STUDENT SPOTLIGHT: Carrie Dada
Cherokee Nation citizen Carrie Dada, of Redding California, recently graduated with a degree in cinematic arts and technology from the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico. COURTESY
SANTA FE, N.M. – It’s a wrap on Carrie Dada’s cinematic education at the Institute of American Indian Arts, but there’s a sequel in the works.
The 21-year-old Cherokee Nation citizen, who recently graduated with a cinematic arts and technology degree, plans to further her passion with a master’s degree at San Diego State University.
“I was one of only five students that got picked to start in this (television, film and new media) program, which I am so blown away by,” the budding filmmaker said. “After spending three years in this program, I hope to find success in San Diego and continue filmmaking for the rest of my life.”
Dada has created a wide range of short films, including dramas, a comedy and documentary.
“My short dramas ‘Exhaust’ and ‘The Dust in Our Eyes’ have been shown in around 15 film festivals across the world,” she said. “They were both most recently featured at a film festival in Germany, where IAIA actually paid for a full, all-expense paid trip to fly to Stuttgart and stay for 12 days. It was absolutely amazing and I am so grateful to have that experience and to show my films. They both have very important messages, ‘The Dust In Our Eyes’ being about human trafficking and ‘Exhaust’ being about the death of a friend due to intoxication.”
Dada, who grew up in northern California, said she expressed an early interest in filmmaking and photography.
“My earliest memory of being interested in filmmaking was while I was camping as a kid and a movie was being filmed at the campground we stayed in,” she said. “I was so curious, I remember crawling up a hill and trying to sneak peeks at the camera and the big lights. The director of the movie found me and actually showed me around the set a bit and told me the names of equipment, and he told me to always just keep practicing and one day I can be a filmmaker.”
A self-described activist, Dada said it’s important as an Indigenous female filmmaker to represent minorities in the industry.
“I want to prove that a Native woman can be successful in this industry just as much as the predominantly white males,” she said. “Being Cherokee to me means being empowered, showing the world that we do exist, we are strong, beautiful, smart people. And I know that the Cherokee people are always there to help and support me if I ever doubt myself and my work.”
On her “amazing journey” at the IAIA in Santa Fe, Dada was allowed “complete freedom” over film topics using top-tier equipment, she said.
“I was lucky enough to be one of the first ever students to receive a scholarship from George R.R. Martin himself, the author of ‘Game of Thrones,’ who had partnered and is collaborating with IAIA to give scholarships,” she added. “I remember on my first day of school I literally got stung by a bee, the power had went out across town, and I had no friends or family there. By the time I left there, I had grown into a completely better person with friends I’ll have for life and a new set of skills that would carry me into my career.”