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Teens making films 'on the fly' out in Indian Country

Josh Marshall
Josh Marshall Photography

Each year, 50 teens  from all over the country fly into Seattle to participate in a fast-and-furious film challenge. They have to produce short films in 36 hours, or "on the fly." Which is why the program is called "SuperFly."

Most of the participants are Native Americans, creating Native-themed films out on location on an Indian reservation.

Seattle filmmaker Tracy Rector and her Longhouse Media company launched the workshop 8 years ago.

"Growing up in Seattle as a mixed race woman who’s indigenous, I was very aware that there were not representations of people like me. And I often felt very isolated," she said.

The all-expenses paid workshop, held in partnership with the Seattle International Film Festival, brings together a multi-cultural group of youths. And in an effort to demystify Indian Country, the workshops are held on a different Indian reservation each year.

This year, the Suquamish Tribe out on the Kitsap Peninsula hosted the teens and introduced them to their history and culture through songs, dances, teachings, and a feast of traditional foods. They also inspired the subjects for five short documentaries and one animated film. In previous years, the teens have worked off of original narrative scripts authored by a Native writer.

On the beach on a recent day, Raven Two Feathers and Evodie Ngoy helmed the camera to tell the story of Suquamish tribal member Peg Deam.

Deam stirred up controversy a few years ago when she took a canoe from the Suquamish museum and paddled it out on the water. She says it was her way of reclaiming and revitalizing her culture.

Raven, 16, is Cherokee, Seneca, Cayuga, Comanche, and a New Mexico transplant who now attends Ballard High. She said the workshop taught her more about the diversity of tribes in the Pacific Northwest.

She added she could relate to the subject of her documentary: "I feel like you need to take risks cause originally I was super shy as a kid and I had this one teacher that pushed me to get out of my comfort zone."

When she stood out on the beach, directing, Raven was anything but shy. She shared directing duties with Evodie, a 15-year-old from Baltimore originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

"It feels awesome. I don’t know how else to express it. I’m mean, too pumped. Too pumped. Too much joy," she said about the filmmaking experience.

The teens are divided into teams. They work with professional mentors and professional equipment. They're fueled by the adrenaline of an intense deadline and the passion of what they've already figured out they love to do.

"I heard a great thing from a director once that you don’t say, 'I want to become a filmmaker.' You say, 'I am a filmmaker!' So I guess you could say I am a filmmaker!" said Raven.

"You are! Did you see what you did today?" said Evodie to Raven.

The SuperFly films, which get screened as part of the Seattle International Film Festival, will also get submitted to other festivals. They'll also wind up in the collection of the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.