Filmmaker Daniel Junge discusses his subjects' reactions to the film, "getting the story," and what keeps him going.
Have the young men profiled in CHIEFS seen the film? If so, what do they think?
They have all seen it numerous times. I think some of them were surprised by the fact that the film is about much more than basketball (though they were starting to get the gist of that during production) and that it doesn't back away from the realities of their lives. In time, it seems they've come around to appreciating the film and its positive message - as evidenced by the number of bootlegged versions circulating the rez from the copies I gave them! My most important critic was Beaver (who received some criticism for his role in the film), and it pleases me to know that he is proud of CHIEFS and that the production and final product have had a positive impact on his life. He has traveled with us to a number of festival screenings and has spoken very eloquently about his experiences.
How did you balance the needs of "getting the story" and having full access with respect for your subjects' need for privacy and cultural practices?
From the first day of shooting, I filmed everything. I tried to switch off my constant analysis of what might be appropriate or inappropriate, with the clear understanding that if at any point the subjects said no, the camera would be put away. They rarely did. I think this approach lends itself to the comfort level, intimacy and serendipity that make the film work.
Why did you make this film?
As a native of Wyoming and former high school player (read: "bench-sitter"), I have always been intrigued by the Chiefs - both their successes on the court and the world they inhabit. While churning out proposal after proposal, this idea came from the back of my mind and I resolved to shoot it myself, come hell or high water. With the help of [producers] Donna Dewey and Henry Ansbacher, it became possible.
What do you hope to achieve with this film?
I hope it shows an honest depiction of what it means to grow up Native
American at the turn of the 21st century - with a little nail biting during the state tournament scenes!
The independent film business is a difficult one. What keeps you motivated?
Rather than see the hurdles (of which there are many) I have simply envisioned one story after another that I would like to commit to film, and set about passionately trying to get them made. After numerous false starts, CHIEFS is the first feature-length effort that has gotten off the ground. Now the process begins again, and I hope I get a chance to make another film!
If you could have dinner with one famous person, living or dead, who would you choose?
A month ago I would have said [documentary film maverick] Albert Maysles. But since that time, I actually had that honor. I can't describe how gracious, knowledgeable and vibrant the man is.
What do you think is the most inspirational food for making independent film?
Peanut butter - of which I've eaten plenty. Seriously, I think there's no better way to get charged up about your own projects than seeing other well-crafted, thought-provoking work. Film festivals, in particular, get me revved up.
Which filmmakers have most influenced your work?
Maysles, Kubrick, Soderbergh, McElwee, Scorcese, Pollack, Apted,
Pennebaker, Jarmusch - the list goes on.
What advice do you have for aspiring filmmakers?
The best advice I ever received (while at NYU film school) was, "Do something else." It got me mad as hell, and I resolved to do exactly what I loved to do.