The Spirit Is Willing But the Money Is Weak

Recently I’ve been exposed to some First Nation’s (also referred to as American Natives, aboriginals, Metis) talent – writing, acting, music – and, it’s GOOD. The spirit is there in the culture, the music, the tradition. There’s just the familiar lament of – no investment money. No money to attract investors, no money from the big studios, no money to warrant a good product because the public niche has no money (not true, but it wasn’t true 20 years ago with the black communities either).


Speaking of the black communities – before Spike Lee started to really be heard by the film community, say about 20 years ago, I heard a New York producer complaining about there being a lack of Black talent and crew. By 1991, when I was working on “Mortal Thoughts” in New Jersey, I met the first black Teamster. (He had the same last name as me and we kidded about historical masters). He, and many other black film professionals, got their start because Spike Lee demanded it – black people must be doubled on any of his productions – end of story. There was a lot of behind-the-hand complaining about laziness, not motivated… the usual racist stuff. But, the black community got exposed to filmmaking and the best rose to the top – it worked and just a very few years later there is a burgeoning list of excellent black film professionals in every category of cast and crew.


Now… that’s Doing The Right Thing.


There’s no question North American Natives need a hand up. It’s just a matter of finding and supporting an aboriginal with Spike Lee’s talent and marketing sense. The American native (also referred to as indigenous American, aboriginal, First Nations people) rank at the bottom of nearly every social statistic: highest teen suicide rate of all minorities at 18.5%, highest rate of teen pregnancy, highest high school drop out rate at 54%, lowest per capita income, and unemployment rates between 50% to 90%. (see Wikipedia ).


In 2006, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated that about 1.0 percent of the U.S. population was of American Indian or Alaska Native descent and growing rapidly. In Canada about 4.4% of the population is of Native descent. I couldn’t find many comprehensive stats in the USA, but up in Canada a 2007 Canadian Dept of Correction report says ( ):


 “Aboriginal offenders make up 17% of the federal penitentiary inmates. The situation is even worse in some provincial institutions. While Aboriginal people are over-represented in federal corrections nationally, the numbers reach critical levels in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, where Aboriginal people make up more than 60% of the inmate population in some penitentiaries. In Saskatchewan, for example, Aboriginal people are incarcerated at a rate of 35 times higher than the mainstream population. What is even more alarming, is that estimates forecast that this population is growing.”


 Enough said.


Calling all aboriginal talent – and anyone else who wants to pitch in – let’s get busy!



John Gaskin

With over 20 years experience and 40+ film productions, John has worked with some of the industries top professionals, including academy award winners Ron Howard and Brian Grazer, Walter Salles etc. John brings his expertise to aspiring & established film professionals. 


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About filmproduction
I have worked in the film production industry since 1985, working on over 50 different productions of every size in 6 different countries. My self-published book, "Walk The Talk" is written in an easy to read manner for film students and working professionals who haven't had the chance to learn how to 'Direct the Money'.

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