing them gives me confidence. It makes me feel like I can do it too”.
The Sundance Institute runs the Native Lab in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Its Native Lab Fellowship offers students first-hand experience directing a short film. Runningwater says the institute is always looking for writers, directors and producers. It is trying to promote those ideas with native communities because they still are foreign.
Aspiring filmmakers seeking support and opportunities can visit http://www.sundance.org/programs/native-program