Female Filmmaker Friday: Sydney Freeland, Director of "Drunktown's Finest"

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"You’re going to get rejected much, much more than you are accepted, so that was a learning process for me."

Sydney Freeland is a Navajo director and writer.

Freeland born in Gallup, New Mexico and grew up on a Navajo reservation. The town was given the name “Drunk Town” because of the increasing numbers of alcoholism among Native Americans living there. The subject matter would become important for Freeland to address later in her career. She attended Academy of Art University in San Francisco and received her bachelor’s degree in computer animation, and a master’s in film. Her first jobs were as a production assistant and writer for networks such as The Food Network, Walt Disney, Comedy Central, and National Geographic.

Freeland’s first directorial project came in 2008 with the short film The Migration. In 2012, her second short, Hoverboard, was released. Being inspired by the film Back to the Future II, a young girl tries to create a real hoverboard.

Her feature, Drunktown’s Finest, was inspired by the name given to her hometown. It is a coming-of-age story about the struggles faced by Native Americans. The film fought to change the negative stereotype brought on by the nickname.

In 2016, Freeland directed the web series Her Story that was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Short Form Comedy of Drama. The series told the dating stories of trans and gay women. The project was important to Freeland, as she is a trans woman. Freeland directed the film Deidra & Laney Rob a Train in 2017. It debuted at Sundance and was taken by Netflix later that year.

Freeland's intimate stories allow her audience to melt into the narrative. The audience can't help but feel close to each and every character presented in Freeland's film. Her style and narrative are fresh. There is certainly more to come, and we can't wait to see it.

Be sure to watch this interview with Sydney Freeland about her film, Drunktown's Finest.