Colleen Thurston

Colleen Thurston is an award-winning media producer and documentary filmmaker from Tulsa, Oklahoma. She is an Assistant Professor in the University of Oklahoma’s Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication and teaches documentary studies and film production. As an Indigenous non-fiction storyteller, her films explore the relationships between humans and the natural world and focus on Native stories and perspectives. She holds an MFA from Montana State University’s Science and Natural History Filmmaking program, where she also earned a graduate certificate in American Indian Studies. Her BA in Media Arts and Anthropology is from the University of Arizona. Colleen has produced work for the Smithsonian Channel, Vox, illumiNATIVE and museums, public television stations, and federal and tribal organizations. She produced and directed short documentaries for four seasons of the Cherokee Nation’s series, “Osiyo, Voices of the Cherokee People,” earning two Emmy awards for her work on the series.

She is currently in production on her first feature documentary Drowned Land which explores water rights and the history of resource exploitation in the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. Drowned Land is supported by ITVS, Vision Maker Media, Firelight Media, Nia Tero, the Redford Center and the Sundance Institute. Her work has screened at international film festivals, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian’s Native Cinema Showcase and the Smithsonian Institution, and been broadcast nationwide. With a background in film programming, Colleen also curates film and storytelling events with an emphasis on Indigenous and decolonial storytelling. Currently the co-Executive Director of the Fayetteville Film Festival, she previously held positions as the Film Programming Assistant at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian and was the founding Director of Programming of the Tulsa American Film Festival. Colleen is a 2019-2021 Firelight Media Documentary Lab Fellow, a Sundance Institute Indigenous Film Fund Fellow, a citizen of the Choctaw Nation and a seventh generation Oklahoman.


Drowned Land is a feature documentary that shares the stories of a group of water protectors determined to preserve the lifeline of their community and end a cycle of environmental exploitation on the Kiamichi River.


Drowned Land

Program Affiliation

Documentary Lab
Spark Fund

Cohort Year





Documentary Lab
Spark Fund

Other Filmakers