Amazon Studios and IllumiNative join forces for episodic directors program

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Peshawn Bread has been selected for the first IllumiNative Episodic Directors Program. [Photo courtesy IllumiNative]

Amazon Studios has joined forces with IllumiNative, a Native woman-led racial and social justice organization, to launch the first IllumiNative Episodic Directors Program.

The yearlong program will provide resources and opportunities for emerging and mid-career Indigenous directors to work with a director across prep and shooting of episodic content, gaining valuable on-set experience and furthering their paths to success in the industry, according to a news release.

“Over the past few years, we have seen the huge success of Native content on streaming platforms — the demand for the nuance and complexity that Native-led shows bring to the screen is undeniable,” said IllumiNative founder and executive director Crystal Echo Hawk in a statement.

“In order to meet this demand, we have to ensure Native creatives are provided with the resources and opportunities to succeed in an industry that has historically forgotten or dismissed Native peoples. We’re so thrilled to expand our work with Amazon Studios on this exciting collaboration, to uplift new and emerging Native and Indigenous TV directors and ensure they not only break into the industry—but thrive.”

IllumiNative is dedicated to increasing the visibility of — and challenging the narrative about — Native peoples. The organization’s mission is to build power for Native peoples by amplifying contemporary Native voices, stories, and issues to advance justice, equity and self-determination. IllumiNative envisions a future where the self-determination and sovereignty of Native peoples is respected and supported; where Native children see themselves reflected in the world around them; and where Native peoples author and drive their own narratives.

The IllumiNative Episodic Directors Program is an expansion of Amazon Studios’ and IllumiNative’s current relationship: the organization works regularly with the studio to ensure Indigenous cultural and narrative authenticity across titles including “Outer Range,” “The English” and “Three Pines.”

“Amazon Studios is intentional in developing accurate stories and characters by and about Native peoples, and IllumiNative has been an invaluable resource in this work,” said Latasha Gillespie, global head of diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility for Amazon Studios and Prime Video, in a statement.

“We are proud to grow our relationship with them and provide a pathway for Indigenous directors to build their careers.”

The first cohort of four directors has been selected and is beginning work on Season 2 of “Outer Range.”

The inaugural IllumiNative Episodic Directors Program fellows are:


Peshawn Bread is a queer screenwriter, director and producer from the Penatʉkʉ (sugar eater) and Yapurʉka (root eater) bands of the Comanche tribe. Their writing focuses on Indigenous women, sexuality and telling truths through humorous experiences. Bread is a Sundance Film Institute alumni of the 2014 Full Circle Fellowship and the 2019 Indigenous Filmmaker’s Lab, where they had the opportunity to workshop, develop and shoot their script “The Daily Life of Mistress Red.” Currently, they are developing their Indigenous vampire series as well as writing a short film in the Comanche language.

Razelle Benally has been selected for the first IllumiNative Episodic Directors Program. [Photo courtesy IllumiNative]


Oglala Lakota/Diné filmmaker Razelle Benally is in her thesis year of master of fine arts candidacy in film production at NYU Tisch School of the Arts. She wrote for AMC’s “Dark Winds” and is currently in development on her directorial feature debut. Benally was a Sundance Native Lab fellow, a Producers fellow and a Screenwriters Intensive fellow.

Daniel Hyde has been selected for the first IllumiNative Episodic Directors Program. [Photo courtesy IllumiNative]


Daniel Edward Hyde is an American filmmaker of Navajo and Belizean descent. A 2007 graduate of the University of Arizona’s School of Media Arts and a 2011 Sundance Native Lab fellow, his work has spanned from Hollywood, with “The Making of Navajo Star Wars” (2015) to the art world with “Bert & Weiwei: Time” (2014).

His contemporary Indigenous-themed narratives, “The Way Things Are” (2011) and “Brousins” (2012), have toured the worldwide Native film festival circuit with much success, and he is a producer and actor in Blackhorse Lowe‘s acclaimed feature “Chasing the Light” (2015). His award-winning short film “Manna” (2015) premiered at the Chicago International Film Festival. An inaugural recipient of the Sen. John Pinto Memorial Film Grant, his debut feature, “Yazhi Boy,” is in production and slated to be completed by the end of 2023.

Christopher Cegielski has been selected for the first IllumiNative Episodic Directors Program. [Photo courtesy IllumiNative]


Christopher Nataanii Cegielski is a director, writer and member of the Navajo Nation. Recently, Cegielski was a fellow of the Directors Guild of America and Association of Independent Commercial Producers’ joint Commercial Diversity Directors Program.

He has worked with clients such as ABC, United Airlines, Google, YouTube, Altra, AriZona Beverages and DIG DEEP, on their Navajo Water Project. His narrative work has received recognition from festivals such as the Berlinale, SXSW, imagineNATIVE, Sun Valley and the L.A. Film Festival. He has received artistic development from the Sundance Native Lab’s Time Warner Producers Fellowship and Film Independent’s Project Involve program, where he received the Sony Pictures Diversity Fellowship Grant. This year, he made his television debut by co-directing History Channel’s new docudrama “Sitting Bull.”


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