“THE AIR BITES SHREWDLY. IT IS VERY COLD.”
HAMLET Fall Shoot Update
We have had a round of successful screening of “Select Scenes from HAMLET” at the annual First Nations Film and Video Festival that took place in November in Chicago. We got much positive feedback about the film-in-progress that I feel that we are on the right track with this unique film.
The Fall Shoot has been beset with a lot of technical difficulties and scheduling restrictions. However, I am working up new scene or two to be shot indoors to try and bypass the cold weather we are in the middle of right now. Though, the play does suggest that the story takes place during the winter, well, see, Shakespeare never had to deal with touchy Native actors…
Probably the most difficult thing about HAMLET has been getting people interested. Without beads and feathers or alcoholism or historical trauma, no one cares about a Northern Arapaho trying to make a movie based on Shakespeare. What no one seems to get is that I am telling a “Native” story with a Native Voice. The story just happens to be HAMLET and I just happen to be the “Native”. If you cannot see how the cast and I are representing our Native heritage then you miss the whole point about Native American self-representation and first-voice. It is tough enough to try to convince my people of what I am doing because I am still getting the “You’re wasting my time” attitude from most every one. Honestly, I hate wasting people’s time.
It seems that this Native community that makes a big noise about supporting the works of Native artists really does not care unless you can make them money or some kind of “rez famous”, as I call it. Meaning, you are seen as famous in the very limited circles of Native film, art, or what-have-you. When you cannot provide any of this, or fast enough for some, they put on this attitude of having their time wasted or they are too important because they were on a magazine no one reads. So much for supporting each other.
This movie is my challenge to the Native community to do art for the sake of doing art. That’s it. Simple. But way too difficult for the egos of many people.
The movie industry will hate that I am shooting digitally on a pro-sumer Nikon D5100 DSLR, which, according to many in the industry, was developed for AP to shoot video for websites. The camera is cheap and it has a high-definition resolution that looks very good. Besides, the story should always be strong enough to carry an audiences’ interest, no matter what it was shot on. I have always believed that.
So many “independent” movie makers want to shoot in 5k, which is a very high resolution, about 5000 pixels across the screen. Old Standard definition TV was only 750 pixels. HD (High definition, what Blu-ray is and what I am shooting in) is 1920 pixels, Hi-def runs up to 4k and 5k, which is what the RED cameras shoot at.
Though the RED cameras are meant to be inexpensive, the makers of RED cameras have never been a dirt-poor Northern Arapaho working with whatever he can get his hands on. I am sure the ‘real’ Native professionals will turn their noses up at my efforts. That is okay, I subscribe to Jack White’s tenant of it has to be a struggle. That is how we measure our commitment to our form. It has to be a struggle. You have to fight it, battle it to make into something.
I hope HAMLET will get made. We have a really good organization behind us and we have locations willing to work with such a unique project. I just need to gather actors around me that also believe in my vision, crude as it made be in the scope of limited equipment. That did not stop the DOGMA 94 folk. Nor did it stop Goddard and the rest. I will get HAMLET done. I even have a premiere date of September 2016. So, keep an eye out for another call for actors. I hope more will join us.
We will be holding another round of casting looking for actors to portray Claudius, Polonius, Laertes, Osric, and various other smaller roles. The most difficult to cast has been Ophelia, who in this iteration, is Hamlet’s lover. With myself being Hamlet, you can see the problem. We will announce the casting call very soon.
Because, when this thing starts to gain traction, it could change HOW Native American movies get made, change what the industry THINKS about Native American actors, and be the first of a long line of really cool and unique films made in Native country. As I see it, Native American Cinema, as we know it, is doomed. We need something like HAMLET to shake up the gatekeepers and the status quo, bend the rules to create something new using something old. To assert the ultimate act of reverse cultural appropriation by taking something from the colonial cultural and make it Northern Arapaho, just to really, truly turn the tables of the expectations of people when it comes to Native American Cinema….
Ernest M Whiteman III (Northern Arapaho)
Director, Producer, Actor – HAMLET