Joanelle Romero is an American media proprietor, an acclaimed actress in films and television, Award winning director, producer, singer/songwriter, entrepreneur, philanthropist and humanitarian. Ms. Romero will be Directing, Producing her first feature film Second Sunrise, including co-starring, 2015.
Born 1957 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the first child of Rita Rogers (Mescalero Apache/SpanishJew-Sephardic) an actress and father Robert Romero (Chiricahua Apache/Cheyenne Nations). Joanelle was born in to this industry. At age 3, she acted with her mother and grandma in plays in New Mexico. In the 60’s, Joanelle’s mother was signed to Universal Studios, her mother was in nine Elvis Presley films. At age 9, Joanelle used to go to the set on MGM Lot with her mother and hang out with Elvis and Nancy Sinatra, where she learned her love for filmmaking. As a young girl at age 12, Dennis Hopper became her legal guardian. At age 18, Joanelle was cast in her first leading role “A Girl Called Hatter Fox” and went on to study at Lee Strasberg Actors Studio in Hollywood.
Ms. Romero has a long and impressive career as an actor, starring in the first Contemporary American Indian Women’s Story ever producer in 1977 “A Girl Called Hatter Fox” to 1989 Sundance award winning film and cult classic Pow Wow Highway, a film that paved the way for contemporary native filmmaking, to name a few.
The Legendary Leonard Cohen discovered singer/songwriter Joanelle Romero. Joanelle Romero is the only American Indian artist that has been produced by Mr. Leonard Cohen. Leonard Cohen produced her first demo at A&M Records; Joanelle was the only American Indian recording artist on the world’s famous Sarah McLaughlin “Lilith Fair Tour” with Sara McLaughlin, Sinead O’Connor, the Indigo Girls and Natalie Merchant; first all female tour; before being asked to join the “Lilith Fair” Joanelle launched Native Women in Music concert series.
In 1991, Michael Jackson helped launch Ms. Romero’s production company. Jackson became the leading force in making Romero’s company known to the world. Due to Jackson’s insight, he added her newly founded production company (1991) in his press interviews in Entertainment Weekly.
Joanelle Romero was instrumental in bringing American Indian dancers to Jackson’s music video, The “Black or White” this music video and song made history. Joanelle Romero was able to negotiate for the American Indian dancers to be paid over and above any dancers on any music video ever, due to the fact they were traditionally dressed (the wardrobe did not come from western costume). To date, they are the highest paid dancers in the music video industry. Also, this segment was the first clip of American Indian dancers in a music video without being a Native American music group/artist.
Joanelle Romero’s, production company is now an award-winning company in producing American Indian documentaries and independent films.
Joanelle Romero made the Academy’s Documentary Branch determined the shortlist. An American Indian documentary filmmaker, in 2000 Ms. Romero wrote, produced, directed and scored the music for her documentary short American Holocaust: When Its all Over I’ll Still Be Indian under her Red Nation Films (former) Spirit World Productions banner. She is the First and Only American Indian, male or female, filmmaker to be up for Oscar consideration in film category. 22 shorts were entered that year, the Academy’s Documentary Branch determined the shortlist in a preliminary round of voting in which 9 were chosen for consideration. American Holocaust: When Its all Over I’ll Still Be Indian continues to have great impact with over two million views on YouTube. In 2005 American Holocaust: When Its all Over I’ll Still Be Indian, won the Armin T. Wegner Humanitarian Award given to projects that have “the vision to see the truth and the courage to speak it.”
In 2003, Ms. Romero went on to found the Los Angeles Red Nation Film Festival (RNFF) – The Authentic Voice of American Indian & Indigenous Cinema, the first American Indian Film Festival in Hollywood. In its 12 year history, the RNFF has helped launch feature films such as; Frozen River with Melissa Leo and Misty Upham which went on to garner two Academy Award nominations and six Spirit Awards nominations. (2008); Jimmy P: Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian with Benicio Del Toro, Misty Upham and Gary Farmer; Yellow Rock with James Russo, Michael Spears and Eddie Spears; The Cherokee Word for Water with Kimberly Guerrero, Mo Brings Plenty and Steve Reevis; and Chasing Shakespeare with Danny Glover, Graham Greene and Tantoo Cardinal. In 2013, in collaboration with Lucasfilm and 20th Century Fox, the RNFF became the first urban venue outside the Navajo Nation, to screen the Navajo language dubbed version of George Lucas film classic, Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.
RNFF partnered with Summit Entertainment’s “Twilight- New Moon” screening Twilight- New Moon, before the film had its premiere and going into public theaters, this was a first for Summit Entertainment in regards to screening their franchise at any film festival. (2009)
RNFF has also launched numerous documentaries like Honor the Treaties and The Garden, among others. The Garden was nominated for an Oscar in 2009.
To acknowledge the work of Native Americans in the entertainment industry, Ms. Romero established the “Red Nation Award” that honor actors, filmmakers and producers for “exceptional achievement” and “filmmaking excellence.” The award ceremony, held on the last day of the RNFF, became the first American Indian entertainment industry award show to be broadcast nationally in 2013 on Camcast and then live in 2014 on Red Nation Television Channel.
Two years after founding the RNFF, Ms. Romero created the Native Women In Film & Television Film Festival (NWFILMTV). Since it’s founding in 2005, NWFILMTV has helped launch numerous Native women’s documentaries. In addition to providing a venue for the screening of their work, the organization provides multiple collaborative opportunities with entertainment industry leaders, professionals and mentors.
Lacking media outlets to broadcast Native American content, Ms. Romero (CEO) founded the first American Indian Television channel, Red Nation Television Channel – Native is Here (RNTV). Launched in 2006, the channel provides all native programming and by July 2015, RNTV will have uploaded 300 new titles/content that includes feature and independent films plus original programming. The on-line streaming channel has over 10 million viewers in 37 countries and will be video-on-demand July 2015.
Ms. Romero, in 1995 she founded the Red Nation Celebration Institute (RNCI), an American Indian arts and cultural non-profit organization. Through her advocacy she successfully lobbied the City and County of Los Angeles to designate each November, American Indian Heritage Month. For this groundbreaking effort she has received numerous awards and acknowledgment’s.
One of RNCI’s most important projects is Native Youth Matter – If I Can See It I Can Be It. Through it’s community outreach program, its mission it to build relationships with Native Youth on reservations and in urban communities through education in film, music, dance, sports and the arts. Since 1995, RNCI has produced numerous Native youth workshops and short films, some of which have aired on Red Nation TV. “Lead Forward: Native Youth Matter is part of a larger RNCI strategy to develop a community of indigenous media-makers. Now in its 20th year, RNCI’s partners include; the Jane Goodall Institute; Screen Actors Guild Foundation; American Indian Film Festival, San Francisco; Southern California Indian Center; United American Indian Involvement; Sherman Indian High School; San Pedro Mid-School; Institute of American Indian Arts, Santa Fe, New Mexico and; Indian Studies departments at UCLA, USC and Cal State University Northridge.
Ms. Romero has been a SAG-AFTRA member since 1977 and is the longest standing American Indian member in the union. She sat on the SAG-EEOC committee from 1998 to 2001 and for many years was the only American Indian representing the native voice to the union. At SAG-AFTRA she produced numerous events including the panels “Where Are We (Native Americans) in Film, Television and Radio” (2000) and “Native Women in Film & Television”(2012).