Sundance Institute announced Adam Piron as director of its Indigenous Program. The Institute is a non-profit founded by Robert Redford that is committed to the growth of independent artists, filmmakers, theatre artists and composers from all over the world.
“It’s been a privilege to collaborate with colleagues in devising ways to support Indigenous storytellers at every stage in their career,” said Piron in a press release. “I look forward to leading this work with heart, vision and experience.”
The Institute’s commitment to supporting Indigenous artists is woven throughout its history. The Indigenous Program has built and sustained an Indigenous film circle, which now spans over four generations. The cycle of work begins by scouting for and identifying Indigenous artists, providing a year-round support system at Sundance Institute to get their work made and shown, and then bringing the filmmakers and their work back to Native lands. The Native Lab has been a vital part of supporting Indigenous filmmakers since 2004; the Merata Mita and Full Circle Fellowships offer further support to emerging Indigenous voices.
“Adam’s unflagging commitment to Indigenous artists and his vision of how best to bring their stories to life, has long been a source of inspiration for the Institute,” said Michelle Satter, Founding Senior Director of the Institute’s Artist Programs in the release.
Piron belongs to the Kiowa and Mohawk Tribes and was raised in Phoenix, Arizona. In addition to the Director, Indigenous Program role, he also serves as a short film programmer for the Sundance Film Festival. Prior, he was the Indigenous Program’s Interim Director, Associate Director, and Program Manager.
Piron linked up with the Two Row Times over the phone this week from LA to chat about his journey towards leading the Institute and what he is looking forward to bringing to the table.
TRT: Where do you live?
AP: I work in LA, and grew up in Phoenix. I’ve been living in southern California now for almost 15 years.
TRT: What is your connection to Six Nations?
AP: My grandfather was Mohawk, Turtle Clan and born in Niagara Falls. Both my great-grandparents were from Six Nations.
TRT: When were you appointed Director of Sundance Institute’s Indigenous Program?
AP: It’s been about a month now. The Institute made the announcement publicly a few weeks ago.
TRT: What is the Sundance Institute’s main duty?
AP: The organization was founded by Robert Redford in 1981 with the desire to support independent voices. It began supporting voices mainly in the U.S. and Canada, since then, we’ve grown internationally.
TRT: What made you want to apply for the director position?
AP: I started as an intern with the program back in 2007. I worked in the program in a number of different capacities and with the festival itself, programming short films.
TRT: What do you do as a short film programmer for the festival?
AP: Curate, find and work on a team to select the films that play in the festival.
TRT: What do you love most about helping filmmakers around the world?
AP: This job is around supporting Indigenous filmmakers through grants, labs and also the platform of the festival itself. We highlight all the Indigenous voices at the festivals. For example, we help young adults looking to get into the film as a career. Several programs are there to help.
TRT: Does the program have a lot of networking opportunities?
AP: Those in the program can come to the festival, see other artists there and meet other filmmakers. We also have larger gatherings of our alumni and you can meet a lot of people working in the industry there.
TRT: What will be your main role as you are investing in Indigenous filmmakers globally?
AP: It’s my job to ensure all of the items we just discussed get done.
TRT: Why does film need more Indigenous representation?
AP: Part of is it representation. Power comes with people seeing what they look like on TV and in film. It’s important to have spaces for Indigenous artists to make things that they want to and on their own terms; Indigenous people being able to control their own narrative.
TRT: What types of films are your favourite to screen?
AP: Films with an original voice. Also, something that hasn’t necessarily been seen before. And also something that taps into somebody’s personal ideas or relationship with their own Indigeneity.
TRT: What are you looking forward to bringing to the table as director?
Helping people share their stories. There are a lot of projects and artists right now pushing the envelope in one way or another and there are a lot of different stories that can be told. Continue to create spaces for Indigenous stories and let artists validate their own voice. Great things happen when people listen to Indigenous people.
TRT: What’s a piece of advice you wish you had been given years ago when starting your career?
AP: Find out what you like and are passionate about and keep pushing forward. At a certain point, you’re going to be the person who’s doing something that no one else is. Carve your own path and make the thing you want to happen, happen.