Cherokee Nation citizen Emma Barrow grew up in Portland, Oregon, watching her father, Bruce Barrow, working in the film industry. Her father was an editor, producer and director for Oregon Public Broadcasting and PBS. He planted a seed in Emma that filmmaking was a career she could pursue, and she took action.
That firsthand education has led to her evolution in film. She has grown from a child with a camera in her hands to a graduate of California Institute of the Arts with a BA in acting. Not only does she love acting, she has a passion for writing and owning the narrative of a story. She has recently written and directed the web series “Indecisive Batman” and the short film “Cover Me,” adapted from a short story written by her dad.
She is now embarking on a new adventure writing screenplays inspired by her Cherokee roots and Oklahoma memories. Barrow was selected as a fellow of the LA Skins TV Writers Lab this year, sponsored in part by the Cherokee Nation Film Office. The TV Writers lab is an intensive and selective eight-week program that helps the students write a television script and connects them with industry executives in television. Barrow describes the process, saying, “Participating in the Skins Fest Writers Lab has been truly the most rewarding and encouraging experience I’ve had in years, maybe ever. I felt so validated as a writer, someone with good ideas, a Native woman.”
This is only the beginning for Barrow. She plans to continue making films and writing screenplays, using Oklahoma as her backdrop. Barrow, like CNFO, has the desire to see #MoreNatives represented in the film industry. She is taking advantage of tools that are available to everyone to start her career and tell her stories. CNFO chatted with Barrow and got an inside look on her advice and what she’s learned in her career so far. Read our short and sweet Q&A below:
CNFO: What advice would you give to those looking to get into the film industry?
Emma: My biggest piece of advice is to stop waiting and start doing. I come from an acting background, and early on I spent a lot of time waiting for my agent to get me auditions, waiting for people to ask me to be in their projects, just waiting. I got so sick of feeling like I didn’t have an agency in my own career. If you have a story you want to tell, then write it down. Don’t worry about getting everything right. Lean on your community, use your phone to film, just get started.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in your career?
I still have so much to learn! Hmm, a big thing that I’ve realized is that everyone has an opinion, and it can be overwhelming and confusing when you’re workshopping material. It’s important to have a few people who know your work and whose feedback you value and trust.
What is your vision for Indigenous people in the film industry?
Representation! I want to see films and television that center their stories on multifaceted, Indigenous folks.
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