Why aren't there more American Indian writers, directors, actors and producers making more movies? It certainly isn't for a lack of talent.

In 1998, the film "Smoke Signals" was supposed to herald an exciting, new wave of American Indian filmmakers making their mark on the film industry. Twelve years later, there still has yet to be another Native-written and directed feature to achieve similar mainstream success.

The root of the problem seems to be a general lack of access to opportunity, training and resources. In 2006, Southern California Indian Center's multimedia department InterTribal Entertainment launched the Creative Spirit initiative to address these challenges by:


Since 2006, Creative Spirit has produced a total of nine short films which have been screened at film festivals all over the country and recognized with numerous awards.
Each year, Creative Spirit reaches out nationwide to Native American writers for short scripts. The scripts are evaluated by a panel of judges comprised of entertainment industry professionals and representatives from the American Indian community. One or two scripts are selected for production, after which a budget and schedule are prepared, a Native cast and crew are assembled and, if needed, are paired with industry professional mentors.

Some of the non-Native and Native industry professional mentors have included Emmy-winning director Arthur Allan Seidelman, writer/director Thom Eberhardt, cinematographer David Lewis, editor John Blizek, screenwriter Travis Adam Wright, director Vincent Blackhawk Aamodt, filmmaker Daniel J. Pico, sound mixer Brian Sorbo and makeup/hairstyle artist Darrell Redleaf.

Because it's important for Native talent to experience as professional of a work environment as possible, Creative Spirit makes sure that the productions are executed by the book, which means securing permits, insurance, SAG contracts and paying its crew. After the project is filmed and edited, it finally receives a world premiere public screening in Los Angeles.

The first year's screening was held at the House of Blues on Sunset Blvd. The second year's films were shown at Paramount Studios' Sherry Lansing Theater. The third annual films were screened at the Harmony Gold Theater. Year four's films screening took place at the Autry National Center's Wells Fargo Theater.

As Creative Spirit evolves into its next phase, it will continue to offer employment and training opportunities to the Native talent it has helped develop.