2014 National Native Media Conference Report


Gary Robinson is a seasoned writer and filmmaker of Choctaw and Cherokee Indian descent with experience in many aspects of documentary television production, script writing, as well as fiction and non-fiction publication.

2014 National Native Media Conference Report

Date Posted: 
2014-07-22 10:55

Blog Series:


The theme of the conference was “Going Tra-Digital,” and boy did we ever. Go Tra-digital, I mean. Held in the heart of Silicone Valley, just down the road from Google’s worldwide headquarters, Apple Computers and Stanford University, you could feel millions and millions of bytes being tossed about all around you. 

First on my agenda was the sumptuous breakfast laid out by Vision Maker Media (VMM) at the beginning of their July 10th all-day training for filmmakers. Kicked off by VMM Executive Director, Shirley Sneve, the day was jam-packed with useful information on the recent past and near-future developments within the VMM arena. It was interesting to learn that Shirley’s mother was a founding board member for what is now VMM.

During the day several Native media creators presented short clips and described projects they are producing. “Supporting the Production of Native Content” and “Filmmaker Resources” were the two sessions presented by VMM Assistant Director Georgiana Lee, both informative and useful topics. 

For me, the following day was kicked off by the YouTube Hands-on Training workshop. Presented mostly for those producing online news pieces, the presenter touched on many helpful topics that can be applied to anyone producing YouTube content. I came away with several ideas for producing video-based, Native-themed, short content. 

The NAJA Talks that followed allowed four experienced Native media content and news creators to give live talks to conference attendees on timely topics. The presenters were very well prepared and used an iPad-based teleprompter system to stay focused and very professional. 

The coffee break that followed allowed me the opportunity to visit the vendors and information booths in the Exhibitor’s Expo Room. I spent a little time talking to the representative from Heyday Publishing about a possible future publishing project and the Oregon Public Broadcasting folks about the upcoming broadcast of my public television documentary Healing the Warrior’s Heart.

The NAJA Anniversary Luncheon provided an excellent platform for a panel of presenters to discuss issues and milestones within the topic of Freedom of the Press in Indian Country. Major struggles and victories were highlighted. 

After lunch I attended George Lee’s workshop titled “Show Me the Money: Things to Do Before You Sign.” She gave a very detailed presentation about important points every filmmaker should understand about contract requirements and their rights as they negotiate future project production or distribution deals. 

Next came “Building a Brand: How to Get Traction on Social Media,” presented by Mark Trahant and LinkedIn staffer Yumi Wilson. Mark provided an excellent set of suggestions for branding via social media, things he learned first-hand about his own content brand. The LinkedIn presented was very detailed and specific about how to get the most out of our use of LinkedIn, a social media site for professionals. She covered optimizing your profile,  connecting with people you want to know, providing regular updates on your status and posting industry-related news that you find. 

Unfortunately, I had to skip the Friday evening screening of Disney’s Planes: Fire & Rescue to take care of writing chores that needed tending to. Spent several hours in my room typing away.

On Saturday, I made it to the morning session on “Mascots, Media and Racism in Sports.” Panelists who’ve worked on this issue revealed many background and behind-the-scenes details of this history of this campaign. It was good to hear from Suzan Harjo, contributing to the conversation via telephone, because she was among the original plaintiffs in the case brought against the Washington R-dskins team name 17 years ago.

A fast lunch with Shirley and George (good title for a daily social media/news show) gave Taki Telonidis and I a chance to brainstorm a bit on the outreach components of our public television documentary Healing the Warrior’s Heart. And, the turkey burger was excellent, by the way. 

At 1:30 pm, my public TV project Healing the Warrior’s Heart was screened as part of VMM’s film festival at the conference. The project’s lead producer, Taki Telonidis, was on-hand to introduce the film. A nice turn-out of about twenty people saw the film. Afterwards, I offered a few behind-the-scenes details of the shoot and fielded questions on the production. 

That was followed immediately by the screening of my educational DVD Tribal Sovereignty: The Right to Self-Rule. Good questions and comments came from the audience, and I made sure to mention that the video is available from shopvisionmaker.org.

Taking another break from the workshops, I hurried up to my room to finish off the writing tasks that needed to be completed. That left me free to fully focus on the conference grand finale, the 2014 National Native Media Awards Banquet. The keynote speaker was outstanding. Al Jazeera correspondent Wab Kinew gave a fascinating recap of elements of his career as a journalist constantly fighting for “indigenous inclusion” in the news. 

All in all, the conference provided me with several take-away gems that have already informed my plans for future projects. For example, Matthew Rantanen’s statement that “broadband is the future of all forms of media” has caused me to rethink production and distribution strategies for the immediate future. Others made points such as “indigenize the media to offset the colonization of that media” and “tribal culture is based on oral traditions and using digital media is the new way to tell our cultural stories” that strengthen my commitment to “Go Tra-Digital” as much as possible. 



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