Want to see more Native American films and TV shows? Well believe it or not you are the solution.
14 years ago I started filming a feature documentary in Indian Country, first because Russell Means asked me to film some political events but then because I had more and more people from all different sides of life on Pine Ridge wanting me to document what was going on there as well as their stories etc. Since then I’ve shot a movie, Rez Bomb, a feature documentary, A Thunder-Being Nation and a TV series, The Hub in Indian Country. In a big way it was because I was concerned that there was so little content being created out of Indian Country and so many people were telling me they wanted to see more.
A couple of weeks ago I released a DVD of The Hub, a 13 part TV series highlighting many of the most fabulous performers and artists in Indian Country. It is a highly entertaining show and I wanted people to be able to enjoy this celebration. Unfortunately in that time I have sold just 5 DVD’s in-spite of having a mailing list of people who had emailed saying they were interested in the DVD as well as being able to market it to 10,000 or so people on my own social networks related to my other Indian Country projects and being shared on others.
Ultimately the crux of the problem of why so few films come out of Indian Country is lack of audience support and participation. In The Hub we spoke with many of the great talents of Indian Country including film-makers like Chris Eyre, Steven Paul Judd, Ryan Red Corn of the 1491’s and the fabulous Georgina Lightning. They could be filming some of their own projects tomorrow if they knew there was a committed audience out there that would buy DVD’s or go see their work. Ryan’s words to us on the show “there’s not much money in making films in Indian Country” is very true.
One of the reasons for getting The Hub out so quickly was if there was a demand for it then it could cover the costs of us shooting a feature special at the end of the month at Gathering of Nations but we’ve had forget that as it looks like it’ll take a while for us just to recover the costs of getting the DVD’s made. For example V. Blackhawk Aamodt’s award winning documentary about the “Big Foot” ride, Ghost Riders is very interesting but so few people have pursued it on DVD it’s hard to obtain and if it had been well supported then he would have been able to go on and make project after project.
I am fortunate as because of other resources for other films I’ve managed to cash flow my six or seven years spent on all three of my Indian Country projects so far as they could never have been made otherwise and I’ve always made sure that we got them out on DVD into the heart of the communities they are set it. Rez Bomb and A Thunder-Being Nation are the only DVD’s being sold in numerous stores around Lakota Country because I physically went to them so that it was available to people who could not go online.
The local support helps somewhat but all us content creators need you all to pass on the word, to engage to let us know potential retailers etc. Bear in mind Hollywood spends tens of millions so you hear about their latest extravagaza whereas film-makers in Indian Country are typically broke before their projects are done. We know social media and strong support within communities can however create tipping points enough to make things happen.
The more people watch the 1491’s the more financial support they will get to make more or their amazing PSA’s for example as those dollars are all about how great is their reach.
Once the audience supports the content enough then very quickly you would be able to see a 1491’s movie or a Six Pack and Gas Money from Steven Paul Judd etc. as they would be able to cover the expense. We’d be able to make a second and third series of The Hub so people in Indian Country (particularly youth) can see and be inspired by the amazing things going on throughout their communities.
Ryan Red Corn summed it up. On Youtube Slapping Medicine Man is perceived to be a huge hit as they have almost half a million hits and yet if you search Native American in youtube there are videos getting five million hits which are cheesy flute music over a montage of stereotypical images hot natives.
What needs to happen to make the difference is for the audience to seek out the great work people are doing and let others who may be interested know about it to. It’s nice to get a pat of the back but production is going to dry up fast. But with a network of supporters helping get the word out then things can really start to build from there.
The Hub was designed to be a part of that as it was designed to be a show that brings a lot of these amazing creative individuals together and pulls the audience into the great work and hopefully build their followings which helps them get some other things off the ground.
I currently have our biggest project yet financed at the moment which is a movie adaptation of the highly acclaimed novel Neither Wolf Nor Dog. It hopefully will have a major impact on its audience but my fear is that after that I can’t justify doing any more projects in Indian Country as they take a long time to make and it’s hard when so few people are watching them.
There is great work out there and for my mind one masterpiece, Ryan Red Corn’s To The Indigeous Woman video which has only 35,000 or so hits on youtube between it’s versions (see clip below). It’s depressing that’s less than 0.1% of a cheesy flute music montage video. Lets change that.
So why is the quality content not getting the support? It is for all of you who want to see more content and films out of Indian Country to change that. Indian Country has so many amazing, dynamic, creative individuals that are ignored in the main stream entertainment world. We can break all those walls down but only if we all work together.
Thanks for listening
This is a guest list from our series The Hub presented by Martin Sensmeier, Shayna Jackson and Blake Sisk. Who wouldn’t want to watch this incredible group of individuals?
Chris Eyre Cheyenne/Arapaho
Steven Paul Judd Kiowa/Choctaw
Anthony Thosh Collins Pima/Osage
Adam Beach Anishinabe
Virgil Ortiz Cochiti
Shaunya Manus Navajo
Ryan Red Corn Osage
Cornel Tootoosis Cree
Edna Rain Cree
Ron Scott Metis
Michelle Thrush Cree
Larry Price Navajo
Chaske Spencer Lakota
Dey & Nite Arapaho
Darrell Dennis Shuswap
Nakotah LaRance Hopi/Tewa
Nicholas Galanin Tlingit/Aleut
Howie Miller Cree
Dakota House Cree
Ashley Callingbull Cree
Georgina Lightning Cree
Rayanna Zaragoza Pima
Steven LaRance Hopi
Helen Calahasen Dakota
Rulan Tangen Blackfoot
Lawrence Santiago Coushatta
Marisa Quinn Lipan Apache
Kevin Pourier Oglala Lakota
Shawn Imitates-Dog Oglala Lakota
Sho Sho Esquiro Kaska Dene/Cree
Zahn McClarnon Hunkpapa Lakota
Bethany Yellowtail Crow/Northern Cheyenne
Mary Ann Andreas Morongo Band of Cahuilla