MorningStar Angeline is a jack-of-all-trades. When it comes to film and TV, this Indigenous woman does it all. 

Behind the scenes on set of “Yá’át’ééh Abiní”

You may recognize Angeline from her roles in Paramount’s “Yellowstone,” Netflix’s “Chambers,” or HBO’s “This Much I Know Is True.” While she has enjoyed success in front of the camera, she also has worked behind the camera and has a lot of experience and accomplishments to her name, including: assistant director, camera, casting, producing, screenwriting and working in location departments.

Angeline is a queer Diné, Blackfoot, Chippewa and Latinx woman who worked her way into the film industry after growing up in two “worlds” due to divorced parents. Born in Santa Fe, New Mexico, she was introduced to theater at a young age in school but never quite found her place in it. When she relocated with family from New Mexico to California, she was exposed to even more of the industry over the years. By college she had been exposed to more theater, acting, and behind-the-scenes work, where she felt a strong connection to film.  She left school to pursue film full time, knowing filmmaking was something she wanted to spend the rest of her life doing. 

“Drunktown’s Finest” Film Poster

Her commitment and hard work have earned her success and respect. In 2014 she made her feature debut as Nizhoni Smiles in “Drunktown’s Finest” at the Sundance Film Festival and continues to earn acting roles. Angeline made her directorial and writing debut in 2018 with “Yá’át’ééh Abiní” as a Sundance Indigenous Lab Fellow, a prestigious and highly competitive program. This year, she finalized her script “Rowdy by Nature” as a participant in the highly selective 2020 LA Skins TV Writers Lab, proudly sponsored by CNFO. 

Angeline is currently focusing on writing, directing, acting and producing at the moment, and the sky is the limit both for her and for anyone wanting to be in film. While she has some impressive credits under her belt, she didn’t get there overnight. She shares her journey, what she’s learned along the way and advice to anyone looking to get their start in our Q&A below:

CNFO: How did you get started in the film industry? 

MorningStar Angeline

MorningStar Angeline: My introduction to film came from a few sources. When I was young, living in Gallup, I participated in local theater in school, but I was never drawn to the theater itself. I always had my eyes on the movie or TV screen. Years later, my older sister began taking film courses and acted in a student film of hers, which propelled me to want to act in a film more. (Spoiler: that wouldn’t happen for a VERY long time.) Once I was in Los Angeles, I began taking acting classes and doing more theater, but I had bad experiences in auditions and decided maybe acting wasn’t for me if it was going to be so competitive and demeaning. From there I focused on a behind-the-scenes photographer for music videos and began learning the world of film through production assistant work. I attended community college in Los Angeles but dropped out after two years to pursue film full time while simultaneously holding a law firm day job.

What is your role in the film industry?

Right now, I’m focusing on sharpening and honing my skills in many areas of film work, including writing, directing, acting and producing. Acting is always my favorite thing to have the privilege to do, but I am also passionate about storytelling in general. I’m dedicated to learning how I can help other people’s visions and films come to life, as well as my own. I fell in love with the collaborative nature of film, and producing, directing and writing are great ways to do that.

What advice would you give to those looking to get into the film industry?

Still from short film “Raven”

  • Get comfortable with rejection. In Hollywood there’s plenty of it, and it rarely, if ever, comes with an explanation. It is never fair, so if you expect that, it’s probably the wrong career for you.
  • Find your voice and hone that. Our experiences and individual voice are what set us apart from the countless others pursuing filmmaking.
  • Surround yourself with people with similar goals and values. Filmmaking is very collaborative, and it is also full of cliques/circles of people who are loyal to those they work well with.
  • Let go of any goal you have of “making it” in film. No one ever feels like they’ve made it, even when we’re working with the best of the best or on an amazing project. I’ve heard this from some of my heroes in film, and it really helped me learn to enjoy the process.

What’s your career highlight?

Still from “Yá’át’ééh Abiní”

It is very hard to choose a single highlight, but in 2019 to the beginning of 2020 I had the amazing privilege of working with and assisting Zack Snyder on “Army of the Dead.” It was such a positive and healthy work environment, and it was such a fantastic learning opportunity for me on so many levels. I work and learn best when I can be very hands-on, so the whole experience sharpened my skills on many levels. I’m extremely grateful for that job and opportunity.

What is your highest career goal?

The highest and most consistent career goal I have is to just find joy and fulfillment in my work wherever it takes me. I strive to work with and for respectable people, because that is the type of space I hope to create as I get further in my career. 

What is your vision for Native Americans in the film industry?

Still from “Fukry”

My vision for Native people in the film industry is for us to be able to exist and produce work that represents us in and outside of our cultures and tribes. While I’ve found that work grounds and feeds our work, I hope we can work outside of those areas of film and show just how eclectic and universal the stories in our hearts are.

To learn more about MorningStar Angeline, check out her IMDB page

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