Meet the Fellows: LA Skins Feature Film Writers Lab

There’s magic happening in the virtual writing room! Seven talented Native writers are participating in a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and have the chance to propel their careers by taking part in the highly selective Third Annual Native American Feature Film Writers Lab.

It’s an intensive 10 weeks for the fellows, but weeks that could change their lives. The lab, running virtually from August to October 2020, focuses one-on-one attention on each writer, allowing them to develop and complete a screenplay. Each day, the fellows are taking part in workshops, seminars and individualized mentoring. The writers also have the rare opportunity to meet with industry professionals along the way for invaluable feedback on their work, helping secure their place in the industry.

At the end of the course, each fellow walks away with a new screenplay they’ve written, which could be the next big film sensation.

The Cherokee Nation Film Office is proud to be a sponsor of this intensive lab hosted by LA Skins Fest, A Native American Film Festival, along with Comcast NBCUniversal, The Walt Disney Studios, California Community Foundation, Topple and Sony Pictures Entertainment.

CNFO is devoted to increasing the presence of Natives in every level of the film and television industries. Here is just a small sampling of the numbers we’re working to change. Writers Guild of America’s 2020 Inclusion Report shows that “of more than 2,000 screenwriters employed in 2019, only 27% were women and just 20% were people of color … Native/Indigenous screenwriters having almost no representation at all.” These seven writers are just one way to add #MoreNatives to the industry.

Congratulations to the seven fellows selected, who come from different tribes and different states. We’re excited to see what’s next! Learn more about the talented screenwriters below:

Morningstar Angeline (Chippewa Cree/Blackfeet)

Angeline began acting in theater as a child and continued studying acting and writing throughout college. Morningstar is an actress, director, writer and performer. In front of the camera, she has starred in Paramount’s Yellowstone, Netflix’s Chambers and HBO’s This Much I Know Is True. Behind the camera, she has worked in camera, casting and locations departments.

Chris Jenkins (Cherokee Nation)

Jenkins’ writing has appeared in Eclectica, Burnt Pine Magazine, Word Riot and Inland. He has also written two academic books, published in several academic journals and written for several newspapers. He taught creative writing and English as a second language while serving on the Oklahoma Language Arts Writing Committee for several years. Jenkins has a Ph.D. from Oklahoma State University, a master’s from the University of Oklahoma and a bachelor’s in English from Northeastern State University. He has now shifted his focus from academia to creative works and aspires to write and direct.

Randi LeClair (Pawnee Nation)

LeClair graduated from Oklahoma State University with a BA in English (creative writing) and a Master of Professional Writing from the University of Oklahoma. She received two Sundance Institute fellowships in 2010 and 2015, one for screenwriting and the other for film production. More recently, her short script, The Circle of Chawce, placed in numerous screenplay competitions, including WeScreenplay Shorts, Screencraft Shorts, HollywoodJust4Shorts and Simply Indie Film Fest.

Cara Jade Myers (Kiowa/Wichita)

Myers is a Native American writer living in Los Angeles. In 2019 she was a fellow in the 4th Annual Native American TV Writers Program, where she developed a TV pilot from pitch to third draft. That same year, she was a semifinalist in the ABC/Disney writers’ program. She has created multiple shorts, TV pilots and guest blogs. Her novel is currently in the editing phase. Myers’ favorite things to write are strong female-driven casts, especially in the realm of paranormal or sci-fi.

Scott Pewenofkit (Kiowa)

Writer/Director Pewenofkit is a member of the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma. In 2015 he graduated from the University of Kansas with a bachelor’s degree in film. In 2018 he earned his M.A. in media studies from The New School, after which he made three very personal short films touching on themes of memory and culture. His work so far has played at festivals around the U.S. Scott currently lives in San Antonio, Texas, with his two young sons, where he teaches video production at a local art school. His love of movies extends to the film festival world After programming and co-organizing the Talom Aptzai Indigenous Film Festival in 2019, he started the FourthCinema Native Film Festival, which annually features new works by Indigenous filmmakers.

Cole Randall (Muskogee Creek)

Randall discovered a love for writing after watching the performance of a one-act play he wrote in high school. He followed his passion to Emerson College, where he recently graduated with honors, earning a BFA in comedic arts. While attending Emerson, he had the wonderful opportunity to write a feature script, a pilot, a spec script, a web series and another one-act, and he even co-wrote a sketch for Emerson alumnus Norman Lear (which would later be performed for Lear at an event honoring his comedic legacy). In 2018 he was hired to be the co-head writer of Emerson’s first multicamera sitcom, “707: A Sitcom.”

Matthew Rochester (Eastern Band of Cherokee)

Rochester obtained a bachelor’s in film & creative writing. While obtaining his degree, he temporarily studied film in the Czech Republic, where he discovered his love for screenplays. Eventually he would move out west and obtain his master’s in screenwriting from Chapman University. Today, Matthew writes stories that fearlessly approach sensitive topics. With a strange but insightful humor, he strives to flip life’s imperfections into valuable lessons. He’s written shorts that were produced by up-and-coming directors, and his scripts have placed in large competitions.

To find out more about LA Skins Fest and opportunities available, visit laskinsfest.com.

Looking for educational opportunities to propel your film career, too?
Check out the scholarships available from CNFO at https://cherokee.film/scholarships/.

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