5th Annual Native American Animation Lab Selects 8 Fellows

EXCLUSIVE: The Native American Media Alliance (NAMA) announced today they have selected 8 participants for the 5th Annual Native American Animation Lab, a talent development program that aims to boost the careers of Native Americans in the field of animation.

“Native American storytelling continues to provide groundbreaking television series and films with animation at the forefront.” Stated Ian Skorodin (Choctaw), Director of Strategy for the Native American Media Alliance.”This lab has bolstered our community’s presence in this arena and we are excited to bring forth a new cohort of artists.”

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The selected participants take part in a five day curriculum that has them meet with executives from the most high profile animation entities that include Dreamworks Animation, Sony Pictures Animation, Skydance Animation and many others. The lab consists of daily group sessions, one-on-one mentoring and creative support to help each participant initiate key relationships in the animation industry.

The five day total immersion lab is mentored by animation executive producers and industry veterans. The mentors provide guidance for each fellows’ animation television or motion picture project. At the conclusion of the lab, each participant pitches a panel of executives from our corporate supporters, receive feedback and gain additional insight.

The Native American Animation Lab was created to expand the amount of Native Americans working in animation, as a way to increase fair and accurate portrayals of Native Americans on television and film. For more information, visit http://www.nama.media

Autumn Cavender is a multi-disciplined force: mother, midwife, activist, and artist. Her artistic journey began with a quillwork apprenticeship, studying Dakota design, aesthetics, and methodology. She transitioned into multimedia and digital art in 2020, inspired by the possibilities of generative and AI art. Fascinated by experimentations with different storytelling mediums, Cavender began writing scripts in February 2023 and has been a second-rounder at Austin Film Festival, and a quarterfinalist at both the PAGE Awards, and Final Draft Big Break. She resides in her home community of Pezutazizi K’api.

Moki Bear Eagle is an Oglala Lakota storyteller from Wounded Knee, Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, South Dakota. Moki first shared stories as playwright, performing zero budget productions at schools around the geographical area of Pine Ridge Rez, also sharing collegiately with other tribal nations during annual AIHEC tribal college conferences. Moki graduated from Oglala Lakota College, and then went onto University of California Los Angeles to graduate with an MA in American Indian Studies. Moki then returned to his tribe’s college as a professor, teaching courses in Lakota culture, language & history, with emphasis on storytelling. After being selected for Playwrights Realm’s Inaugural Native American Artist Lab which culminated in a staged play reading in NYC, hearing the story come to life through the voices of performers encouraged Moki to pursue his original vision of the story, to come to life as an animated film.

Charine Pilar Gonzales is a Tewa filmmaker from San Ildefonso Pueblo and Santa Fe, New Mexico. Her esteemed short doc Our Quiyo: Maria Martinez (2022) premiered at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and was acquired by AT&T and Comcast Xfinity. Charine’s debut narrative fiction short film, River Bank (Pō-Kehgeh), centers on a Tewa woman who is mesmerized by a world of money and must listen to the spirit of the River in order to free herself. River Bank (Pō-Kehgeh) is currently in the film festival circuit.

Charine aims to intertwine memories, dreams and truths through story. Charine is a producer for Native Lens hosted by KSUT Tribal Radio and RMPBS. She owns the multimedia production company, Povi Studios. Charine attends Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) MFA Creative Writing program with a focus in Screenwriting.  Charine is an alumni of the LA Skins Fest TV Writers Lab, Sundance Institute Indigenous Program, Jackson Wild Summit, and First Peoples Fund. She’s represented by Rain Management Group, based in LA. Her favorite foods are Pueblo oven bread, red chile stew, and chicos. She resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with her family and chunky orange tabby cat, Cheddar.

Luis Angel Rossy, also known as Machete Sound, is a multi talented indigenous artist from California. Born to a Puerto Rican Father and a Mexican Cuban mother, his cultural background spans Latin America and the Caribbean. He is known for his diverse music influences and fearless and original genre blending bangers. He has written, produced and performed catchy, rhythmic, classics that mixed reggae and hip hop with the hypnotic sounds of hardcore and pop. Music isn’t his only skill, he is also an accomplished writer.

