February 16, 2010

Alan Eaglewolf on Jonah Hex

Guest blog:  Alan Eaglewolf BryantThe Hollywood Indian, a term I define as a complete false representation of the Indigenous people of this land.

I believe we have come along way in cinema but still there are those that refuse to look into the true representations of Native culture. I say refuse but perhaps that the film makers just do not want to take the time or spend funding on a consultant to add the true representation in their films. They choose to take the easy way out and continue to use the Hollywood Indian Tribes.

On a couple of my films, I was sent to “Makeup” to get “Dirtied up” to make me look like a filthy savage that never baths and teeth that looks like they are about to fall out of my head. I wondered if they were going to have me run around beating on my lips and raising my hand in greetings saying, “How White Man.”

In the back of my mind, I have wondered if I should have refused and just walked off the set. Instead, I stayed and considered it a great opportunity to teach them some of the truths about the Native culture. As I was being applied with make-up I informed them of the truths of hygiene and the Natives compared to the European culture and their hygiene habits. I took the time to educate others on set as well. I became an advisor on several issues regarding the “Costume,” accessories and hair while on set.

When I was cast for the role on the film Jonah Hex and Unearthed, the casting notice was for Native or “Native look.” On both films as extras, I believe I and maybe one other was of Native blood, the rest of the tribe was of Hispanic and Asian descent. Now, it’s not that they chose them over Native heritage; it’s that no other Natives came to audition for these roles. If we are to move forward in the film industry, I think it’s important for us to look into roles requiring Natives and to educate those on set about the true representation of the accuracy of the indigenous people of this land.
Comment:  As we've seen in the cases of Winter in the Blood and New Moon, when producers hold auditions near Native communities, people come out in droves. If you can't find Native performers, you aren't trying. You have to go to them; you can't wait for them to come to you.

For more on the subject, see Bird Men in Jonah Hex and The Origin of Jonah Hex.

Below:  This poster says Jonah Hex is about selling Megan Fox to male viewers, not telling an authentic Western story.


Anonymous said...


Having a 100 "actors" show up doesn't make your point.

In Hollywood, an actor has an agent. He is a professional, he/she usually has to have a SAG (Screen Actors Guild) card. (about $2500.00 to join if invited by the way.)

You may think anyone can "act" but I know from experience that is far from the truth. In fact I've seen plenty of "pros" that I think must have printed their own union cards.

Here's an "acting" analogy for you:

I can play three chords on the guitar, does that make me a guitar player?

Hollywood hires casting agents who already have a stable they have either worked with or can pick up a phone tap into. Agents don't get paid unless their actors get paid. A lucky few people get a "break" and get pulled into productions from cattle calls.
Some can "deliver" many can't, so they aren't invited back to the party.

I understand your frustration with the lack of Hollywood interest in portraying, casting, or any significant storytelling involving "real" Native Americans (I live it every day.) There are some independent film opportunities out there, but most are underfunded, underproduced (shot with "prosumer" cameras etc...)or have no real business plan or distribution in place to succeed.

Casting is one of the biggest creative decisions a director makes. Putting inexperienced actors in lead roles, will not only be burning up extra "takes" (time/money) but your usually going to end up with unbelievable performances.

In Hollywood casting starts at the top down and if the project isn't already set up with a "name" talent attached it usually doesn't get too far. Like I said before many of the films you see these days are generated by agents putting directors, actors, and writers together for the studios, not the other way around.

The issue is there's been far too few opportunities for the Native Community to participate, thus, how do you build up relationships in the industry...how do you get noticed?

It starts like this film does.

I don't know what their budget is but the known "base line" for a professionally shot, theatrical released film starts at around 2.5 million. (unless your shooting another crappy Blair Witch which only cost $35,000 to shoot but added millions to the budget for post production and massive advertising.)

I am glad that there is a 'Native themed" project that found enough funding so that the producers are confident that they can deliver a competitive product.

If you want to go micro budget, then you're out there with every other wanna-be film maker. The sea is full of little internet fish these days. Good luck getting noticed.

I applaud these movie makers (unless they can afford to shoot film thus "filmmakers")and I look forward to seeing their movie.

I hope someday a "Native Themed" film really breaks out and causes tribes to go..."Look what we could have had invested in! Look how this benefits all Native cultures by helping dispel stereotypes, honor our culture, and represent us to a mass audience that doesn't understand we are part of the "modern" world. Lets find a project to get behind and create our own opportunities!"

Which is about as realistic as waiting for Hollywood to produce one...

Here's the rub...if success does happen, and it's a Hollywood film, the tribes won't benefit financially unless they've participated financially and that hasn't been my experience.

As always, Rob, keep the faith.



Rob said...

I think Hollywood finds and employs novice actors all the time. Auditions are a good way to locate Native prospects who wouldn't stand a chance otherwise.

For more responses to your comments, see Finding Native Actors at Auditions.