Our Native people were the first to be photographed and utilized by Thomas Edison, in 1898, as he was perfecting his invention of the Kinetoscope. Fast forward to the 21st century; that invention has evolved and has now become the film and digital television camera of today.
So, 117 years later, why is it that everyone BUT the Native people of America are being represented or included in that medium ?
The short answer is as elusive as the question. The reality is that if no scripts or films are made that include roles for Native people, roles that call for extraordinary acting chops, then we are excluded from the opportunity to participate in the yearly considerations for Golden Globe Awards, Sag Awards, and Oscars.
A longer answer, and one that puts the onus on us as creative people, performers, and investors, is that if we really want to participate in the awards process, we have to write, produce, finance and distribute our own films judged to be of quality by the filmmaking world. Although all of that is within our ability, we have yet—with some exceptions—to reach the point of taking the investment risk associated with the business end of it. Until we do, we will continue to wonder why, after 117 years, we are not at the award consideration table.
It really comes down to good scripts, and investors who have faith in them and our Native talent—that’s what it will takes to break that glass ceiling. The Hollywood film and television machine relies on relationships and contacts, not to mention the ability to circumvent the gatekeepers, but it can be done, and we can do it. As a producer in Hollywood, I have managed to open countless closed doors, but have yet to find that standalone script that has breakthrough written all over it—or the Native Tribe that has the means and the will to take the risk. Let me end with this true statement for anyone interested:
There has never been a Native film that has lost money. You can take that to the bank, as they say.