- By Monica Whitepigeon
LOS ANGELES — On Monday, the Native American Media Alliance (NAMA), a Native American advocacy organization, announced that they are accepting applications for the 6th Annual Native American TV Writers Lab. Part of LA Skins Fest, this writing intensive program comes in partnership with Sony Pictures Entertainment, A+E Networks and Kung Fu Monkey Productions.
Taking place from April to May, the five-week lab provides seven seasoned Native writers with the opportunity to develop their skills and prepare them for working in the entertainment industry. The lab will take place virtually and consist of one-on-one meetings, panel discussion and group workshops. By the end of the program, each participant is expected to complete at least one half-hour comedy or one drama TV script, which will be presented to network executives from NBC, Bad Robot, Netflix and more.
As a project of the Barcid Foundation, a nonprofit that utilizes multimedia programming in Indigenous communities, NAMA supports contemporary Native content creators through professional development and advocates for inclusion.
The Writers Guild of America West (WGAW) recently released its inclusion report, which identified an ongoing lack of representation of women and people of color. Indigenous employed writers make up only 0.8 percent of screenwriters and 1.1 percent of TV writers. The report also noted that “there is ample evidence that, once employed, writers from underrepresented groups encounter ongoing obstacles,” such as “various types of bias, tokenism, and harassment.”
NAMA, and other Native-led organizations, aim to combat these industry practices to create more diverse and equitable working environments. The initiative functions as a resource for industry personnel to work with Native people, who offer an authentic voice for television, film and new media.
Barcid Foundation CEO and NAMA Director of Strategy Ian Skorodin (Choctaw) said, “We have had an incredible five years of the lab that has seen numerous fellows flourish. We intend to expand the ranks of Native Americans in writers’ rooms throughout the ever-growing television industry. In our sixth year, we look forward to offering unique and rare opportunities to a new group of brilliant and exceptional Native American talent.”
Notable past participants include Shelley Dennis (Choctaw), who currently works on Netflix’s “Spirit Rangers,” Tom Hanada (Cherokee), who completed a project for Will Smith’s Westbrook Entertainment, and John Timothy (Muskogee Creek), who was a staff writer on Amazon’s “Leverage.”
“I'm so honored to be a staff writer on Spirit Rangers, a new NETFLIX fantasy-adventure series! The show is about a modern-day Native American family (with animal spirits and magical adventures),” Dennis said in an October Instagram post.
“The show was created by the talented, Karissa Valencia, from the Chumash tribe, and she’s put together an all-Native room. So grateful to her and EP, Chris Nee (Doc McStuffins, Vampirina) for bringing Native stories to the masses! Huge thanks to the LA SKINS for their support.”
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