Vision Maker Media announces funding for 14 made-for-TV projects

· 4 min read

Vision Maker Media announces funding for 14 made-for-TV projects

Public Media Fund Filmmaker in the field.

Each year, Vision Maker Media funds media projects intended for PBS broadcasting that represent the cultures, experiences and perspectives of Native Americans and Alaska Natives.

Films are reviewed by a panel of public media programmers and Native American filmmakers, then board-approved based on Native involvement, topics of relevance that can garner a wide audience, guideline eligibility, and meeting the technical standards of PBS broadcast quality.

Fourteen television projects have been selected for 2021 funding and will be executive-produced by Vision Maker Media for PBS television broadcasting. The filmmakers, who represent 23 Native nations, will receive a total $841,522 in support. The topics of this year’s selections include social justice, climate and environment, health and wellness, democracy, and the arts.

The funded films encompass all stages of the production process, with some still in research and others nearing the end of production. The Vision Maker Media Public Media Fund offers up to $150,000 in support for episodic programming and production, up to $100,000 for post-production, and a range of $5,000 to $25,000 for research and development.

“We’re elated by the variety of projects selected for the 2021 Public Media Fund,” said Executive Director Francene Blythe-Lewis (Diné, Sisseton-Wahpeton, Eastern Band Cherokee). “The group of projects represent an array of tribes, topics and impactful new stories that are vital to today’s dialogue. It is an honor for everyone at Vision Maker Media to be part of the creation of these important stories being told by and about Native Americans for public media.”

The projects selected for 2021 funding are:

“Tiny Tot Nation”
Synopsis: An adventure to find a lost moccasin in time for the Christmas Powwow.
Animated Short
Phase: Research and Development
Awarded $18,200
Producer/Director/Writer: Yvonne Russo (Sicangu Lakota Nation)
Associate Producer: Reuben Fast Horse (Standing Rock Lakota)
Animator: Eric Peck

“Navajo Doctors Project” (working title)
Synopsis: Doctors on the Navajo reservation work through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Feature Documentary
Phase: Production
Awarded $74,882
Director/Producer: Billy Luther (Navajo, Hopi, Laguna Pueblo)

“The Salmon People”
Synopsis: Lummi Nation confronts the drastic decline of wild salmon that is threatening their way of life.
Feature Documentary
Phase: Production
Awarded $73,072
Executive Producer/Co-Director: Darrell Hillaire (Lummi Nation)
Story Consultant/Narrator: Jay Julius (Lummi Nation)
Writer/Co-Director/Editor: Beth Pielert

“Kanenon:we - original seeds”
Synopsis: Indigenous women seed-keepers working to propagate and protect our seed relatives for future generations.
Feature Documentary
Phase: Production
Awarded $57,182
Director/Producer/Writer: Katsitsionni Fox (Mohawk)
Producer: Katja Esson
Cinematographer: Jaiden Mitchell (Mohawk)
Cinematographer: Mateo Hinojosa (Bolivian-American)

“Good Fire”
Synopsis: Disputing the notion of fire as our enemy.
Short Documentary
Phase: Production
Awarded $53,127
Writer/Producer: Roni Jo Draper (Yurok)
Director/Cinematographer: Marissa Lila
Producer: Jenn Lee Smith

Untitled Tuscarora short documentary
Synopsis: The Tuscarora Nation faces an ongoing water crisis outside of Niagara Falls.
Short Documentary
Phase: Research and Development
Awarded $11,450
Producer: Stacey Rice (Tuscarora)
Producer: Lindsey Ashley

“Apache 8: Beyond the Fire”
Synopsis: Facing catastrophic fires on the West Coast, Native women work to incorporate Indigenous burning rights.
Feature Documentary
Phase: Production
Awarded $70,582
Director/Producer: Sande Zeig
Executive Producer: Heather Rae (Cherokee)
Producer: Katy Aday (White Mountain Apache)
Producer: Vicky Westover
Producer: Nina Mistry
Writer: Shepherd Tsosie (Diné)

“And Knowledge to Keep Us”
Synopsis: Alaska Native kids gather to connect with and celebrate their Sugpiaq ancestral knowledge.
Episodic Series
Phase: Production
Awarded $52,382
Producer/Director/Director of Photography: Torsten Kjellstrand
Producer/Photographer: Dr. Sven Haakanson, Jr. (Sugpiaq, Athabaskan)
Producer/Photographer: Mark Blaine
Community Producers: Cheri & Speridon Simeonoff (Sugpiaq)
Elder Producers: Judy & Mitch Simeonoff (Sugpiaq)

“The Land Returns”
Synopsis: Opportune pathways whereby Indigenous nations are regaining their land.
Feature Documentary
Phase: Production
Awarded $142,329
Co-Producer: Kevin Abourezk (Rosebud Lakota)
Co-Producer: Margaret Jacobs
Co-Producer/Director/Editor: Charles “Boots” Kennedye (Kiowa)

“Indigenous Genders” (working title)
Synopsis: This documentary-series explores gender norms through Indigenous lenses.
Episodic Series
Phase: Research and Development
Awarded $25,000
Writer/Director: Raven Two Feathers (Cherokee, Seneca, Cayuga, Comanche)
Executive Producer: Ciara Lacey (Kanaka Maoli)
Producer/Co-Writer: Nils Cowan
Producer: Eleni Ledesma (Indigenous Mexican descent)
Director of Photography: Steve Hyde

“#MMIW: Search for Truth” (working title)
Synopsis: An Indigenous woman’s search to uncover the details of her sister’s death.
Feature Documentary
Phase: Production
Awarded $100,714
Director/Executive Producer: Amanda Erickson (San Carlos Apache Nation)
Executive Producer: Sarah V. Burns
Executive Producer: Alex Sherratt

Synopsis: The untold story of the first Apache Scouts.
Feature Documentary
Phase: Research and Development
Awarded $25,000
Director: Dustinn Craig (White Mountain Apache)
Producer: Mari Keiko Gonzalez

“The Bears on Pine Ridge”
Synopsis: A tribe’s suicide prevention team mentors young suicide survivors.
Feature Documentary
Phase: Post-Production
Awarded $80,597
Executive Producer: Sonny Skyhawk (Sicangu Lakota)
Director: Noel Bass
Co-Producer: Mirosala Gonzalez

“Drowned Land”
Synopsis: Deep in the Choctaw Nation of rural Oklahoma, a group of water protectors fight to preserve the lifeline of their community.
Feature Documentary
Phase: Production
Awarded: $57,005
Director/Producer: Colleen Thurston (Choctaw Nation)
Producer: Michelle Svenson
Director of Photography: Charles Elmore
Editors: Gloria Shade (Cherokee, Diné) & Zach Litwack

Vision Maker Media is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) funded in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. For more information, visit, email or call 402-472-3522.

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