Ian Skorodin opens doors for Native Americans in the entertainment industry

Ian Skorodin says cinema is more accessible than ever and encourages greater Native American representation in front of and behind the camera

Video transcript

IAN SKORODIN: Right now, there’s a lot of great Indigenous-themed content on TV and in movies that everyone should definitely watch and really see our community’s perspective from those aspects.

I went to the University of Oklahoma and studied film there. And I transferred to New York University. While I was there, I produced a feature film, “Tushka,” and it’s loosely based on a Native American activist protesting the jailing of another activist in Washington, DC. And it premiered at Sundance the following year, and then from there developed other kinds of really underground material, like stop motion animation and other kinds of web series.

Thus, the LA Skins Fest was founded 16 years ago. It’s a Native American film festival. And I founded it because after going to Sundance and doing a festival circuit at very high-end festivals, you see what a festival, a real festival, should really offer filmmakers, a great venue , good attendance, a good audience, and then an opportunity as a filmmaker.

Because we have so many creative and professional adult programs, we partnered with the Motion Picture Association and created the Native American Media Alliance. And that houses all of our adult programming and provides other initiatives. We partnered with Netflix during the pandemic and had a COVID relief fund, where we awarded nearly $1 million to Native Americans in entertainment who lost their jobs.

They are very comfortable with their community. And they the organizations they want to support. So usually they will invest heavily in their community. So a lot of our comrades now, they’re not assigned to Indigenous-themed shows. They are employed in shows that are just what are considered, in quotes, “normal shows”. They’re just good writers who can get work, and they happen to be Native Americans. And that’s really the goal here.

When it comes to this portrayal, the actors really want to, again, consider normal roles. One of the best places to see this is in Michael Mann’s “Heat,” where Wes Studi plays an LA cop. Nothing is discussed about his native heritage or whether he’s Cherokee or anything. He is just one member of Al Pacino’s team. And that’s really what we’re looking for. They have an identifiable role or position in the world that we all understand. We can sympathize with them on some level or identify with them.

The one thing I try to remind everyone is that being an artist, especially a media artist, has so many benefits now. All the benefits are there. It’s up to the artist now to find that self-discipline and start executing the content.

Nohemi M. Moore