News Release

Native American Media Alliance

The Native American Media Alliance announced August 13 they have selected four fellows for the 4th Annual Native American Feature Film Writers Lab, a talent development program that boosts the careers of Native American writers.

In partnership with Comcast NBCUniversal, the National Endowment for the Arts, A+E Networks, the Cherokee Nation Film Office and the California Humanities, the Native American Feature Film Writers Lab is an annual program for talented and aspiring screenwriters. Over the course of 10 weeks, chosen fellows develop a new screenplay, meet with partner industry organizations and receive feedback on their scripts from literary professionals.

“Every year, we are proud to present an incredible cohort of Native American screenwriters,” Ian Skorodin, Director of Strategy for the Native American Media Alliance announced. “Our organization’s talent pipeline has grown, evolved and developed to provide truly groundbreaking initiatives.”

The Native American Feature Film Writers Lab received numerous applicants from several tribes throughout North America. The chosen fellows will take part in a ten-week curriculum curated by seasoned writing executives. The lab will consist of daily workshops, seminars and one-on-one mentoring to help each writer develop and complete a screenplay in ten weeks and hone skills to prepare the participants for studio writing opportunities. At the end of the program, each participant will have completed an original screenplay and will participate in our annual writers pitch fest every November during the LA Skins Fest.

Pictured: The four fellows of the 2021 Native American Feature Film Writers Lab,

Pictured: The four fellows of the 2021 Native American Feature Film Writers Lab,

The four fellows of the 2021 Native American Feature Film Writers Lab are:

Emma Barrow (Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma) comes from a family of artists and has a BFA in Acting from California Institute of the Arts. Her writing often centers complex intergenerational family dynamics and her goal is to amplify Indigenous stories and voices. She is the Northwest Screenwriters Guild 2021 Stowe Story Labs Fellow and was a fellow of the Native American Media Alliance’s 5th Annual TV Writers Lab. Her short film, Cover Me, was an official selection of FLICKFAIR Film Festival and the14th Annual LA Skins Fest. It received honorable mention from the Santa Monica International Film Festival. Her pilot, Thrill Hills, was a semi-finalist in the 25th Annual Fade In Awards TV Pilot/Web Series Competition. She was recently a judge for the Fort Smith International Film Festival’s Indigenous category and for the Cherokee Nation Film Office’s “OklaHomies 2, Still at Home” Short Film Contest.

Kelly Byars (Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma) moved to New Mexico in 1983 and attended the Institute of American Indian Arts where he graduated in 1985 with a degree in Three-Dimensional Art. He has worked as a stone sculptor for over twenty-five years, he has won several blue first place ribbons with exhibitions at local and national venues. Byars attended the University of New Mexico where he received his B.A. in Media Arts in 2004. He has been an actor in several theatre and feature film performances. He won a performance award for his portrayal of Delbert Tsosie in the film A Thief of Time in 2004. Kelly enjoys teaching and received his M.A. in Language, Literacy and Sociocultural Studies in 2010. Kelly and his wife Ramona Emerson have produced several films as Reel Indian Pictures located in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Most recently Kelly produced, The Mayors of Shiprock which aired on PBS and was acquired by World Channel. Kelly continues work producing Crossing the Line, an examination of the violence toward Native people in border towns and the work of educators and activists that have worked for years to stop it. The company also continues work on Through her Lens, a glimpse in the life of Maria Varela, a Chicana photographer and activist who worked with SNCC as an advocate for voting rights in Mississippi during the early 1960’s. Kelly is also in the process of directing Three Generations, a documentary that follows three generations of Taos Pueblo artists and their contributions to the larger art community. While producing, Kelly has also worked as a contributing faculty member at the Santa Fe University of Art and Design and an adjunct professor at the Institute of American Indian Arts. Mr. Byars has two children, Amber and Max Byars.

Julia Leatham (Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma) is a writer from Los Angeles, California. She discovered passion for writing and performance art through spoken word poetry and drag. After graduating from Yale in May with a degree in Film and Media Studies, she workshopped a feature script in the inaugural Native American Media Alliance writing seminar. While at Yale, Julia received funding from the University to work full-time developing a feature script over summer 2020 as well as funding for her short film “crooked light” in spring 2021. The film is currently in post production. Julia’s written poetry and visual artwork is forthcoming in the zine Ethel (Summer 2021/Winter 2021) and is out now in The Threepenny Review (Summer 2021) appearing alongside multiple Guggenheim recipients and former US Poet Laureate Charles Simic.

Roberto A. Jackson (Gila River Indian Community) is a writer/director from Phoenix, Arizona. He directed his first screenplay, “Indios Primeros,” after winning the Creative Spirit Short Screenplay Contest (InterTribal Entertainment) in 2009. In 2015, he released the full-length feature film “In Circles,” with his brother and partner, Claude A. Jackson, Jr. Roberto and Claude won the Achievement in Filmmaking Award for “In Circles,” at the 2015 LA Skins Fest. LA Skins was also instrumental in distribution for “In Circles,” which can be streamed on multiple platforms including Amazon Prime. Roberto, who has a BFA in Art from Arizona State University and an MFA in Photography from the Academy of Art University, also co-created a talk show called “Downtime” for the Gila River Broadcasting Corporation, which is the first-ever Native-owned and operated low-power TV station. Roberto writes for the show and is the host. “Downtime” is currently in its second season.

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