Ian Skorodin is opening doors for Native Americans in the entertainment industry

Ian Skorodin says filmmaking is more accessible than ever and encourages more Native American representation in front of and behind the camera

Video Transcript

IAN SKORODIN: Right now, there's a lot of really great Native themed content that's TV and film that everybody should definitely check out and really see the perspective of our community from those aspects.

I went to the University of Oklahoma and studied film there. And I transferred to New York University. While I was there, I produced a feature film, "Tushka," and it's loosely based on a Native American activist who was protesting the imprisonment of one fellow activist in Washington, DC. And it premiered at Sundance the following year, and then from there, developed other kind of really underground material, like stop motion animation and other kind of web series.

So the LA Skins Fest was founded 16 years ago. It's a Native American Film Festival. And I founded it because after going to Sundance and doing a festival circuit at very high end festivals, you see what a festival, a genuine festival, really should provide for the filmmakers, a great venue, good attendance, good audience, and then opportunity as a filmmaker.

Because we have so many creative and professional programming for adults, we partnered with the Motion Picture Association and created the Native American Media Alliance. And that houses all of our adult programming and provides other initiatives. We partnered with Netflix during the pandemic and had a COVID relief fund, where we awarded almost $1 million to Native Americans in entertainment who lost work.

They're very comfortable with their community. And they the organizations they want to support. So typically they will invest heavily in their community. So a lot of our fellows now, they are not staffed in a Native themed shows. They're staffed in shows that are just what are considered, quote, unquote, "normal shows." They're just good writers who are able to find work, and they happen to be Native American. And that's really the goal there.

When it comes to that representation, actors really want just, again, consider normal roles. One of the best places to see that is in Michael Mann's "Heat," where Wes Studi is playing an LA cop. Nothing is discussed of his Indigenous heritage or him being Cherokee or anything. He's just one of Al Pacino's crew. And that is really what we seek. They have an identifiable role or position in the world that all of us understand. We can sympathize with them on some level or identify.

The one thing I try to remind everybody is that being an artist, especially a media artist, there's so much advantage now. All the advantages are there. It's up to the artist now to find that self-discipline and start to execute content.