Filmmaker Ian Skorodin: Indigenous stories aren’t the new ‘bright’ trend – Indigenous communities are a long-term investment – Yahoo Life | Episode Movies

Ian Skorodin has one of those career paths that every student dreams of by the time they graduate from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. Within a year of graduating he made his first feature film, Tushka, premiered at Sundance and won the Reel Frontier Award for Best Feature Film at the Arizona International Film Festival.

“It was inspired by [filmmakers Kevin Smith and Robert Rodriguez] and it’s drama,” Skorodin explained to In The Know. “It is [based on] a mix of multiple cases that have happened to many native communities [the 70s].”

Tushka is loosely based on the true story of John Trudell, a Native American activist who led a rally at FBI headquarters to protest the government’s treatment of Native Americans. Trudell famously burned an American flag in the process. Two days later, his home was firebombed and his parents, wife and children were killed.

A member of the Chocktaw Nation, Skorodin moved to Los Angeles in 1999 after graduating from NYU. He credits his first PhD year Tushka around the national festivals and opened his eyes to how important festivals are for aspiring writers and directors. He knew he could do something to help local filmmakers.

“After you go to Sundance and do a festival circuit at very high quality festivals, you see what a festival – a real festival – should really offer filmmakers,” he explained. “A great venue, good attendance, good audience and then a career opportunity as a filmmaker, whether through screenings – maybe you’ll get distribution or maybe you’ll get some kind of gig or job through that.”

That was the inspiration behind his founding of LA Skins Fest in 2007, which has since grown into one of the most well-known and respected Native American film festivals in the country. LA Skins Fest is held at Grauman’s Chinese Theater and screens over 65 films annually.

(Full disclosure: Yahoo has served as a co-sponsor for various Barcid Foundation events, including LA Skins Fest and unscripted writing workshops. Skorodin is the founder and CEO of the Barcid Foundation.)

“We work with many members of the community here in LA. We have a very large native community here. And it’s our 16th year, so we’ve built a very large community of filmmakers,” he added. “We’re really trying to provide those opportunities.”

The 2021 Hollywood Diversity Report reported that Aboriginal representation in film was 0.6%, while Aboriginal representation on television was virtually non-existent. Fortunately, the report’s release has shown how Rutherford Falls and Reservation dogs and movies like prey and night robber put more local actors in front of and behind the camera. But it’s still just the beginning.

LA Skins Fest does not receive any financial support from the government, so much work goes into ensuring that filmmakers represented at the festival continue to receive exposure and opportunities. Two years after founding LA Skins Fest, Skorodin opened a youth program, with board members traveling to reservations to encourage local youth to submit short films.

“[The Native kids] currently [their films] into the community and take studio tours and learn more about the industry,” said Skorodin. “We’re really trying to encourage youth to be more involved in anything media-related.”

The Native American Media Alliance (NAMA) oversees other Native American-centric programs such as the Native American TV Writers Lab and the Native American Unscripted Workshop. In partnership with the Motion Picture Association, NAA offers programming, creative support, development and financial grants to aspiring local filmmakers.

But Skorodin’s priority in these initiatives is to encourage long-term investment in the local community from larger companies. Skorodin says media companies tend to chase “the shiny things,” and he doesn’t want native stories and pursuits on and off camera to fall into that category.

“As a Native American, when I go to a lot of companies, especially in the media, and speak to their diversity, equity and inclusion departments, it’s usually not Native American,” he said. “It makes it harder for smaller communities like the Aboriginal community to get that support. So one way to counteract that is to have as many programs tailored to the needs of media companies.”

Also exciting for Skorodin is how accessible filmmaking has become — especially since his time at NYU. He described the struggle to find available resources on campus to help with his editing and sound. Now anyone can film on their iPhone and edit from anywhere on their laptop.

“Now we can really focus on the story and the character,” he said. “All the benefits are there. It is now up to the artist to find that self-discipline and start realizing the content.”

Filmmaker Ian Skorodin’s contribution: Indigenous stories aren’t the new ‘bright’ trend – Indigenous communities are a long-term investment appeared first on In The Know.

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