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The Native American Media Alliance announced on Wednesday the recipients of the third Annual Native American Writers Accelerator Grant. With support from Netflix, the organization launched the Native American Writer Accelerator Grant for fellows from their highly successful TV writers lab.

“This grant gives Native American writers the ability to develop their careers as the industry enters another challenging era.” declared Ian Skorodin, Director of Strategy for the Native American Media Alliance. “Previous grantees have found great success in staffing, producing independent work and finding their artistic voice.”

Created to give new opportunities to Native American writers, the Native American Writer Accelerator Grant provides $10,000 grants and professional support to help recipients develop their craft and bolster their writing careers. In its third year, the accelerator will award 12 Native American writers from the 8th Annual Native American TV Writers Lab.

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The accelerator is designed to encourage Native American writers to expand on their current opportunities. The collaboration with Netflix on the Native American Writer Accelerator Grant is part of Netflix’s Fund for Creative Equity

Recipients of the Native American Writer Accelerator Grant:

Kendall David (Choctaw)

Kendall Davis is a writer and comedian based in NYC and is proud to be an enrolled member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. An aspiring TV writer, Kendall currently writes and performs stand-up, sketch, and character comedy around the city. She has performed stand-up at Gotham Comedy Club, Broadway Comedy Club, and Greenwich Village Comedy Club and has co-produced variety shows at Stand Up NY and Club Cumming. She has written and performed original character pieces on Just For Laughs’ Characters Welcome online show and previously wrote, performed, and directed sketch comedy with a team at the Player’s Theatre. Additionally, Kendall’s comedy writing has been published on online satire sites. A natural storyteller, Kendall is excited to hone her TV writing skills in the NAMA TV Writers Lab.

Gina East (Pueblo)

Gina East (Isleta Pueblo) is a writer and filmmaker living in Los Angeles. Her screenplay, What the Crows Saw, placed in multiple screenwriting competitions. Notably, it won the Grand Prize at the Creative World Awards and was a Quarterfinalist in Final Draft’s Big Break - Diversity Feature. In addition, she was a Fellow at NAMA’s 2nd annual Native American Writers Seminar. Her most recent writing and directing project was the short film, In The Witching House, which premiered at the Los Angeles Women’s International Film Festival. Her theater background and dance skills informed her artistry while directing the original Rock Opera, Orpheus: A Season in Hell. Raised by nomadic parents, she grew up living in a converted school bus that traveled along the coasts of Canada, the US, and Mexico. She enjoys weaving her eccentric childhood into much of her work. Her storytelling often focuses on broad themes distilled down to a single character’s experience. She’s the mother of two teenage daughters who are getting ready to leave the nest.

James William Evans (Cherokee)

James William Evans grew up in a mess of rat-infested motels, haunted mobile homes, and cramped apartments scattered around Oklahoma. This and stories from his grandmother, who was one of the first women to serve on the Cherokee tribal council, created an affinity for writing characters who consider themselves outsiders. His short film Life Lines has been screened at several festivals, including The Beverly Hills Shorts Festival (Winner Best Dramedy), The Method Fest (Nomination Best Short) and The Big Easy Film Festival (Winner Best Short Drama). James's stage credits include writing and directing the rock opera We're All Dead (“Succinct and sublime”—The New York Times) and Approaching America (“Intelligent...Sharp...A stellar production”—Time Out New York). He has an MFA in Playwriting from Columbia University and a BA from the College of Santa Fe. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two young daughters. His band, Dirty Lenin, still books a gig every now and then.

Meera Divecha Forespring (Cowlitz)

Meera Divecha Forespring is a creative based in Olympia, Washington. They are mixed of Indigenous American (Cowlitz), Indian (Gujarati), and Irish descent, and identify as two-spirit. In the past, they have worked behind the scenes in some short films such as Little Zombies Bored to Death. They have also worked with the organization Colorization Collective to create a gallery piece dedicated to MMIWG2S in 2020. Currently, they are assisting in the visual effects for an indie web series Morning Star yet to be released, and are studying for their bachelor’s at Evergreen State College where they focus on film production and Native American Studies. An avid writer, actor, and seamstress, Meera is dedicated to increasing the authentic representation of their cultures, both indigenous and south asian, that they and others lacked in childhood.

Michelle Hernandez (Wiyot)

Michelle Hernandez (Wiyot/Latina) is a filmmaker who grew up on the Table Bluff Reservation, where she found her love for filmmaking. She has a Masters in Film and Electronic Media at American University. and a B.A. at Humboldt State in both Film and Native American Studies.

Michelle has participated as a fellow for the 2nd Annual Native American Writers Seminar as well as the 3rd Annual Native American Animation Lab. She launched her career with her thesis film Douk, about an Native family dealing with the repercussions of the Native Boarding School experience, which she won the Horizon Award at the 2019 LA Skins Fest and the April 2021 Showcase Cinema Femme Womxn to Womxn in Film Mentorship Program. She recently completed overseeing The Bartow Project as its Co-Artistic Director and co-director for two of the shorts. Presently, Michelle has projects that are in various levels of development.

