Ian Skorodin says filmmaking is more accessible than ever and encourages greater representation of Native Americans in front of and behind the camera
IAN SKORODIN: There is a lot of really great indigenously themed content on TV and film right now that everyone should definitely check out and really see our community’s perspective on those aspects.
I went to the University of Oklahoma and studied film there. And I transferred to New York University. While I was there, I produced a feature film, Tushka, and it’s loosely based on a Native American activist protesting the incarceration of another activist in Washington, DC. And it premiered at Sundance the following year and then developed from there other types of really underground material, like stop-motion animation and other types of web series.
That’s how LA Skins Fest was founded 16 years ago. It’s an Indian film festival. And I started it because after you go to Sundance and do a festival tour of very high profile festivals, you see what a festival, a real festival, should really give filmmakers: a great venue, good attendance, a good audience and then opportunities as a filmmaker.
Because we have so many creative and professional programs for adults, we have partnered with the Motion Picture Association and formed the Native American Media Alliance. And that houses our entire adult program and offers other initiatives. We partnered with Netflix during the pandemic and had a COVID relief fund where we gave nearly $1 million to Native Americans in entertainment who have lost their jobs.
They feel very comfortable in their community. And they the organizations they want to support. So they tend to invest heavily in their community. So a lot of our colleagues are now off nationally themed shows. They are staffed in shows that are exactly what is considered, quote, unquoted, “normal shows”. They’re just good writers who can find work, and they happen to be Native Americans. And that’s really the goal there.
When it comes to that representation, actors just want to go back to looking at normal roles. One of the best places to see this is on Michael Mann’s “Heat,” where Wes Studi plays an LA cop. Nothing is discussed about his indigenous heritage or his Cherokee affiliation or anything like that. He’s just one of Al Pacino’s crew. And that’s really what we’re looking for. They have an identifiable role or position in the world that we all understand. We can sympathize or identify with them on some level.
The one thing I try to remind everyone is that as an artist, especially as a media artist, you have so many advantages now. All advantages are there. It is now up to the artist to find this self-discipline and start realizing the content.