TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The people, places, history and culture of the Cherokee Nation could soon be featured on the big screen with the launch of the Cherokee Nation Film Office. The Cherokee Nation Film Office’s mission is to grow the state’s film industry by promoting northeast Oklahoma as a destination for filmmakers, maintaining a database of Cherokee Nation locations, resources and talent, serving as a cultural and historical consultant on film projects, and perhaps most importantly, creating an environment that cultivates Native filmmaking.
“Five years ago, we launched the production of ‘Osiyo, Voices of the Cherokee People.’ It was the first Native American programming of its kind, and we’re proud that it was created by Cherokee Nation citizens. The show has been wildly successful, winning five Emmy Awards. Through the show, we discovered there are many Cherokees with a natural talent for filmmaking,” said Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. “As secretary of state, I regularly interact with individuals who fundamentally misunderstand Native Americans. What I’ve learned is Native stories are best told by Native voices, and we hope to develop local talent that will tell those stories. We have extremely talented filmmakers, producers, directors and actors in the Cherokee Nation. My vision is to create an environment that nurtures our talented Cherokees in this space and ensures that Native stories are told accurately and with authenticity. I was pleased that when I asked Amanda to lead the effort to create the Cherokee Nation Film Office, she immediately said yes.”
The Cherokee Nation Film Office is a new division under Cherokee Nation Businesses’ communications department and will be led by CNB Vice President of Communications Amanda Clinton, with heavy support from other tribal departments. The office will work with the Oklahoma Film + Music Office (OF+MO), the Tulsa Office of Film, Music, Arts and Culture (Tulsa FMAC) and other local film offices to leverage resources and talent. Areas of cooperation include providing local recommendations for crew and talent, coordinating site visits, hosting filmmaking workshops, film festivals and more. The department also produces a docuseries, “Osiyo, Voices of the Cherokee People” which features Cherokee people, history and culture, told through short documentaries.
“Before we created ‘Osiyo, Voices of the Cherokee People,’ I had no idea the depth of Native talent that existed in this industry but was being under-utilized or not utilized at all,” Clinton said. “But in addition to the talent pool we have in the Cherokee Nation, it’s also one of the most beautiful areas of our state. Promoting a place so close to our hearts as a filmmaking destination is a mission we’re excited to fulfill.”
The series has produced more than 160 short documentaries since production began in 2015. The show airs statewide in Oklahoma and Arkansas and online at osiyo.tv.
“With the success of our show, and with other film projects on the horizon, we feel like we are really making a mark in the documentary film industry,” said Jennifer Loren, host and executive producer of Osiyo, Voices of the Cherokee People. “We also feel like we are perfectly situated to facilitate other film projects and grow this industry right here in the Cherokee Nation. It’s an exciting time.”
Although Hollywood is still the film mecca of the world, states other than California have established themselves as film destinations. In recent years, major motion pictures and television series have been filmed in Texas, Georgia, Louisiana and other states. The Motion Picture Association of America found in 2016* the Oklahoma film and television industry was responsible for 13,273 direct and indirect jobs and more than $220 million in wages. By contrast, Texas’ film and television industry was responsible 105,525 jobs and $1.81 billion in wages. Georgia’s impacts were 92,494 jobs and $2.15 billion in wages, while Louisiana’s impacts were 22,707 jobs and nearly $400 million in wages. The Cherokee Nation Film Office’s partnerships with OF+MO and Tulsa FMAC will only enhance the attractiveness of Oklahoma’s budding film industry.
“The launch of the Cherokee Nation Film Office supports our state’s mission to expand our footprint and become a top destination for film and music makers. With more strategic and authentic voices working alongside our state office, Oklahoma is poised to further educate global audiences on the truly unique landscapes, history, people and resources we can offer,” said Oklahoma Film + Music Office (OF+MO) Director Tava Maloy Sofsky. “We look forward to collaborating with the Cherokee Nation on many levels, as we collectively develop new talent and infrastructure.”
Cherokee Nation Businesses already has multiple economic development partnerships with the Tulsa Regional Chamber and Tulsa Regional Tourism, the parent organization of Tulsa FMAC. The goals of the Cherokee Nation Film Office naturally align with Tulsa FMAC’s mission and purpose.
“We’re thrilled that the Cherokee Nation is establishing a film office within their nation. As our mission has always been to highlight Tulsa and our region as a film destination, this development will further showcase what northeast Oklahoma has to offer. We look forward to collaborating with them and, together, continuing to grow a strong film industry that is sustainable for years to come,” said Abby Kurin, director of Tulsa FMAC.
Secretary of State Hoskin is the primary liaison between Cherokee Nation and the state of Oklahoma and began meetings months ago to help get the film office off the ground.
“This new partnership follows a familiar model but opens the door to exciting new opportunities for us,” Hoskin said. “When we work together and collaborate with our partners across the state, it helps Cherokees, but it also helps all Oklahomans by making our state a more attractive place to live, work and visit. I’m grateful we have talented Cherokee employees who are passionate about making this a successful new industry for the Cherokee Nation while further supporting our mission of preserving Cherokee culture.”
The Cherokee Nation Film Office has already begun collaborating with both OF+MO and Tulsa FMAC to promote Oklahoma to filmmakers and share with Oklahomans the important economic impacts of the entertainment industry. Keep up with the Cherokee Nation Film Office at cherokee.film, and visit its partner organizations at okfilmmusic.org and tulsafmac.com.