Month: February 2015

The Film of Neither Wolf nor Dog is shaking the tin cup

Some of you may have seen that Steven Simpson, the director of the film version of Neither Wolf nor Dog, is running another kickstarter to get funds to finish post production and begin some distribution. We need your help to get this baby polished up and ready for prime time. Here is the kickstarter page: While you’re there, look at the trailer he’s put together. I think it is great.

But I want to tell you a little about this strange venture of movie making.

The world divides into two camps when you look at the need for $30,000 to finish a film.

Camp one says, “Why do you need so damn much money?” I was in that camp for a long time.

The other says, “How can you make a movie so cheaply?” Anyone who knows the industry is in that camp.

Let me tell you a little story. Back when this film was first proposed by a successful Hollywood director, he told me, “We’ll do it low budget. Nothing more than six million. Probably closer to one or two million.” I cocked my head like a confused dog. Six million? Two millon? I stay in $35 a night motels and get antsy when I have to pay more than $10 for lunch. Six million? Two million? What planet do these guys live on?

Well, they live on planet Hollywood, which I visited one time, with its special dressing trailers on site for actors and an entire kitchen set up with chefs preparing swordfish and steaks and specialty diets for vegans, vegetarians, ominvores, gluten free-folks, etc.; people paid to clack “action” signs and people paid to oversee the people clacking “action” signs and nose powderers and costume stitchers and on and on. This doesn’t even touch the big bucks guys like directors and actors. Then there are real transportation costs and production costs, all of which add up. Look at that insane list on the credits at the end of a film and try to figure it out. All you need to know is that all of that stuff adds up to millions. And, there you are.

Then go to Steven’s reality. Buying trucks and an old car off craigslist; getting cameras on ebay, driving from L.A. to Pine Ridge in the Nissan with Chris, the actor who plays me, breaking down in Death Valley or some equivalently inhospitable place, getting actors to work almost for nothing, paying himself nothing, paying me nothing, finding a house on the reservation where all the actors could stay together in the basement, having the family who owns the house cook the meals, getting a raggedy old camper that Dave Bald Eagle could rest in on site in while they were out shooting if it got too hot. . . well, you get the idea. “Shoestring” doesn’t begin to address how this project is being done.

But you can only cut costs so far. Even with everyone working for peanuts or nothing, Steven still had to dig into his own pocket to get the filming done. And the post production and preparation of the film for showing requires technology and involvement of people who work at market rate, not for a lunch at Subway. He has done amazingly with what he has — look at the trailer and judge for yourself — but now, raising this from the “scotch tape and baling wire” level of the actual filming to the high production standards needed to go out in public requires putting the film in a well-tailored suit, metaphorically speaking. If he can pull that off for $30,000, it is another miracle.

We need to give him a chance to pull of that miracle. Please help him get there.

I’ll make you a deal. When we get to $20,000 I’ll tell you the strange saga of how Fatback became a corpulent Corgi in the movie. It’s a story worth hearing.

Thanks for your faith in this project.

Neither Wolf nor Dog chosen for 2015 Common Book at University of Minnesota

I have just been informed that Neither Wolf nor Dog has been selected as the 2015 Common Book for incoming freshmen in the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Minnesota.  It will be a core reading in their intensive First Year Inquiry course.

This announcement comes just weeks before I travel to Alexandria, Minnesota, where Neither Wolf nor Dog is their Community Reads selection.

The Wolf at Twilight has already been used as the Common Book for freshmen at Gustavus Adolfus College, and it is my hope that some college or community will soon select The Girl who Sang to the Buffalo as their Common Book or Community Reads choice.

I am always both gratified and excited when any of the three “Dan” books gets public exposure.  They are, to be sure, meant to be enjoyable reading.  But it is more important to me that they are understood as teaching stories.  We need to reenvision our American historical narrative and give the point of view of our land’s first peoples a more prominent place.  I think that these three books help in that effort.

But even more, the values and vision of the Native peoples need to be reintegrated into our philosophical understanding.  Though it is almost a cliche, now, more than ever, we need to internalize their long-held understanding that we are a part of nature, and not apart from her.

I go back to the words of the elder who told me, “Always teach by stories, because stories lodge deep in the heart.”

These three books teach by stories.  It is my most fervent hope that they make their way into colleges and universities and other situations where people’s minds are shaped.  These Common Book and Community Reads selections are a good start.  May these literary children of mine continue to find their voice and make their way.