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IFH 133: Sydney Freeland: Working with Netflix & Maintaining Creative Freedom

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SPECIAL SUNDANCE EDITION of the Indie Film Hustle Podcast

I ran into many filmmakers while fighting the blizzard at this year’s Sundance Film Festival but one of the most impressive of the bunch was director Sydney Freeland. Sydney has had a challenging journey to become a director and her story is inspiring, to say the least.

Prior to making her first feature-length film, Sundance darling Drunktown’s Finest, Sydney Freeland previously worked as a production assistant, as a writer, and as a camera intern. Freeland worked in a number of areas, including; National Geographic, Walt Disney, The Food Network and Comedy Central. Freeland garnered her first taste of success with the six-minute short filmHoverboard, utilizing Kickstarter to help fund the short. The film was inspired by her love of Back to the Future Part II.

Drunktown’s Finest is her second venture into filmmaking. The 95-minute long film is a coming-of-age story about the complex issues surrounding identity and the struggles faced by Native American people. The film’s name is inspired by a controversial 20/20 segment on ABC News, which branded the town of Gallup, New Mexico as “Drunk Town, USA“, after the increase of instances of alcoholism on the border of the Navajo Nation.

Freeland wrote, directed Drunktown’s Finest as a means to combat the negative stereotype of her home community. Sydney Freeland, who is herself a transgender woman, is also directing a digital series about queer and trans women called Her Story.

Photo by: Netflix

At this year’s Sundance Film Festival Sydney Freeland is premiering her latest film Deidra & Laney Rob a Train, which was financed completely by Netflix. Two teenage sisters start robbing trains to make ends meet after their single mother’s emotional meltdown in an electronics store lands her in jail. Coming to Netflix on March 17. Here’s the trailer.

We sit down and discuss how it was like to work with Netflix, if the rumors of creative freedom are true and what Sundance has done for her career.

All of these Sundance Series episodes will be co-hosted by Sebastian Twardosz from Circus Road Films and a co-production with Media Circus.

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