Sundance shines spotlight on NAU filmmaker

Megan Babbitt

As famous for premieres of innovative indie films as it is for celebrity sightings, this year’s Sundance Film Festival will also welcome Northern Arizona University film student Megan Babbitt.

Babbitt, who is Navajo, was selected as one of four young Native American artists to participate in the Sundance Institute’s 2016 Full Circle Fellowship program. Babbitt spent the last week of January at the Sundance Festival in Utah, meeting with professional filmmakers, Sundance organizers and the three other fellows. The group plans to attend another film festival later this year and will learn collaboratively during the year-long fellowship.

Babbitt’s journey to Sundance began at the age of 8 when she first became interested in film. By high school, she was teaching her siblings and friends how to make movies. Babbitt turned that mentorship into an annual, week-long learning session on film production called Ninjacorn Films Workshop.

“Filmmaking and storytelling, I picked it up when I was younger and it’s been the only thing I’ve wanted to do for the rest of my life,” she said.

The fellows met at Sundance’s Native Forum—an event where films by Native American filmmakers are highlighted and premiered. They were introduced to creative advisors and other independent filmmakers that will mentor and guide the fellows throughout the year, helping them develop new film projects and storytelling skills.

As a creative media and film major, Babbitt also works for UTV, NAU’s student-run television station and production studio, and has participated in several Andy Harvey Native American Broadcast Workshops. At NAU, she has learned new ways of expressing personal experiences through film.

“As time goes on there are more and more stories I feel like I need to tell,” she said. “There are more emotions and visual things I want to portray that I don’t see in other films so I want to take that craft and mold it into something that is me.”

Babbitt said she heard about the fellowship last year and applied. She knew little about the fellowship but since it was tied to Sundance, she jumped at the opportunity. After what she described as a nerve-wracking phone interview, she was accepted.

Paul Helford, UTV faculty advisor, said that receiving the fellowship is a remarkable accomplishment for Babbitt as a young filmmaker.

“I do not know of a higher or more prestigious recognition of what Megan has accomplished in her young life than receiving the Sundance 2016 Full Circle Fellowship,” Helford said.

When asked what the future holds, Babbitt says she is very optimistic about the opportunities that Sundance will bring and that she plans to keep creating and shooting film.

“Always make projects,” she said. “It’s always good to keep the craft going, so when you have down time, go out and shoot something.”

See Babbitt’s short reel here and her full length reel here.