Native American Animation Lab Native American Animation Lab

The Native American Media Alliance (NAMA) is currently accepting applications for the 4th Annual Native American Animation Lab, which will take place virtually December 5 through 9. The application window is open through the end of October, after which eight applicants will be selected to participate.

In 2019, the LA Skins Fest – hosted by NAMA – launched the Native American Animation Lab as a multi-day experience for artists to work on the development of their projects, meet and learn from representatives of major studios, and pitch their ideas to industry veterans.

Now in its fourth year, the workshop is open to Native American writers, filmmakers, and artists living anywhere across the country who have an original animated film, script, treatment, comic book, or visual material they’d like to develop and pitch as an animated series or feature.

Across the five days of this year’s workshop, participants will workshop their projects, develop pitches, and present them to a panel of creative executives from several NAMA studio partners including Paramount, Sony Pictures Animation, and NBCUniversal. After the pitches, participants will get customized feedback on their projects and guidance on possible next steps.

According to NAMA director of strategy Ian Skorodin, establishing those relationships is the true heart of the Animation Lab.

“The main point of these labs is to make industry connections,” he explained to Cartoon Brew. “There isn’t a lot of buying in the room; it’s more about creating and building relationships. Our main hope is always that the participants use the opportunity to grow their network so that when they have a new script or project they want to adapt, they now have the connections to share that and get feedback. A lot of our artists’ feedback only ever comes from family and friends, so we introduce them to our corporate partners and other film festivals that we work with.”

Ian Skorodin
Ian Skorodin

There is more to the Animation Lab than just networking though. NAMA offers other training events throughout the year – not necessarily dedicated to animation but open to animation professionals – that can help promising young artists to develop their skill sets in other areas of development and production.

“We have a full pipeline to really help our creatives start in one place and continue on from there,” Skorodin pointed out. “For example, one of our fellows went through the Animation Lab in 2020, then he got into our TV Writers Lab in 2021, and now he’s in our Showrunner Program.”

According to Skorodin, the Lab also provides an opportunity for content and talent-hungry studios, broadcasters, and platforms to find authentic stories told by underrepresented voices and to recruit talent from across the country.

“The overall goal is to provide more access not only for the Native American community to the industry, but for the industry to access the authentic voices from the community,” he told Cartoon Brew. “We try to provide genuine programming that provides a real return on investment for our partners.”

He continued, “A lot of animation studios and networks were forward thinking in helping us to launch the Animation Lab for our community. They’re expanding their animation offerings and are looking for stories from diverse communities. They’ve also been generous with more than just financial resources, but with their time and the level of engagement they’ve offered the lab.”

Interested applicants can submit their work here through October 31.

Native American Animation Lab image credit: Nicolette Ray