The Machete Clan which tells the story of an indigenous man facing racism and oppression in modern day America. Luis turned inward to create a world where a family has the power to change the world around them, and fearlessness is boundless. The visually stunning and culturally impactful first edition is the first of more to come. In addition to his other natural talents, he also has acting experience. Most recently he was selected for a major role in Woman Who Blooms at Night, a film highlighting the plight of indigenous women. These days you can find him on the western shores of his ancestral lands, raising his beautiful daughter and preparing for his next project.

Sabrina Saleha is a Navajo screenwriter and actress. She is an alumna of 2023 ImagineNative’s Screenwriting Features Lab and 2022 LA Skinsfest Native American Media Alliance’s TV Writer’s Lab. Sabrina graduated with a Master of Fine Arts in Screenwriting from the Institute of American Indian Arts in May 2023, having received a scholarship from Warner Bros. Discovery. Her most recent acting credits include roles in Barry, Single Drunk Female, Panhandle, and voiceover work in the Playstation video game, The Foglands.

Alex Vallo is a talented graphic designer and animator from the Pueblo of Acoma, New Mexico. He is currently a Media Specialist for the Pueblo of Santa Ana, where he creates captivating visuals for community events and initiatives. With a degree in Graphic Design from Fort Lewis College, Alex combines his love for design with a deep appreciation for representing his indigenous culture. Before his current role, Alex worked as a Graphic Artist at Deluxe Design, where he crafted eye-catching signage for local events and music festivals like Lost Lands and Seven Peaks Festival, and Northwest String Summit.

In 2016, he started exploring motion graphics by creating lyric videos for friends’ music, which gained some popularity on YouTube. This led him to expand his repertoire and create motion graphics for popular songs, attracting a wider audience. Growing up in the vibrant culture of Acoma, Alex’s childhood instilled in him a strong sense of heritage and storytelling. This upbringing fuels his passion for representing the stories and experiences of his people through his creative work. Through his work Alex seeks to not only entertain but also to educate. Using the power of storytelling to share knowledge in an engaging and appealing way.

Rahe-Wanitanama (Indigenous Caribbean / Taíno) is a storyteller, craftsperson and tradesperson based in Florida and Jamaica. Affiliation: Dolphin Head Forest Reserve via Askenish, Jamaica. Their goal is to participate in world-building dialogues to help shape narrative identities that promote eudaemonia in diverse community contexts through traditional animation. Shown at Tribeca Film Center, Smithsonian, Anthology Film Archives, DCTV, UCLA Film & Television Archive, Vision Maker Media, University of Toronto and imagineNATIVE.

Recent activity includes a commission by Oolite Arts and Miami Film Festival; selection for Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs’ Miami Individual Artists (MIA) Program, Native American Media Alliance/LA Skins Film Festival Unscripted Fellowship, NPR’s Next Gen Radio Indigenous Fellowship, NBCU Academy 2023’s Leadership Clinic at NAHJ, and a Third Horizon Forward Fellowship. Featured in Indian Country Today, Deadline, Folklife Magazine, TODAY, B&H Explora, and New Orleans Film Society Journal. Current productions include Bearing Water, an animation based on their grandmother’s historical autobiography titled under the eponym, “True Blue.” “Bearing Water” have participated in selected pre-development schemes in regional Southern U.S., including Austin Film Festival’s 2023 Ghost Ranch Writing Residency and Miami-Dade County’s Miami Media Film Market 2023 Fellowship at the Latin Chamber of Commerce of the USA (CAMACOL).

Amanda WouldGo, an indigiqueer artist of Secwepemc and Wampanoag descent, bears the mark of her heritage—a tattoo of “slexéy̓em,” the Secwepemc word for story, on her wrist. Influenced by the imaginative worlds of Laika and Jim Henson, she aims to help pave the way for more indigenous voices in future media landscapes. During the pandemic, she embarked on a transformative journey to learn the Secwepemc language, further connecting her to her roots and enriching her storytelling.

Descended from a family that fled the Canadian Residential Schools after three generations of imprisonment in that system, she draws upon this legacy of resilience to inspire those affected by intergenerational trauma. She believes that animation offers an opportunity to explore the realms of traditional stories that seem to operate just outside of the everyday world. Through this blend, Amanda envisions storytelling as a tool for healing and self-exploration. She looks forward to joining forces with other indigenous artists to create works that not only heal but also inspire their communities with stories of hope and empowerment.

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