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Amazon Studios has partnered with IllumiNative to create the IllumiNative Episodic Directors Program.

Over the next year, the inaugural cohort of early- and mid-career Indigenous filmmakers will shadow directors on the upcoming second season of the streamer’s neo-Western series Outer Range, which includes an Indigenous character among its main cast. The participants will be paid for their work, with travel and accommodations covered. Although the filmmakers will not be hired to direct an episode as part of their program participation (a component first introduced by NBCU Launch and subsequently adopted by other studios such as Disney), Amazon says that it will consider program alumni for future gigs.

“Amazon Studios is intentional in developing accurate stories and characters by and about Native peoples, and IllumiNative has been an invaluable resource in this work,” Amazon Studios and Prime Video global head of DEIA Latasha Gillespie said in a statement. “We are proud to grow our relationship with them and provide a pathway for Indigenous directors to build their careers.”

The new pipeline program builds on the pre-existing partnership between the two organizations, with IllumiNative having consulted on Amazon series including Outer Range, The English and Three Pines.

“Over the past few years, we have seen the huge success of Native content on streaming platforms — the demand for the nuance and complexity that Native-led shows bring to the screen is undeniable,” IllumiNative founder and executive director Crystal Echo Hawk said in a statement. “In order to meet this demand, we have to ensure Native creatives are provided with the resources and opportunities to succeed in an industry that has historically forgotten or dismissed Native peoples. We’re so thrilled to expand our work with Amazon Studios on this exciting collaboration, to uplift new and emerging Native and Indigenous TV directors and ensure they not only break into the industry but thrive.”

Read more about the inaugural IllumiNative Episodic Directors Program cohort below.

While still a film production MFA student at NYU Tisch School of the Arts, Razelle Benally (Oglala Lakota/Diné) teamed with Matthew Galkin to direct the recent Showtime docuseries Murder in Big Horn, and she also was a staff writer on season one of AMC’s Dark Winds. Now in her thesis year, the former Sundance Native Lab, Producers and Screenwriters Intensive fellow is in development on her first directorial feature.

Daniel Edward Hyde (Navajo/Belize)’s credits include The Way Things Are (2011), Brousins (2012), Bert & Weiwei: Time (2014), The Making of Navajo Star Wars (2015) and Manna (2015). A 2007 alumnus of the University of Arizona’s School of Media Arts, the 2011 Sundance Native Lab Fellow received the first-ever Sen. John Pinto Memorial Film Grant and is currently in production on his debut feature, Yazhi Boy.

A recent fellow in the DGA and AICP’s Commercial Diversity Directors Program, Christopher Cegielski (Navajo)’s clients have included ABC, United Airlines, Google, YouTube, Altra, AriZona Beverages and Dig Deep. He also has received fellowships from the Sundance Native Lab’s Time Warner Producers and Film Independent’s Project Involve (where he won the Sony Pictures Diversity Fellowship Grant) and this year co-directed History Channel’s docudrama Sitting Bull.

Peshawn Bread (Comanche) developed their mockumentary The Daily Life of Mistress Red through the Sundance Film Institute’s 2014 Full Circle Fellowship and 2019 Indigenous Filmmakers Lab. They are currently developing an Indigenous vampire series and writing a short film in the Comanche language.

Amazon Studios Teams With IllumiNative for Episodic Directors Program

Rebecca Sun

March 28, 2023

The four filmmakers of the inaugural cohort are Razelle Benally, Daniel Hyde, Christopher Cegielski and Peshawn Bread.

From left: Christopher Cegielski, Peshawn Bread, Daniel Edward Hyde, Razelle Benally | COURTESY OF ILLUMINATIVE

From left: Christopher Cegielski, Peshawn Bread, Daniel Edward Hyde, Razelle Benally | COURTESY OF ILLUMINATIVE

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