Native America is rich in creativity from comedy to independent films to video games. New artists continue to emerge in all these fields. Many pursuing an artistic career recognize that managing the business component of their art can be central to success. This March and April we featured Native stand-up comedians, filmmakers and video game designers on how they manage the business of their art and overcome stereotypes to take control of their own narratives.
Charlie Hill was one of the most prominent Native stand-up comedians. He broke barriers as the first Native American on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and the Richard Pryor Show. He blazed a trail for future Native comedians.
Financial success is not guaranteed in stand-up. Many stand-up comedians talk about having a part-time job or a side hustle to support their comedy careers.
Adrianne Chalepah (Kiowa and Apache) is a stand-up comedian and a member of the comedy troupe “The Ladies of Native Comedy.” She talks about making the leap into comedy and coming to grips with quitting her day job.
“Honestly, I don’t think in my lifetime I’ll make it to a mainstream status, of “make it big” so to speak, but I hope I’ll open some doors,” Chalepah said.
Comedians Ernest Tsosie III (Navajo), Isiah Yazzie (Navajo), and Rob Fairbanks (Leech Lake band of Ojibwe) join our March 8, 2019 show about the business of stand-up comedy.
Funny Business: making a living as a Native Comedian
There have been award-winning films from emerging filmmakers such as Erica Tremblay (Seneca-Cayuga), Ben-Alex Dupris (Colville), and Razelle Benally (Lakota and Diné).
For Tremblay to begin her pursuit in filmmaking she had to make a major leap. She decided she had to drop everything to move to L.A.
Tremblay, Dupris, Benally and Ramona Emerson (Diné) join our April 8, 2019 show about the business of independent filmmaking.
Turning inspiration into a finished film
Non-Native video games developers often resort to stereotypes when portraying Native characters.
But there has been progress as indigenous designers break into the industry.
Another indigenous video game, “Terra Nova”, is made by creator Maize Longboat (Mohawk) and designed by Ray Caplin (Mi’kmaw).
“Terra Nova” is a futuristic game, that follows two different players: an indigenous elder and a space colonizer.
“Maize’s project, is the first legitimate project I’ve worked on,” Caplin said. He talks about how making games has always been his passion.
Video game designers LePénsee, Meagan Byrne (Métis) and Carl Peterson (Lakota of the Oohenupa Band) join our April 17, 2019 show about the business of video games
Native video game developers change the narrative