New Partnership Gives Indigenous Filmmakers Platform

Sundance Institute’s Indigenous Program Director Bird Runningwater at the 2015 Native Filmmakers Lab. Sundance will be advising on the partnership for scripts from Indigenous filmmakers. (2015 Sundance Institute | Photo by Babak Dowlatshahi)

To increase Indigenous representation on screen, Endeavor Content has inked a three-film deal with Heather Rae, a film and television producer who promotes changing the narrative and inclusion in the industry. The deal, which was announced by Variety on Indigenous Peoples’ Day, calls for scripts from Indigenous filmmakers specifically.

Advising on the project will be Crystal EchoHawk of IllumiNative and Bird Runningwater of Sundance Institute.

“Heather is an incredible producer, elegant person, and a fierce advocate for Native American and Indigenous storytelling,” Endeavor Content co-presidents Graham Taylor and Chris Rice said. “Pairing her exceptional vision with Crystal and Bird as Impact Partners will allow us to enable and ennoble these important voices in film, which have been underrepresented for too long.”

Rae produced Academy-Award nominated “Frozen River,” Netflix Originals “Tallulah” with Ellen Page and Allison Janney and “Dude” with Lucy Hale.

Heather Rae, a film and television producer who promotes changing the narrative, has set a three-film deal with Endeavor Content, committing to three films from Indigenous filmmakers. (Courtesy Sundance.org)

“Proud to collaborate with my sister in #IndigenousFilm Heather Rae to get some feature films made with Endeavor Content, Crystal Echo Hawk and IllumiNative! #IndigenousPeoplesDay” Bird Runningwater, who belongs to the Cheyenne and Mescalero Apache Tribal Nations, said on Facebook the day the announcement was made.

In Runningwater’s tenure with the Sundance Institute, 140 Indigenous filmmakers have been mentored through Sundance’s labs, grants, and fellowships, and more than 110 films have been written, directed and produced by Indigenous filmmakers.

“Exciting news!!! So proud of Heather Rae and Bird Runningwater for their tireless advocacy and work that is helping make big things happen for Native representation,” Crystal Echo Hawk, Pawnee, said on Facebook. “Grateful to them both for including IllumiNative in this journey and work. #IndigenousPeoplesDay #RepresentationMatters #IndigenousFilm”

As the founder and CEO of IllumiNative, Echo Hawk has always fought passionately for the rights of Native people. Her nonprofit organization aims to dismantle the invisibility of Native people in pop culture and media. 

“In these times the world is looking for vision, and Indigenous voices bring that power and authenticity to the screen. I am honored to work in tandem with Bird Runningwater and his visionary curation of talent, and Crystal Echohawk and her groundbreaking organization to energize representation and Native inclusion,” Rae said. “We are thrilled by this partnership with Endeavor Content to bring three incredible stories to life and ensure many more to come.”

“A rising tide lifts all canoes. One person cannot succeed without the many, so help one another to create and move forward,” Rae told Sundance in May 2020.

READ MORE: The Shine Network Will Empower and Celebrate Indigenous Women

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