19-year-old Native Artist from Saginaw will Attend 2016 Sundance Film Festival, Develop Storytelling Skills and New Film Projects Throughout the Year
By TNCP Staff
When the Sundance Institute announced the four Native American filmmakers - three from the Southwest and one from Michigan - selected for the 2016 Full Circle Fellowships, no one was as surprised as Devin Weekley-Dean from one of Michigan's 12 tribes, the Saginaw Chippewa tribe in Mount Pleasant.
Following Sundance Institute President and Founder Robert Redford's original vision and commitment to supporting Native American artists, the Full Circle Fellowship program develops and supports young Native filmmakers and is part of the Institute's year-round support offerings for Native artists at all stages of their careers. The Full Circle Fellowship Program, launched last year with support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, is a year-long program for 18-to-24-year-old Native American filmmakers.
Weekley-Dean who is 19-years-old said, “Oh man, I was overwhelmed and beyond excited. It's really a life change opportunity, I can't wait to go and meet like minded Native American film makers.”
Growing up, he attended an all-Native American grade school and has been acting since the first grade in shows at his local theater. In high school, he developed a passion for film through a TV and radio course.
Betsy Weekley, his mother said, “I am so proud of him. He started at The Broadway Theatre when he was 5 and continued there until he started at Mt. Pleasant High School where he joined choir and theater, as well as, taking radio and video production classes. He attended film camps at Michigan State University and also competed nationally in film production with Business Professionals of America.”
Weekley-Dean said, “I actually just started working on a film project about per cap (per capita) the per cap payments tribal members receive.”
Over the years there has been many lively debates and discussions in many Native American tribes regarding the per capita issue. Many Native Americans receive per capital checks from their tribal casinos. More often than not, it is a percentage of profit that their tribal casino earns delivered to tribal members. However, per capita could be the funds generated from land settlements or other businesses.
With per capita being a major issue, Weekley-Dean said, “I'm really hoping to be able to get both sides of the issue the best I can. With talks of getting rid of it could really affect some people's lives. Most people who live outside of the reservations do not have any idea per cap even exists. I am working on more of a documentary so we're going to try to get as many people's opinions as we can.”
The Fellowship will begin with attendance at the annual Native Forum at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, January 21-31, in Park City, Utah. Throughout the year, fellows will be mentored by esteemed independent filmmakers and creative advisors.
N. Bird Runningwater (Cheyenne/Mescalero Apache), Director of Sundance Institute's Native American and Indigenous Program said, “Through the Full Circle Fellowship we build on our longstanding mentorship and support for three generations of Native American filmmakers by focusing on the emerging fourth generation and ensuring these young artists have the tools and resources to share their stories. We look forward to a year full of creativity, collaboration and inspiring experiences with these very talented artists.”
Devin Weekley-Dean with the encouragement of his teachers, he formed a video production team with a group of friends that has since gone on to win a state competition for video production by Business Professionals of America.
Sundance Institute was founded in 1981 by Robert Redford, Sundance Institute is a nonprofit organization that provides and preserves the space for artists in film, theatre, and new media to create and thrive. The Institute's signature labs, granting, and mentorship programs, dedicated to developing new work, take place throughout the year in the U.S. and internationally. The Sundance Film Festival and other public programs connect audiences to artists in igniting new ideas, discovering original voices, and building a community dedicated to independent storytelling. Sundance Institute has supported such projects as Beasts of the Southern Wild, Fruitvale Station, Sin Nombre, The Invisible War, The Square, Dirty Wars, Spring Awakening, A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder and Fun Home. Join Sundance Institute on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.
This article was printed in the November 29, 2015 - December 12, 2015 edition.