Oneida Indian Nation Member Jolene Patterson (Wolf Clan) is enjoying a once-in-a-lifetime experience in the Sundance Institute’s Full Circle Fellowship program. The program provides young Native leaders interested in film and media with opportunities to network with industry executives and get hands-on experience in writing, producing and directing.

Jolene was one of three chosen for the Full Circle Fellowship, which garnered hundreds of applications from across the country. The fellowships are part of the Institute’s larger Indigenous Program, which champions independent Indigenous storytellers through residency labs, public programming, and year-round creative, financial and tactical support.

Nation Representative Ray Halbritter presented Jolene with a certificate of recognition in honor of her accomplishment and wished her continued success.

“The Oneida Indian Nation is proud of your accomplishment. Being selected in a competition that was open to American Indians across the country is no small feat,” Ray said before he presented Jolene with her certificate. “And we can’t wait to see your next film.”

Jolene found out the good news in late April, and only a month later, was flying to Santa Fe, New Mexico and Los Angeles to interact with other fellows and meet Native filmmakers.

“It was my first time out west,” Jolene said reflecting on her two trips. “We met with minority executives that have programs geared toward Natives and people of color.”

The group visited the studios at Disney, CBS, Warner Bros., and Macro, a content producer that creates and finances film, television and digital content driven by people of color, which is something Jolene said she was proud to see.

As with many great writers, Jolene says her love of books has helped her visualize how a story evolves and how characters are developed. She has just begun work on her first script, which she hopes will put a spotlight on Native heroines. An executive even suggested writing it as a series instead of a stand-alone film.

“Everyone in the program has been so nice and welcoming, and we stay in constant contact,” she said. “The people I’ve worked with say to call with any questions and they just want to see Native people succeed in this industry.”

Jolene hopes some of the connections she makes in the program will lead to bigger opportunities. She says the best way to learn is to help out on a set so she hopes she can get an internship helping out on a film production.

Most of Jolene’s experience is in photography. She graduated from Onondaga Community College with an Associate’s degree in photography and continues to take classes in business administration at SUNY Morrisville when she is able.

Cultural identity is also an important issue close to her heart. “Both my dad and my mom love to teach about our culture,” she said. “I’d love to share more of that through film or photography. I grew up dancing with my mom at powwows and now my sister is learning to teach our language.”

Her sister, Claire Patterson, is an Oneida language trainee that works with children at the Nation’s Early Learning Center to introduce the language at a young age. They also have a brother, Preston, that lives locally.

Sundance is already preparing for their next film screening event at Turning Stone Resort Casino this August, which Jolene is excited to be a part of. They’ve already been in contact about that event, but she’s looking forward to many more to come, including the 2020 Sundance Film Festival.

“There’s a lot I want to get out of this. The industry is all about relationships and who you know,” Jolene said. “I’m trying my hardest and doing as much as I can to put myself out there so I can succeed.”

Sundance’s Turning Stone event will take place August 7-9 and will feature films from several Native filmmakers. More information about this event will be available soon. To learn more about the Sundance Institute’s Indigenous Program, visit