News Release

Native American Media Alliance

Cherokee Nation Film Office

The Native American Media Alliance, in partnership with the Cherokee Nation Film Office, has announced the selection of the inaugural Native American Writers Seminar fellows.

“We are excited to welcome the first cohort of the Native American Writers Seminar,” said Jennifer Loren, director of Cherokee Nation Film Office and Original Content. “Each of the selected fellows can serve an integral role in creating and developing indispensable Native American content within television and film. It is an honor for our film office to partner with the Native American Media Alliance to provide necessary resources, mentoring and much more to support our shared endeavor to bring authentic Native representation throughout these industries.”

Pictured: The eight fellows of the first cohort of the Native American Writers Seminar.

Pictured: The eight fellows of the first cohort of the Native American Writers Seminar.

The Native American Writers Seminar is a multi-day intensive that develops emerging writers who are new to writing for film and television and will flourish from professional and creative mentorship. This initiative provides new access for Native Americans interested in breaking into writing for film and television.

All participants chosen for the seminar will workshop an existing script with creative executives from Bad Robot and Skydance, agents from Buchwald and Kaplan Stahler, and network showrunners from CBS and ABC. The program provides intensive development workshops and is accompanied by rigorous writing sessions.

In addition, the seminar will provide representatives from prestigious fellowships and past participants of Native American Media Alliance writing programs. These speakers will share insight into career development, professional growth and new writing opportunities.

The Inaugural Native American Writers Seminar cohort: 

Sienna Camille, Navajo, Navajo, is a writer and actress born and raised in Arizona. Sienna graduated from USC School of Cinematic Arts with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Cinema and Media Studies. After graduating, she came up in the industry as a production assistant on films and TV shows such as Marvel's "Venom II", A24/Apple TV's "The Sky is Everywhere", and HBO's "Insecure". Inspired by these productions, Sienna launched her journey as a writer with her first television pilot. She is eager to increase Native representation in Hollywood as well as bring modernity to audiences’ perceptions of Native Americans.

Camaray Davalos, Payómkawichum/Xicana, graduated from Humboldt State University in 2018, majoring in Native American Studies. Using creative non-fiction as well as fiction, she has engaged readers of her work by covering Indigenous social and environmental issues, as well as the complexities of gender roles and identity. In 2020 she won the Native Voices 10th Annual Short Play Festival Audience Prize, and in 2021 she wrote and filmed her first short, Woman Who Blooms at Night. She currently resides in her ancestral Payómkawichum lands of southern California.

Neyom Friday, Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma, is an experienced writer based in Manhattan Beach, California. Neyom has a Liberal Arts and Film Studies degree from Santa Monica College and Certificates in Screenwriting (TV and Feature Film) from UCLA. Much of the influence Neyom draws upon as a writer comes from her youth when she attended several tribal and federally operated Native American boarding schools throughout Oklahoma. She writes about the fiery and wild side of female Native American characters. Neyom is an avid writer, researcher and lover of books, TV and movies. She resides near the ocean with her family.

Julia Morgan Leatham, Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, is a writer from Los Angeles, California. She is a proud citizen of the Cherokee Nation with lineage through the Wild Potato clan. A multi-media creator, Julia first found passion for writing and performance art through spoken word poetry and drag. Her 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). Most recently, Julia has spent the year developing three feature-length screenplays through workshop at Yale University, receiving 3-months of Yale funding to work full-time on her first feature script in Summer 2020. She is currently in post-production on her short film “crooked light” and her debut poetry collection “desire” is out now with New Degree Press.

Lewayne “Buddy” McQueen, Ely Shosone Tribe, has been performing improv for over a decade and produced his own improv show for over eight years. He was part of the award winning Alibi The Show in Las Vegas and made it to the semi-finals of Four Directions talent search. He has a BFA in film and digital media from University of Nevada - Las Vegas and has a lifelong love of comedy

Kat Smith, Eagle Clan of the Tsimshian Tribe, has a strong performing arts background. By the time she was getting her Bachelor's Degree in Theater under the Study of Dr. Terry Converse, Directing for the Stage, she had already studied Strasberg's technique, Improv and produced over 60 shorts for her High School television production. She comes from an impoverished background that has inspired her ambitions and profoundly impactful life experiences that fuel her creativity. She is an accomplished actress expanding her creative abilities into writing, feeding her ambition to be a creator.

Meilani Wenska, Hawaiian, attended the Kamehameha Schools, where Hawaiian culture, music, writing, and dance are built into the curriculum. She received her BA degree in painting, worked professionally as a graphic designer for years and began selling her art prints successfully online. Expanding her horizons, Meilani found a deep passion screenwriting, directing, and acting. Her written work includes two feature length screenplays, two pilots, five shorts and a book of poetry. She has also directed four short films and a music video and is currently developing numerous series

Christopher York, Choctaw/Chickasaw, is a writer/teacher/artist who is inspired by history, both collective and personal. As a writer, Chris has been involved with a previous reality show project that won the 2013 Producer’s Guild Award. Since 2015 he has taught at East Central University as an adjunct English professor. Chris received his undergraduate degree at Oklahoma Baptist University, attended Law School at Southern Methodist University and received a certificate in screenwriting from the University of California, Los Angeles. Most recently he received his Master’s of Education from East Central University in 2018. Chris traces his Choctaw/Chickasaw heritage back to several prominent members of the Colbert family, including Governor Winchester Colbert, who was part of the first removal group on the Trail of Tears in 1837.

About Native American Media Alliance

The Native American Media Alliance (NAMA) advocates for Native American representation in the entertainment industry. This initiative functions as a resource for industry personnel to work with Native Americans who have an authentic voice for film, television and new media. The Native American Media Alliance is a project of the Barcid Foundation; a non-profit organization that focuses on multimedia programming in Indigenous communities.

About Cherokee Nation Film Office

The mission of the Cherokee Nation Film Office is to increase the presence of Native Americans in every level of the film and television industries, while creating opportunities for economic development and jobs in the Cherokee Nation. For more information please visit our website www.nama.media or email contact@nama.media.

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