The contest is on…

The contest is on…

Tom Fields is a photographer and digital media instructor.

Date Posted: 
2013-03-22 00:00

Blog Series:


The month of February found me back at the Ponca tribal community of White Eagle working with the students to create a video for the American Graduate Film festival.  The video is to address the festival theme is, the dropout crisis in America. The plan was to bring back the students from the Standing Bear's Meaning of Home summer program for another round of making digital media with Mac Air books using I-movie. With the deadline the first of March, we began with classes twice a week. The group consisted of eight students, 5th through the 8th grade. It was important to bring them up to speed again since most had not used a video camera or I-move since the summer program. And since there were several new students I had to teach them the media production. They all caught on quick and we and begin working on new project ideas.

The rules for the festival stated a mentor could be part of the production team to assist and edit if needed. I appreciated this process because it allowed the students to see more of the technical processes of planning, video recording and editing the project on a quick deadline.

The project ideas were varied and each student had suggestions. In the end we settled on two projects,  "Ponca Tribal Voices", a montage of Ponca elders making a statement about the importance of education, and " No one Dreams to not be in School" a short story about three girls thinking about what education can do for their future.

The group spent one session just writing scripts, which helped them to focus on our final projects. I wanted to include them in the productions so one session was talking and recording themselves. A great exercise to get them used to recording and interviewing others.

During our third week we were given the opportunity to host a Flash Festival, where teams and mentors get together for 36 hours and create final projects. This was something new for our team but it also meant we could recruit more students to be involved. Staff from the Public Media Corps would come to White Eagle to assist the students in creating new projects during a weekend- the plan was set in motion.

Media mentors Khalil, Ivana, and Christian, along with director Kay Shaw arrived on Friday evening to oversee the process. Also down to assist the students was Blue Tarpalechee of Vision Makers. The tribal auditorium was buzzing with energetic students. We got kids settled, introductions were made and we're off, a brainstorming session, team selections and storyboarding followed.

 Saturday started early with breakfast and about 30 kids with energy to burn. Three teams of students and mentors worked on ideas developed scripts, storyboards and set out to make movies.

It was a good day to make a movie - a little cold but the sun was shinning.

My team worked with elders and community people to record each making statements about the importance of education. The other teams and their mentors worked on projects such as “Zombie Dropouts,” and “Lost.” The teams were very busy and tired by the end of the day but we managed to get everything shot- now the editing process would begin.

 The next day we had a showing of each of the projects. Some still needed to be finalized but the kids were able to see an edited albeit almost final version of their work. We showed and talked about each work, took photos of the teams said goodbyes, as the visiting mentors hurried off to catch their flights.

The experience was a positive for the students. They will see themselves in productions that are on a worldwide state. It brings pride to them, their parents and to the community.  A lot of Thanks go to all but a special MVTO to Sarah Nelsen, education director of the Ponca Tribe. Her commitment to the future of the youth of White Eagle is inspiring.

You can see their media work at

Photos from the project -

Media from the Standing Bear Curriculum Website:

Native Oklahoma
Support Native Films
Help Vision Maker Media By Using Amazon Smile