The Cherokee Nation Film Office has announced Echota Killsnight as its first television apprentice.
In fulfilling the new position, Killsnight learned firsthand from award-winning director John Hillcoat while working on the set of the biopic television series George and Tammy. The limited series, which chronicles the life and marriage of country music legends Tammy Wynette and George Jones, premieres on Showtime and the Paramount Network on Sunday, Dec. 4.
“As artists and filmmakers, I have always believed that the most incredible privilege that even a modicum of success affords us is the ability to hold the ‘door’ open for those who decide to walk this path. I have remained forever thankful to those filmmakers who have helped me on my journey,” said Hillcoat. “CNFO graciously provided me the opportunity to fulfill this obligation to upcoming talent when I had the pleasure and privilege of mentoring Echota. I am grateful to share what knowledge I can with someone as passionate as he is and I look forward to helping future talents within the Cherokee Nation and other tribes.”
The apprenticeship took place in North Carolina where the series was filmed. Through CNFO’s new mentorship program, the opportunity was made available to citizens of any federally recognized tribe with previous experience in the film and television industry, and Killsnight participated at no expense.
“We are thrilled to continue connecting Natives with incredible learning opportunities within the industry,” said Jennifer Loren, senior director of Cherokee Nation Film and Original Content. “By partnering with talented television and film professionals, such as John Hillcoat, we’re helping facilitate the kind of connections and invaluable experience necessary to help increase the representation of Natives throughout this industry.”
Killsnight’s film and television career began in 2015 and includes projects such as 2016’s Big Sister Rug, which earned a Rocky Mountain Emmy Award in cinematography. The filmmaker is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in cinematic arts and technology at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Producer and director John Hillcoat is known for several critically acclaimed projects, including 2009’s The Road, 2012’s Lawless and, most recently, an episode of the British anthology series Black Mirror. Through Blank Films Inc., Hillcoat is developing several new film and television projects. He has also directed internationally award-winning music videos and commercials.
In 2019, the Cherokee Nation Film Office became the first certified Native American film commission to open in the United States. Just three years later, the Cherokee Nation Film Office accomplished yet another groundbreaking feat by offering the first-ever tribal film incentive program while also offering various workforce training opportunities and scholarships, including one-on-one directing apprenticeships.