I make ‘community-based’ feature films where I partner with American Indian Nations and engage the community and surrounding non-Native community in the production. This is my second feature film and I’m so excited because it will be filmed on my Native Nation. My first feature film was funded completely through individual artist grants and in-kind donations. Those incredible 8 grantmakers,the Onondaga Nation and the surrounding central New York State community helped me make a cinematic milestone possible-the first feature film written and directed by a Native woman-and wholly produced by Native American people. The film won some awards at festivals and created unique opportunities for Native American people. USA Projects is the perfect venue for me to fund this film because it can inspire many more people to join the film’s ‘community’ and make the impossible possible once again.
The Heart Stays is a coming of age story, about a Native American girl who must choose between personal achievement and the traditional responsibilities of the old ways. When Shannon Ki-he-ka-zhi, an 18-year old high school senior and aspiring writer, who lives humbly on a reservation with her alcoholic father, emotionally vacant mother and rebellious little sister receives a scholarship to Dartmouth, she takes the challenge, an goes to pursue her dream of preserving Native American, mythology. Without Shannon, her family finds themselves in emotional disarray. While Shannon has to learn to live in a world completely alien to her own, and discovers her gifts as a writer, her sister gets into serious legal trouble and lands on Shannon’s doorstep. Shannon must choose between helping to save the whole Native literature department threatened by budget cuts, or to save her sister.
Through USAProject support I will initially produce a trailer of the film to be used to leverage more support. The material from the trailer will ultimately be used in the finished film as well. You will be supporting a rare chance to work with my community…where everyone knows your name and they are glad to see you…where your parents and grandparents are buried…where I can cast Native-speaking cameo roles with someone who speaks our language without hesitating…where we don’t have to get permission to film somewhere and pay a fee…where the extras will be people the story represents and the beauty of the primeval tall-grass prairie with bison and wild horse herds will be our canvas.
With your help, funds are requested to support production and post-production costs associated with delivering a dramatic narrative film for distribution. It would not be possible to ‘over fund’ my project. If support exceeds expectations, it will allow choices that enrich the production values of the film and make an even better product.
As a member of the most under served group in the country, I am deeply moved by all the people who cared enough to support a Native American film and thank them for their vision and generosity.
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