Sloane Leong (Hawaiian)

Sloane Leong is a cartoonist, illustrator, writer, and editor of mixed indigenous ancestries. Through her work, she engages with visceral futurities and fantasies through a radical, kaleidoscopic lens. She is currently living on Chinook land near what is known as Portland, Oregon with her family and three dogs.

Simon Luedtke (Potawatomi)

Simon Luedtke is a screenwriter, playwright, actor, and proud citizen of the Potawatomi nation. He is currently an MFA candidate in screenwriting at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. Simon completed his Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism at Emerson College in Boston, where he focused on topics of environmental justice and harm reduction. He is an avid comedy writer, with an ever-growing portfolio of stories about murderous Uber drivers, living trash, magical English robots, and evil TikTok chicken farmers. Simon hopes to help bring vivid, imaginative worlds to life on screen. He lives in Los Angeles with his pets that make him sneeze and fiancé that makes him smile.

Maddox Pennington (Cherokee)

Maddox Pennington (they/he) is a nonbinary writer, professor, and stand-up comic originally from the Cherokee Nation; they received an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from Columbia University, and their debut bibliomemoir, A Girl Walks Into a Book: What the Brontes Taught Me About Life, Love, and Women’s Work was published by Hachette Books in 2017. Currently they teach college writing at the University of Southern California, with topics related to Queer studies, Native studies, Disability studies, and Empathy and Monsters. Their play LOVE CHICKEN premiered at the 2022 Hollywood Fringe Festival, where it was a Best Comedy nominee, and won the Theater Theatre Podcast Playwright Award. Embers Borne West their play about Native migration and intergenerational belonging, was featured in the 2022 First Look Reading Series of the Moving Arts MADLab; the second play in the Muldrow Cycle, Central Standard Time, will be workshopped at the Native Voices Festival at the Autry Museum of the American West summer 2023. They are directing ANNEX, a dark comedy about mental illness, queer family and magical realism, for its #HFF23 world premiere at the Zephyr Theatre in LA.

Stefan Perez (Coast Miwok)

Stefan Perez is a Coat Miwok, Latino filmmaker based in Sonoma County, California. Stefan started with an obsessive fascination with comedy writing and filmmaking in high school. Luckily, this was enough to start a life of endless toil in editing rooms and sleepless nights on set for years to come. Stefan’s style of comedy writing is influenced by the farcical wit of Mel Brooks and the campy extremism of John Waters, all wrapped together in a proudly low-budget style. The indigenous history of storytelling is something Stefan takes great pride in. For a people whose history is tinged with tragedy, Stefan believes the only way to grow as a culture is to also expand into humor. Stefan was a selected fellow in the Native American Media Alliance’s 2nd annual Native American Writing Seminar. He is excited to continue growing as a professional screenwriter with NAMA’s 8th annual Native American TV Writer’s Lab.

Ahyoka Saas (Cherokee)

Ahyoka Saas is a Two-Spirit Cherokee and German writer and composer raised in an end-times cult. They’ve directed and showrun five hour-long sketch revues at The Second City Chicago, won Roadmap's Diversity Initiative Competition and Native American Media Alliance's Animation Fellowship in 2022, and composed the short film Headdress (dir. Tai Leclaire) which premiered at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. This non-binary, pansexual, neurodivergent leftist tells genre-bending satirical comedy, drama and horror stories about flawed yet lovable queer, Indigenous, and neurospicy protagonists set in surreal worlds. Ahyoka’s debut book, Koalas & Other Funny Short Stories, is available now in Lansing and Chicago bookstores as well as online. The Faulty Five, a Cherokee led superhero comic book based on Ahyoka’s award-winning script, is set to be published in 2023.

Rylan Tuohy (Wyandotte)

Rylan Tuohy is a writer and director and proud tribal citizen of the Wyandotte Nation who grew up in rural Greenville, Kentucky. Using YouTube as both a showcase for his earliest short films and a place to learn how to hip hop dance, he realized he had a knack for the former and considered applying to film school. Instead, he accepted a nomination to the United States Naval Academy where he earned an applied physics degree and a commission as a Civil Engineer Corps officer. While serving in uniform and in his spare time, he found a niche in creating comedic videos which gained a following and millions of views. This momentum propelled him into his new career as a writer and director after honorably completing his service. He has collaborated on commercial projects with Paramount’s Top Gun: Maverick, Amazon’s The Terminal List, NFL Star Rob Gronkowski and developed a one-hour drama television pilot as part of his selection in the Writers Guild Foundation’s Veterans Writing Project.

David Zuckerman (Pueblo)

Growing up surrounded by nature and a large tribal influence in Fairbanks, Alaska; David has always had a deep connection to his indigenous roots. Quickly entering the entertainment world after his schooling, David hit the ground running by writing and producing his own content. Having a few features, web shorts, and even a series under his belt, David is excited at the prospect to hone his TV skills and further establish himself in the industry. No stranger to NAMA, David was a fellow in the 2019 LA Skins Feature Film Writer's Workshop.

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