Steven Lewis Simpson

WHO SHOULD BE MAKING AMERICAN INDIAN FILMS?

(this is a response to a comment to my Exploiting American Indian’s in Film post.

I wholeheartedly agree that we need to see more Indians telling their own stories on screen, though the reality of the film business is that it costs a huge amount of money to make a film normally so they also need to find an audience so hopefully they can make films that can be well supported so they can create their own industry. But the prejudice goes further as most people in the industry would just validate the few established American Indian directors by occasionally letting them tell their own stories rather than treating them as equals and offering them other Hollywood films to direct. I don’t know a single director who wants to just tell stories about one place or culture or one type of story.

For me I didn’t tell an American Indian story with Rez Bomb, I told a story about a guy and a girl in love but get themselves into trouble and try to dig themselves out. I could have set it anywhere in the world. I chose to spend my budget where it was more needed and also shoot somewhere I was familiar with. The American Indian and First Nations people that have seen it at festivals have responded the strongest to the film as they get a lot of subtleties in it that others miss but most importantly they are happy to watch a film that entertains them with people on screen they can relate to.

Something very true in the world is that people who live hard lives in poor communities want to be entertained more than shown films depicting how hard their lives are (as that’s what they want to escape to) but at the same time they want to see characters on screen in those entertaining movies that they can relate to. For me Rez Bomb is almost unique in this sense and I am very proud of that.

But where there is relative equality in the film business is that if you make a film that loses money the industry looses interest in financing films of that nature. Eg: Skins was I am sure relatively easy to finance on a good budget because Smoke Signals made good money, but when Skins lost a lot of money that tap was turned off. If Rez Bomb is successful it opens the door to more contemporary, entertaining films that happen to be in Indian Country and that opens the door to actors, crew and opportunity throughout all those communities.

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One thought on “WHO SHOULD BE MAKING AMERICAN INDIAN FILMS?

  1. Sonja Teuwen

    Just to reiterate my point, because I think it a good one (refer to other comments), who cares who the story teller is, as long as they tell the story well – it doesn’t matter what the story is about.

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