Four years ago I was screening my Pine Ridge movie Rez Bomb around the reservation and surrounding area. At one of the screenings Kent Nerburn introduced himself to me and gave me a copy of his novel Neither Wolf Nor Dog and mentioned it would make a good movie.
I’m not the biggest reader and it took me a while to read it but when I did I could see what he meant. But more than that. There was an aspect of his character (based on himself) that articulated the incredible experience it is being an outside who is privileged to be taken in and embarrassed by communities in Indian Country. Not in some phony “searching for a ceremony” way or cultural tourism but something truly open and authentic. So I related somewhat through this book to a kindred spirit.
So we opened a dialogue and two and a half years ago I boarded the project to produce and direct Kent’s adaptation. It’s been an interesting journey and things got exciting when a year or so ago we had an educational fund in Indian Country tell us they had approved funding the film as they saw the great value in the story as an educational tool.
From there we started pulling the elements together. Lead actors were sought and legal work done. Sadly due to changing circumstances the fund couldn’t go through with their commitment and we found ourselves with elements in place getting ready to shoot with no money.
One of the reasons Kent approached me is not just because of my years of experience filming in Indian Country but because I had a habit of getting things made regardless and could do the film justice even if shot with a low budget. Crucial in our setting up the film was finding the perfect Dan. I traveled around the US and Canada looking for the right person and found one that has the potential to be more than perfect. No names will be mentioned here as don’t want to jinx anything as he is very old but if we can get him on screen we have the chance of creating something extraordinary. If we wait too long he may no longer be around. Dan is such a unique character that there may be no one else perfect to play it which would render it pointless to make the movie. Without a perfect Dan it would do the novel and its fans a major disservice.
The novel itself has been out 18 years or so and has been very popular and makes an extraordinary impact on the readers. The reaction within Indian Country to it is amazing. I people coming up to me saying it’s the “best book about Indian Country ever written by a white guy”. Throughout this time Kent has had attention from Hollywood about doing a movie version of it and some have come closer than others but all have struggled to get over the final hump. The key for us here though is for it to be as authentic as possible. There are no Hollywood additions, just a true, natural and moving narrative. The movie has been a dream for him and we’re so close we can taste it but still far enough that it may all come to naught.
Films in Indian Country have a hard time getting an audience and so that’s why we’re coming to you for support through our Indiegogo campaign. Through crowd funding we can prove there is an audience out there. If we can get over the hump with this then we can keep moving. Anyway please pass on the word as that is essential.
The story has impacted so many people as a novel that it is still one of the top selling contemporary stories set in Indian Country 18 years on. The movie has a chance of being that rare breakout film set in Indian Country. The more such films that are successful the easier it is for other films to get made in Indian Country.
PBS just broadcast an hour long program Bridge the Gap to Pine Ridge that I’ve embedded below. It’s a very different look at Pine Ridge style wise to my feature documentary A Thunder-Being Nation in that it is very much a slice of life about Pine Ridge though it feels like the original intent ended up getting caught up into a more pressing reality. Here rests part of the difficulty in shooting on Pine Ridge as when you say meet the suicide prevention people it feels impossible not to tell their stories and show their remarkable work in the face of adversity. Inevitably the lighter day in the life stuff gets sacrificed. This can in part leave some frustration with some people on Pine Ridge reflected in some of the Q&A questions at the end of the program where people ask the film-maker why they didn’t show more of the fun stuff.
I have more fun on Pine Ridge than about anywhere. I understand this issue. It’s part of why I expanded into making the TV series The Hub throughout Indian Country celebrating the fun side.
What I like about Bridge the Gap is that it’s very present with the people on Pine Ridge. The viewer gets to hang out with many of the great people there.
More clips from my work are below the clips from this show. The most comprehensive way to find out about Pine Ridge is through the 10 hours of extras on the Ultimate Edition DVD of A Thunder-Being Nation as well as the documentary itself made over 13 years.
Our DVD’s are available at amazon or www.inyoentertainment.com where you can save 15% using the coupon code Blog15 to save 15% or Blog20 to save 20% when spending $60 or more. The closer we get to recovering our costs on our films the quicker we can start looking to invest more in other projects in Indian Country although it’s an uphill battle finding an audience (as discussed in my previous post).
Click here to view Rez Bomb, A Thunder-Being Nation and episode one of The Hub through Video on Demand. You can either view the trailers or pay to watch the full films/programs
The ignorance of this is staggering, this is what he said “Let me tell you just a little something about the American Indian in our land. We have provided millions of acres of land for what are called preservations—or reservations, I should say. They, from the beginning, announced that they wanted to maintain their way of life, as they had always lived there in the desert and the plains and so forth. And we set up these reservations so they could, and have a Bureau of Indian Affairs to help take care of them. At the same time, we provide education for them—schools on the reservations. And they’re free also to leave the reservations and be American citizens among the rest of us, and many do. Some still prefer, however, that way—that early way of life. And we’ve done everything we can to meet their demands as to how they want to live. Maybe we made a mistake. Maybe we should not have humored them in that wanting to stay in that kind of primitive lifestyle. Maybe we should have said, no, come join us; be citizens along with the rest of us.”
Well I confess that I may have misrepresented the Rez Bomb DVD a bit as I indicated there would be about 3 hours of extra features. Truth is I’ve got carried away and now have about 3 hours and 45 minutes of extra mini documentaries and the 45 minute never before seen interview with Russell Means as well as a glimpse behind a day with Russell Means during campaigning. That’s assuming we can fit it all in on the disk LOL.
Now these aren’t the usual crappy extra features on most DVD’s, a bunch of actors praising each other and saying how great an experience it was filming in a warehouse in New Jersey or whatever. These are all features about where we filmed on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and the small town of Rushville, Nebraska, both places that I love. They give insight into these communities.
I’m very proud of the package we are offering and are worth the price of the DVD in themselves.
We are offering free shipping with pre-orders. To buy go to www.rezbomb.com and click on the shop link. You can view the trailer there also.
Thoughts about the new feature film from the films maker Steven Lewis Simpson