Producer Profile

She’s a little bit country. He’s a little bit rock.

While the environment is a popular documentary film topic, few seem to explore today’s ironic impact of man’s growing demand for energy on the Native people who lived for centuries off of the land.

The purchase of Manhattan Island from America’s original inhabitants has become a well-known fact in the average American’s trivia arsenal. What is likely lesser known about Native peoples in The Big Apple is the existence of a small community of Kahnawake Mohawk Indians from a nearby Canadian Reserve that has thrived within 10 square blocks of the city even into today.

He was regarded by many—from Sports Writers and Broadcasters of America to the King of Sweden—as one of the most prominent athletes of all-time. And Jim Thorpe remains today a sports legend worldwide.

For centuries, tribes like the Yurok and Hoopa, among others, relied on the Klamath River in California for survival. Over the course of post-European contact the tribes have had their livelihood and source of food drastically altered by farmers, commercial fisherman and corporations, like Berkshire Hathaway, which owns some of the dams along the river.

It was the unspoiled vastness of Alaska’s wilderness that first brought producer Jeffry Silverman to the state. It was 1983 and Silverman was a recent film graduate of Penn State University. He had no idea that he, as a non-Native, would someday play a role in telling the stories – of joy and struggle – of the indigenous peoples of the land.

“I certainly knew as soon as I got here, that this is home,” he said.

When Michelle Danforth (Oneida) set out to begin her career, creating films was a distant aspiration. After graduating with an MBA focused on accounting, Danforth began working at Options for Independent Living, a non-profit organization that helps people with disabilities. Although she enjoyed marketing and finance, there was always a lingering interest in producing and creating films.

Patty Loew wants to change the role of Native Americans in the media.

Loew, a professor at the University of Wisconsin, spent 12 years as a co-anchor for ABC in Madison, Wis. She feels that it is important for Natives to be involved in both local and mainstream media.

“Radio and television are really culturally compatible with who we are as Native people,” said Loew.

“To be able to blend sound and picture, and be able to tell stories in the oral tradition, I think is just really in sync with who we are.”

Twenty years ago Courtney Hermann saw something she absolutely needed. When electronic stores released the first VHS recorders the then 15-year old Hermann for some reason knew she couldn’t live without one. Too young to afford this new technology, the teenager turned to her parents.

“It might be the only thing that I ever really, truly, begged for,” says Hermann.

George Burdeau doesn’t just make films; he makes films with a purpose. For over 40 years Burdeau has been creating films that portray Native American life from a realistic point of view. These films have improved awareness and knowledge of true Native culture.

Burdeau got his start while studying to be a painter at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It was during this time he noticed a disturbing trend in Native American films.

Beverly Morris has dedicated much of her 18 years of broadcasting to developing young media makers as the project director of the Institute of American Indian Arts’ summer television and film workshop in Santa Fe, NM.

During the project’s first three years it has extended opportunities to many young broadcasters they otherwise would never have had.

Bennie Klain is excited.

This is evident in the first words that pour out of his mouth when asked about his latest film, Weaving Worlds, being accepted to the upcoming South by Southwest Film Festival. Adding to the excitement is the fact that the festival will be held in Austin, Texas, Bennie’s hometown.

Pages

 
Subscribe to Producer Profile