PBS Premiere: July 2, 2002Check the broadcast schedule »

Filmmaker Interview

POV: What inspired you to make Boomtown?

Bryan Gunnar Cole: I grew up near Suquamish and going to Suquamish for the 4th of July was just part of my life as a kid and as an adult. Also, fireworks have always been controversial. So have Indian and non-Indian relations. On Independence Day those prejudices fall away and I think that provided a space for a dialogue. So I always thought it would make an interesting film; there was an opportunity to learn something, to meet new people, immerse myself in another way of looking at the world and to honor a new point of view in the process.

POV: What is your motivation as a filmmaker? Why did you choose documentary in this case?


Cole: Curiosity is my motivation when I make a film. I know that at every level of the process there are opportunities to learn, to experiment, and to play. For me, I find inspiration in people, subject matter, context, and theme. At the same time, as a professional, I have a job to do. So, each time out, I try and challenge myself — as an artist, but also as a technician or a craftsperson. The process is so remarkable that if one is making films, one is also learning and growing. Boomtown is a great example of a small story that is provocative of larger issues. I think this is always at the heart of every good story. Fiction or non-fiction, if the story is good then the themes take care of themselves. In this case, documentary was the most appropriate approach.

POV: What were your goals in making Boomtown? And what would you like to see happen with it?


Cole: After the broadcast, I would like to see Boomtown make its way into educational and cultural institutions where people can see the film on their own, with their family and in secondary and higher education classes where teachers can use the film to spark dialogue. What I think is so great about the film is that it is dealing with new ideas about the relationship between Indian Country and the federal government. The dynamics are changing. As tribes increase their economic strength, they also gain political power. As political power grows, so do the responsibilities of the leadership. I think this is a fascinating time for a film like Boomtown because it provokes questions about who we are and where we are going rather than just re-hashing the past.

POV: What was the most surprising thing to you in making Boomtown?

Cole: When you commit to making a film, you do so with an agenda. You have ideas about what you are going to see, who you are going to talk to, what it is you want to shoot. However, you don't know what you are going to learn and how that new information will alter the original intent. What surprised me most in making Boomtown was how much I learned in the process from the people I met. I was a willing student and allowed my own preconceptions to fall away and be open to a new perspective— and now that perspective is part of how I conduct my life day to day. So the process in total has been a surprise.

POV: Do you have any upcoming projects?

Cole: Right now I'm working on a short film for Showtime called Unfurled slated for broadcast on the first anniversary of September 11. It is more experimental than documentary or narrative which is a new challenge for me. I've done a lot of experimental theatre and I've edited some experimental shorts so I'm comfortable with the form, but as a filmmaker this is an exciting opportunity to explore new ways of seeing and telling a story.