Heather Rae

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Heather Rae is an American film producer, director, and actress. She was born on October 1, 1966 in Venice, California but grew up in the mountains of central Idaho.

Rae is a 1990 graduate of The Evergreen State College located in Olympia, Washington, where she received a Bachelor of Arts in Film and multi-cultural studies. She has been married to movie director and writer Russell Friedenberg since July 1999 and the pair have one daughter together, Johnny Sequoyah. She has two sons, Chema and Emilio, from previous relationships.

Rae is a twenty five year veteran of the film industry with a strong record in independent film. She has worked on more than two dozen documentary and narrative film projects but is best known for Frozen River (2008), Trudell (2005)and Tallulah (2016).[1]

Trudell (2005) is the culmination of more than a decade of Rae’s work as a filmmaker and activist. It has played in more than 50 film festivals worldwide, receiving honors such as Best Documentary Feature at the 30th Annual American Indian Film Festival and a Special Jury Prize for Best Documentary at the Seattle International Film Festival.

In 2007 Trudell was nationally broadcast on PBS in the documentary series Independent Lens.[2]

Frozen River (2008) was another work by Rae. The film won two Independent Spirit Awards, including one for Rae as Producer of the Year. It also received Academy Award nominations for the screenplay and for lead actress Melissa Leo and won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival.[1]

From 1996 to 2001, Rae ran the Native Program at the Sundance Institute and was a programmer for the Sundance Film Festival. After leaving Sundance, Rae worked for one year as senior vice president of production for Winter Films. In 2003, Rae independently produced the feature film American Monster[3]

She has also produced"Tallulah" starring Ellen Page and Alison Janney, written and directed by Sian Heder. "Tallulah" premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival and is a Netflix Original Film. Rae produced Ryan Piers Williams "The Dry Land" starring America Ferrera, Melissa Leo, Jason Ritter and Wilmer Valderrama which premiered at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. Rae also co-produced Backroads, directed by Shirley Cheechoo, which premiered at Sundance in 2000.

Prior to 1996, Rae worked on documentary films including CBS’s 500 Nations, Turner Broadcasting's The Native Americans, and PBS's Storytellers of the Pacific. She produced a documentary on the making of Smoke Signals for the Sundance Channel and was an associate producer on Silent Tears. For five years Rae was an adjunct professor at Boise State University, teaching film studies. She has also co-founded the True West Cinema Film Festival and sat on the board of directors for True West and also TVTV, Boise’s community television outlet. She established a production center in Boise where independent filmmakers such as Gregory Bayne, Randy Redroad and Blackhorse Lowe worked. The production center is now non-operational, but in its time produced four feature films.[3]

Early life and education[edit]

Rae was born in Venice, California and grew up in central Idaho. She graduated from Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, with a degree in arts in film and multi-cultural studies.


One of her first films was a short documentary in 1990 called Birth Our Own.[4] Other directing filmography includes Trudell (2005).[5]

Rae has also worked as an actress, in the movies Silent Tears (1998),[6] Backroads (2000),[7] Christmas in the Clouds (2001),[8] Most Funniest (2005),[9] Norman Waiting (2006), and Disappearance (2006).

Rae is married to screenwriter/director Russell Friedenberg and has three children. Her daughter, Johnny Sequoyah, starred as Bo Adams on the NBC television series Believe.

As of the spring of 2008, Rae was an adjunct professor of communications at Boise State University, teaching "Producing the Independent Film".[10]


In 2005 she was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival for her film Trudell. Also in 2005 she won the Documentary Special Jury Award for Trudell at the Seattle International Film Festival.[3]

In 2008 she won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival with Frozen River. She also won Best Film at the Gotham Awards for Frozen River.[3]

In 2009 she was nominated for the Independent Spirit Award for best feature in her film Frozen River at the Independent Spirit Awards. Also at the Independent Spirit Awards she won the Producers Award also for Frozen River and Ibid.[3]

At the 2009 USA AFI Awards she won the AFI award for Movie of the Year again with Frozen River[3]

In 2013 Rae was awarded the Vision Award at the Sun Valley Film Festival for her excellence in filmmaking.

In 2016 Rae was recognized by Cinereach with the Producers Award. She was the Inaugural recipient.


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