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Tag Archives: Essay Comment about First Nations in film/television

October 25, 2007/ANOTHER P.O.V/Hanay Geiogamah lamented HBO’s production of “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee,” but some Indian people in the film/television business already knew this dilemma existed.  He suggested to produce your own project. I accept this, but to take it further: run a television cable network — be a ceo raise/manage the money/hire reliable/trustworthy, skilled/key personnel to depend on as an accountant, legal counsel, writers who write the stories and producers who coordinate the productions. How many Indian people care to become skilled film or video producers who stick with it when the going gets tough as problems arise to solve? Through making “The Graffiti” drama, the latest mini digital video project, I did not meet many Indian people who were experienced digital sound editors or sound mixers. I have not met many Indian people who are skilled within the larger budgeted film/video as a producer, director, set dresser, property master, script supervisor, sound recordist, boom operator, location scout/manager, screenplay/teleplay writer and the other jobs.  How does a person learn these jobs?  To self-teach, attend universities with film departments or trade schools that teach the jobs? To find these jobs in the real world is another matter. I do not know any First Nations in Canada or the United States who makes a steady living as an independent filmmaker except Chris Eyre. To write a descent screenplay is a long road.

The most important element is the screenplay/teleplay writing. For example if more Indian people wrote more feature screenplays, or initiated the bible for television; perhaps, more stories about everyday Indian women might evolve.  I do not know how the Indian women actors survive these days in Los Angeles or New York because from my observation, not many dramas or comedies feature Indian women lead roles. Instinct tells me North America does not even know that Indian people exist as contemporary peoples. If not that, then the public reacts misinformed. An important characteristic is that we are the first peoples who lived in the Americas before the colonists arrived. “We are not all immigrants,” which American mainstream television propagates. I rarely read magazine articles about First Nations themed cinema/television written by First Nations writers or by non-First nations writers. Whenever television polls people of color for data information, we usually are not included in the survey and if we are, we are called “others.” At the University of California/Los Angeles film school in the early 80’s, I thought our status in film/television might improve, but that was false.

Digital technologies have created the ability to make films/videos cheaper/accessible. Because the film/video field is so competitive, it breeds hierarchies among non-First Nations/First Nations people. A hierarchy creates segregation from each other. Does it have to be?  In a meeting obtained with Stan Margulies who produced the television mini-series, “Roots,” he recommended: your work speaks for yourself. Thus far, that philosophy has worked for me, but maybe there is a better way.