Picking the Twilight Wolfpack, and Others—a Conversation With Rene Haynes
By Vincent Schilling
Then there's this Q&A with Haynes herself:
We still have the naysayers—individuals with a chip on their shoulders who tend to condemn a project, in a very public way, before even trying to find out the truth behind the intent of the filmmakers. It’s very rare these days for a Native film project not to employ technical and cultural advisors. The people who make trouble usually do not manage to halt a project, but they do give producers and studios a reason to question the idea of financing another Native project in the future. Remember, this is such a competitive business in all aspects, and particularly for funding. If producers and financiers have a choice, they are likely to choose the more commercial and less difficult vehicle. This doesn’t help all the Native filmmakers who are seeking financing for their own projects. I totally support someone’s right to speak out against a perceived wrong, I just would encourage a full investigation into the facts before making public condemnations. There are always going to be diplomatic ways to make a positive change.
Your guesstimate of the "naysayers'" motivation is flatly ridiculous. Fighting for social justice isn't remotely connected to having a chip on one's shoulder.
The filmmakers' intent is generally irrelevant. What matters is what they do--whom they hire, what they put on the screen, etc.--not what they "intended."
When we're questioning a film's casting, the use of technical and cultural advisers is irrelevant. Nice try to change the subject, but no sale.
But I'll play along. Are these advisers from the tribes in question? In the case of Twilight's characters, the Quileute Nation? If not, then so what? A Lakota or Apache adviser doesn't know any more about Quileute culture and history than I do.
When movies do hire advisers, these people often rubber-stamp the creators' decisions so they can continue working in the industry. Or so I've heard. If a movie ever hired advisers who'd condemn a movie for its mistakes and stereotypes, I haven't heard of it.
We saw a roundup of Twilight's mistakes in Truth vs. Twilight. If an adviser had pointed out these problems, would the producers have changed the movies? No? Then who cares about the advisers? They're useless when a studio has its mind(s) set on a stereotypical depiction of Indians.
Big trouble but no halting?
If the so-called troublemakers never halt a project, then what's the problem? Some studio exec has to rethink and rejustify his questionable decisions? Well, boo-hoo, you big baby!
You're inventing a straw-man argument here. "Troublemakers" threaten every project even though they never harm a project? I guess they should just stop protesting and shut up, right? Thanks for regurgitating the studios' justification for ignoring protests and continuing on their racist ways.
Ironically, the article begins with Haynes's big breakthrough: Dances with Wolves. Natives got cast because Kevin Costner insisted on it--an internal demand equivalent to our external demands. He didn't finesse or compromise the issue, he used his star power to lay down the law. (Too bad Johnny Depp doesn't have the same moral convictions.)
Not surprisingly, the movie was a success because of its authentic casting. Again, this was because of Costner's impolite demands, not Haynes's polite diplomacy. Someone stood up to Hollywood's whites-only mentality and forced an unwanted change.
Yeah, like Jonah Hex and Cowboys and Aliens. And unlike Dances with Wolves, which must've seemed like a sure recipe for failure. Hurray for studio execs and their colossal ignorance of how to make successful movies. Including successful movies with Indians, as my list of flops indicates.
The casting protests didn't hurt Twilight's success. And Twilight's success using Native actors helps prove the market for Native films using Native actors. So where's the next blockbuster franchise featuring Indians? Other than The Lone Ranger starring non-Native Johnny Depp, I'm not seeing it.
All we have here is a loose string of faulty "logic." Troublemakers harm Native films. Some Native film was harmed somewhere, although it sure as hell wasn't Twilight. Despite Twilight's huge success, studios are reluctant to invest in Native films.
And that's because of troublemakers who can't stop a film like Twilight, not the studios' inherent racism? Studios are avoiding the next money-making blockbuster starring Natives because they're afraid of a few protests? Uh-huh, sure they are.
"Full investigation" before speaking out?
One, the public doesn't have the ability to investigate a studio's internal processes from the outside. Don't blame us for not getting the complete picture. Blame the studios for not giving us the complete picture.
Oh, wait...they pay your salary, so you can't criticize them for their failure to communicate. Never mind.
Two, what if we do have the complete picture--as we did in the Taylor Lautner case? He absolutely was not the only actor who could've played Jacob Black. He's been roundly criticized for his dubious acting skills throughout the series. Half the Native actors in his range could've done a better job.
So when we're right, is it okay if we speak up? And will you speak up also for the Native actors you supposedly care about? Oh, wait...see the previous comment about who pays your salary. Never mind.
Such as? Give us some examples of how outsiders who aren't involved with a movie can "make a positive change." Which of these techniques have you yourself tried for movies you weren't involved with? How did they work for you?
As you may imagine, I think this is a lot of hot air. Protests worked in the Twilight casting case, so why should we try less effective techniques? When you come up with an alternative that would've produced the same results--more Native actors--write an instruction guide for us. Until then, you're just mouthing platitudes.
Sheesh. These uncritical defenses of Hollywood's racism and stereotyping really slay me. Can you tell?
For more on the subject, see:
Minorities buy more movie tickets
Hollywood: Poor people are losers
"We can't find the talent"
Hollywood ghettoizes Native actors
Patel's struggle shows Hollywood's racism
Dismissing the pro-Airbender arguments
Hollywood's cultural conservatism
Hollywood's "liberals" are bigots
Below: "Veteran actor Gil Birmingham, who appears in 'Twilight Saga' films, with casting director Rene Haynes."