The Cherokee Nation Film Office celebrates one year of operation, success and progress while looking forward to an even more impactful second year. Launched in January of 2019 as part of Cherokee Nation Businesses, the CNFO has been blazing trails never before seen in Indian country. The announcement of the CNFO’s launch has been received with excitement from within the industry and across tribal boundaries in the United States.
“We are proud of the groundbreaking work being done by the Cherokee Nation Film Office. It benefits not only our tribal citizens, but all Oklahomans,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. “Future film and television productions within our state and within the Cherokee Nation will benefit all American Indians in the industry, as that skilled and talented workforce will see a substantial increase in jobs as a result of the office’s focused work. We remain supportive of the Cherokee Nation Film Office’s mission to grow this industry in Oklahoma, and drive new economic opportunities to our region.”
In the past year, the CNFO has established partnerships with the Oklahoma Film and Music Office and the Tulsa Office of Film, Music, Arts & Culture. It has hosted and met with producers, physical production chiefs, industry leaders and executives from major film studios and assisted in announcing casting calls, as well as consulted with and provided concierge services to more than 30 films, one of which debuted at the Sundance Film Festival 2020, “The Glorias.”
In its first year, the CNFO became the first tribal film office to be accredited by the Association of Film Commissions International. The CNFO is blazing a trail under the AFCI’s international umbrella and intends to use resources to educate the future of film crew members in the Cherokee Nation.
In the last year, the CNFO began creating the first-ever Native American talent and crew databases, while also creating a film-friendly local businesses and locations database and a cultural/historical consultants database. These databases will be accessible on www.cherokee.film and will provide a space for any Native American with proof of tribal citizenship to self-submit their information, resume and experience, which can be accessed by approved film producers who are looking to film in the Cherokee Nation or the regions surrounding it, or those looking for diversity for their projects. These databases will help the film industry with proper representation of Native Americans in every level of film and television production.
Additional highlights from the year include Cherokee National Holiday in September 2019, where the CNFO set up a registration booth with a professional photographer and makeup artist to begin the process of submissions into the Native American talent, crew and local business databases. The registration booth was set up in three different locations over the course of the weekend, including the Cherokee Cultural Grounds, the Cherokee National Capitol Square and the new Cherokee Casino Chota Conference Center. The weekend sparked excitement as people lined up to have their makeup done and professional headshots taken to be entered into our databases. The CNFO successfully recruited nearly 400 Native citizens to be talent, crew and support services, which have been imported into the databases. While the databases are not yet available on our website, they have already been utilized by several projects whose producers reached out to the CNFO specifically requesting access.
As a partner of the OKF+MO, the CNFO sponsored the OKF+MO Conference: New Heights on November 14-15, 2019. The conference was designed to cultivate education and development, with sessions covering both film and music. Intended for new and vetted members of the film industry, attendees learned skills from a variety of professionals and panelists. The conference celebrated 40 years of the state of Oklahoma supporting the OKF+MO by recognizing the state’s success in putting Oklahoma on the map as a top filming destination in the United States.
Jennifer Loren, director of the CNFO, hopes to bring that excitement for filming directly to the Cherokee Nation and build up the industry here. Loren served on the closing panel of the OKF+M Conference, where participants discussed the positive future of Oklahoma film and music as it reaches new levels of success and visibility in order to prepare filmmakers, businesses and organizations in the industry for what’s to come.
Wrapping up a very productive first year, the CNFO celebrated at the Sundance Film Festival 2020 in Park City, Utah, and presented the first-ever Indigenous Filmmakers Lounge. The lounge had more than 2,300 people register and attend the various panels, presentations, discussions and other events throughout the two days. It was a landmark event for all Native Americans, not those just in the film industry but those who will benefit from seeing more Native American representation in mainstream media and film. For more details on the Indigenous Filmmakers Lounge at the Sundance Film Festival, check out our blog post here.
The CNFO is currently seeking strategic partnerships and looking forward to more progress in the year to come. We are working to create several film and television workshops that will be free to the public and take place over the summer in both Tahlequah and Tulsa, Oklahoma. The CNFO continues working to bring film productions to the Cherokee Nation to use its many locations as backdrops for film and television projects in order to positively impact the local communities, support the growing film industry, and incorporate more Native Americans into every level of film and television production.