Native filmmakers connect in Hollywood

Joe Brown Thunder, Ginny Underwood, and Ryan Red Corn make up the creative team for Buffalo Nickel Creative’s documentary film project on the grassroots movement which led to the passage of the 2013 Violence Against Women Act. The Act provided critical provisions to better protect Native women.

Joe Brown Thunder, Ginny Underwood, and Ryan Red Corn make up the creative team for Buffalo Nickel Creative’s documentary film project on the grassroots movement which led to the passage of the 2013 Violence Against Women Act. The Act provided critical provisions to better protect Native women.

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Native filmmakers from Buffalo Nickel Creative (BNC), an Oklahoma-based multifaceted communications agency, were among participants at the Getting Real ’18 conference Sept. 25-17 in Los Angeles.  The three-day conference brought together filmmakers from around the world to network and learn about different facets of the documentary industry.

“We are excited to expand our work and launch our first full-length documentary,” said BNC co-owner Joseph Brown Thunder, descendant of the Hochunk and Oglala Sioux tribes. “We plan to shine a light on important issues and perspectives from authentic Native perspectives which is lacking in the documentary world today.”

The BNC project will focus on the grassroots Native women movement that led to the passage of the 2013 Violence Against Women Act which includes enhanced tribal jurisdiction over non-Native offenders. Native women are murdered at a rate 10 times the national average; 4 in 5 have experienced violence; and more than 1 and 2 have experienced sexual violence, according to Brown Thunder.

“Often the perpetrators walk free due to a jurisdictional nightmare between local, state, and federal law enforcement,” he said.

“The Getting Real conference came at an important time for us, as we ramp up for our documentary,” said Ryan Red Corn, a member of the Osage Nation and co-owner of BNC.  “Although we have a handle on our story, the workshops on pre-publication review and fact checking were very helpful especially since we are dealing with such a sensitive topic. We want to be able to protect the women and their families who are featured in our film.”

The research and development for the BNC documentary is being partly funded through Vision Maker Media in Lincoln, Nebraska.

“Vision Maker Media, through this conference, has put us in contact with several of the documentary industry leaders,” said Ginny Underwood, a member of the Comanche Nation and writer/producer with BNC. “We now have a great network of Native filmmakers and industry experts to help us navigate the documentary world from shooting to distribution.”

An important theme of the conference included a series of discussions about decolonizing and diversifying the documentary industry. “The ‘#MeToo’ session was helpful in understanding the major hurdles that still have to be overcome at every level of filmmaking,” said Underwood.

“We know that invisibility of Native peoples in film and pop culture is detrimental to our communities, particularly young people,” said Red Corn.  “The lack of representation dehumanizes Native peoples and erodes support for Native issues. Our goal is to push back against the standard tropes and stereotypes of the Hollywood Indian.”

To learn more about BNC projects, visit www.buffalonickelcreative.com. More details will soon be available about the documentary from our fiscal partner FiLM Independent at www.filmindependent.org.

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