November 29, 2008

Germans film Pilgrims in Salem

John Goff:  German crew films Native American scene in SalemOne week before President Bush declared on Oct. 30 that November 2008 would be celebrated as National American Indian Heritage Month or Native American Month, Salem was visited by five Native American film actors and educators, as well as other First Period colonial reenactors, and members of a German film company’s production team.

They all descended on Salem in 1630: Pioneer Village in Forest River Park to create a new TV special for French and German TV audiences. The goal was to show how the Mayflower pilgrims first settled in 1620, and how relations first evolved between the Separatists and the Wampanoag natives, the earliest known residents and developers of lands in southeast Massachusetts.
And:Securing appropriate Native American actors to fill the needed native roles proved to be a bit more challenging. Nevertheless, Tara J. Ryan (Chicasaw/Choctaw) president and owner of Tijer Lily Co (“A Native American Arts and Entertainment Company”) quickly delivered just the right combination of skilled native professionals able to meet all project needs.

A constellation of five native actors was secured, using David Weeden as Massasoit; Jerry Thundercloud McDonald as Samoset; Jay Levy as Squanto; Annawon Weeden as Warrior No. 1 and Hartman Deetz as Warrior No. 2.

The original Massasoit (Ousamequin) and Squanto or Tisquantum were members of the Wampanoag Nation. So it seemed only proper that a majority of the Natives directed to Salem were also Wampanoag. David Weeden, Annawon Weeden and Hartman Deetz are all members of the Wampanoag Nation. Hartman is Mashpee Wampanoag while Annawon and David are both Mashpee Wampanoag and Mashantucket Pequot.
Comment:  Imagine that. Actors who not only belong to the right ethnic group, but the right tribe. See how (relatively) easy it is to do culturally appropriate casting?

Once again, let's note how much Germans love their Indians. For more on the subject, see Foreigners Have Native Affinity and The Hobby of Being Indian. For more on television in general, see TV Shows Featuring Indians.

1 comment:

TJR said...

Thanks for the post Rob, I like the "(relatively)" reference. "Documentaries" are some of the toughest work I do...especially locally for so many reasons.

This production company was GREAT to work with (unlike so many others, especially those who are "Networks" or "Stations" who rely on "Native Content" to survive in ratings...LITERALLY)...They actually wanted to get it right.

As far as appropriate casting with me and Tijer Lily Co it's simple...just contact someone within the community. We live it and breathe it every day. Born into it, literally. Then you have to practice at your skills and maintain good relations and updated contacts within the community.

It is specialty casting, not just anyone can do this. Note the Twilight casting comments on how they had a tough time "finding Native talent" for the first one...well...this time it's different. We'll see what happens. This time the community has been notified of potential availability of roles for "New Moon." I made sure of it. It's a matter of what they (all decision makers) do with all the information I gave them and talent I sent their way. This time if we see that comment online as an excuse...we'll know it's a lie. I have a good feeling about it though.

Keep the conversation going.

(BTW - the German production company knows and knew more about our culture than the vast majority of US and North American residents and they thought they were clueless). I'd work with them again in a heartbeat.

TJR