By the time we got to Minneapolis for the Vision Maker Media conference a while back, Jamie and I had already had enough dealings with Vision Maker Media to expect to be gracefully and efficiently guided to a better understanding of how we, and our company Dog Mountain LLC, could make our film Finding Refuge better. We also expected to learn about how we could more effectively find more funding and build on the trailer we’ve created. Sure enough, we learned how to be better filmmakers, how to more effectively place a film like ours in the market of films headed for public broadcast, and even how to think about building educational curriculum around Finding Refuge. The only surprise here was how MUCH information we absorbed -- or tried to absorb -- in one day of presentations and discussions.
At some point, we came up for air long enough to meet some of the other producers in the room. What a crowd! As we heard more about each producer’s film and background, we were amazed. To be honest, before this conference we didn’t have a particularly good sense of the kinds of people who produce films under the guidance of Vision Maker Media. What we learned was that producers come from a wild range of backgrounds, with an equally wild range of skills and sensibilities and occupations and ages and approaches. What every person we met had in common, however, was a strong sense of commitment to telling stories from Native communities and a strong sense that our filmmaking efforts deserve our most focused effort and most sincere attempt to be fair, compelling, and honest. I can’t tell you how fine it feels to be in a room of people with that kind of motivation behind their work.
We saw several rough cuts of films, including one about an Alaskan community slowly being swallowed by a rising ocean and another about a woman who grew up on a reservation, went away for college and law school, and now serves her home community with her education and skills.
And just when we thought we couldn’t possibly digest another bite of information, Blue Tarpalechee talked to us about creating curriculum around our films. This doesn’t sound like the makings of comedy, but Blue made us come alive and laugh so hard we might choke on our afternoon coffee. But underneath the funny delivery was a straight and serious message: if we want to build on the audience for our films, we will first build a curriculum around the issues raised by the film. He even made it sound fun.