Published February 10, 2019
Telling the Cherokee story – our history, our heritage – is a skill that our people have passed down from one generation to the next. Storytelling is a cornerstone of our culture. That’s why I am so proud we have launched the Cherokee Nation Film Office. It will promote northeastern Oklahoma while cultivating Native filmmaking. The office will provide much-needed cultural and historical consultation on film projects, ensuring our stories are told with cultural sensitivity and accuracy. And it will serve as a way to develop a database of Cherokee Nation locations for film shoots, resources and talent. It’s a bold new endeavor to enhance an ancient tradition.
Our home state, especially in our northeast quadrant, has unlimited potential when it comes to American Indian filmmaking, including the authors, actors and technicians to build successful filmmakers, as well as its natural beauty, history and character. Cherokee Nation and other tribes in Oklahoma have already begun producing high-quality videos, television shows and movies. There is great potential to promote Oklahoma as a destination for aspiring and experienced filmmakers.
This is where the Cherokee Nation Film Office, a division of the Cherokee Nation Businesses Communications Department, will come into play, growing the burgeoning state film industry by promoting northeast Oklahoma and a new generation of talented artisans. The Emmy Award-winning TV program “Osiyo, Voices of the Cherokee People” has proven highly successful, laying the groundwork for this new venture’s launch. To kick things off, we will be creating our first feature-length documentary.
Additionally, we have a goal to help other filmmakers.
That means Native people telling Native stories. Cherokees telling Cherokee stories. At Cherokee Nation, we routinely work with individuals who fundamentally misunderstand Native Americans – who we are, our culture, our history and our modern identity. We know from these interactions that Native stories are best told by Native voices. As a result, five years ago we launched the production of “Osiyo, Voices of the Cherokee People,” and we discovered in the process that there are many Cherokees with a natural aptitude for filmmaking and storytelling, either behind the camera or in front it.
This brought home to us that there are many talented filmmakers, producers, directors and actors right here in the Cherokee Nation that are being under-utilized or not utilized at all. Our vision is to create an environment that nurtures these creative Cherokees.
The Cherokee Nation Film Office will collaborate with the Oklahoma Film + Music Office, the Tulsa Office of Film, Music, Arts and Culture and other local film offices to leverage resources and talent. Areas of cooperation include providing local recommendations for crew and talent, coordinating site visits, and hosting filmmaking workshops and film festivals. We share the same goals and ambitions to enhance the attractiveness of Oklahoma’s budding film industry.
Chief Bill John Baker
Cherokee Nation is one of the most beautiful areas of our state. It’s a natural fit as a filmmaking destination. Although California is still the entertainment capital of the world, other states have established themselves as film destinations. In recent years, major motion pictures and television series have been filmed in regional states like Texas, Georgia and Louisiana. We firmly believe it is now our time.
According to the Motion Picture Association of America, in 2016, Oklahoma’s film and television industry was responsible for 13,273 direct and indirect jobs and more than $220 million in wages. By contrast, Texas’ film and television industry was responsible 105,525 jobs and $1.81 billion in wages. Georgia’s impacts were 92,494 jobs and $2.15 billion in wages, while Louisiana’s numbers were 22,707 jobs and nearly $400 million in wages.
Numbers like these tell us there are genuine business and economic development opportunities to be pursued, and we are more than ready to meet the challenge. We have a passionate team committed to making this new industry successful for the Cherokee Nation, while furthering our mission of preserving Cherokee culture. We are excited about the new opportunities the Cherokee Nation Film Office will bring.
For more information about the Cherokee Nation Film Office, visit www.cherokee.film.
Bill John Baker is the principal chief of the Cherokee Nation.