UA-Led Workshop to Teach Filmmaking to American Indian Youth
The UA's Jack and Vivian Hanson Arizona Film Institute has partnered with numerous entities to launch the Native Youth Filmmaking Workshop, which will be held next month.

By La Monica Everett-Haynes, University Communications
June 24, 2008

Tohono O’odham youth are going to be taught how films are produced and have the chance to make their own as part of a new workshop a University of Arizona institute is launching on the reservation.

The UA’s Jack and Vivian Hanson Arizona Film Institute is holding its six-day Native Youth Filmmaking Workshop on the Tohono O’odham Nation next month, teaching about 14 students between the ages of 14 and 19.

“One of the Hanson Film Institute’s focuses is on professional development for students and emerging filmmakers,” said Vicky Westover, the institute’s program director.

Westover, who developed the idea for the workshop, said the institute has a special focus on American Indian and Hispanic films, noting that The Native Eyes Film Showcase is one of its premiere events.

Each year the showcase features films by American Indian directors, producers and writers and actors and those that discuss issues in the American Indian community. The showcase began in 2005 and is a produced through a collaboration with the Arizona State Museum, the National Museum of the American Indian and the Smithsonian Institution.

The workshop, which is offered at no cost to the youth, is a natural expansion of the showcase, Westover said.

She also said tribal members and leaders had been asking for such an outreach program. Between July 7 and July 12, the students will receive expert advice while learning about the work of indigenous filmmakers around the world, media literacy and how to produce a film – writing, shooting and editing – from experienced filmmakers from both coasts.

Students will be lent digital cameras and work with Final Cut software to produce their own films individually and in group settings.

The institute recruited to lead teachers for the workshop – Nanobah Becker, a member of the Navajo Nation who lives in Los Angeles, and Annabel Wong, a Salt River Pima member who lives in New York.

Becker, who graduated with her master's degree in fine arts from Columbia University, has shown her films at numerous festivals.

And Becker, who was raised in New Mexico, has taught film production for American Indian high school students and she was chosen to participate in the Native Forum Filmmaker's Workshop at Sundance Film Festival in 2005.

Tucson-born Wong, who was educated at New York's School of Visual Arts, has participated in photo exhibitions across the nation and has also taught video production to youth in various workshops with the American Indian Film Institute's Tribal Touring Program.

A statement that Becker and Wong prepared noted that it is important to equip American Indian youth with such skills because “in a society where our Native culture is absent in mainstream media” the community must know how to communicate its stories.

“Media making,” they added, “is not a privilege. It is a necessity.”

Marlon B. Evans and Jonathan Rios, who recently earned his communication degree from the UA, will assist Becker and Wong during the workshop.

"Being successful and making millions does not interest me. My initial intent as a professional is to express my emotional, spiritual and mental realms as they pertain to my Native experiences via writing and filmmaking," said Evans, who identifies as Tohono O’odham and Akimel O’odham and is also a UA senior majoring in English.

Evans, who is also studying American Indian Studies and media arts, is interested in writing screenplays, poetry and directing films related to American Indian themes and wants to "teach, mentor and inspire O’odham students in the disciplines of English and creative writing."

The UA’s Jack and Vivian Hanson Film Institute is working with the Tohono O’odham Nation Cultural Center and Museum, the Tohono O’odham Community College, the Tohono O’odham Community Action group, Baboquivari High School and the Arizona State Museum to hold put on the workshop. Also, the UA College of Public Health provided the digital cameras for the students to use during the workshop.

“We always wanted an educational component, so we’ve had filmmakers talking to students on and off campus," Westover said. “We always had the intention that we would grow, and we finally decided to do it."

Extra info


The Jack and Vivian Hanson Film Institute


The Jack and Vivian Hanson Arizona Film Institute at The University of Arizona offers programs for students, emerging filmmakers and media entrepreneurs who want to contribute significantly to the art and/or business of filmmaking. Serving diverse, underrepresented and new voices, the institute creates and advances a dynamic understanding of the collaborative dimensions of the art and business of film.


The Hanson Film Institute also provides and supports educational programs, public events and creative projects while also developing new programs and supporting existing programs, often in partnership with the School of Media Arts and other UA entities, plus community organizations.


Resources for the media

Vicky Westover

The Jack and Vivian Hanson Film Institute