Okay, I was inspired to create this thread by two things: recent Twitter conversations with aspiring Native filmmakers on how to tell their own stories, and a series of great threads by @tonytost about how to break into the screenwriting business. Here goes...
I’m specifically giving advice on how I think Native filmmakers can get to a position to tell their own stories, on their own terms. Be advised that I am neither the Boss of the Movie Business or Native. These are just my opinions as I try to be helpful.
Also, I believe this may apply to anyone trying to get into a position to control their own narratives. Black. Latinx. Female. LGBTQ. Working class whites... This is about how to tell the stories you want, how you want, without unreasonable compromise.
My most obvious piece of advice is if you take other people’s money, they will exert control over what you do. This is just a fact. If you use someone else’s money, expect everything that follows to be a negotiation. Your leverage will depend on who they are and how much money.
If we are talking film or television, that means you must craft your stories to the scale of the technology and financial resources you control. You need to write a script you can shoot on an IPhone, or make for the amount of money you can personally raise.
I would love to see @HosteenCholo do his version of a Native Godzilla epic, but that is probably going to have to wait until he makes a lot of money for financiers and studios. Which brings me to my second obvious piece of advice...
Your ability to get other people to pay for your vision is entirely a function of your commercial success. In order to risk their capital on a film project, studios want some element that has previously been successful. The good news is, that requirement is now color blind...
For years, studios wouldn’t finance mainstream Black films because they claimed overseas audiences wouldn’t watch Black movies. Black Panther (among other films) put that nonsense to bed. And Ryan Coogler can now tell any damn story he wants.
The biggest problem Native filmmakers are facing is there is not yet a Native actor or filmmaker with a commercial track record. This is obviously a Catch 22. How can we grow a Native Ryan Coogler if no one will greenlight Native stories with commercial appeal?
Which brings us back to my obvious piece of advice... Write Native stories you can shoot and finance yourself. When one of them breaks out commercially, you will be given the opportunity to do another one, on a larger scale.
Last piece of advice: Take an inexpensive genre and tell it through a Native lens. Horror immediately springs to mind. Write a “teens on a camping trip” horror script with all Native characters. Draw on Native mythology. But make it scary and sexy and funny.
Stoner comedy is another genre that might work. Do a Harold and Kumar or Superbad with Native characters. Comedy is cheap and laughter is universal. If it’s really funny and the price is right, someone will buy it.
What it all comes down to is you have to tell your stories cheaply enough to control them, or tell your stories through a genre that allows other people to make money.
I hope this (very, very) long thread has been useful. As I said, I think it applies to hillbillies who hated Hillbilly Elegy as much as Natives or anyone else. These are just my opinions, based on my professional experience.

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