By Christa Valdez
FILM REQUIRES SKILLS LIKE ORGANIZATION, TECHNOLOGY, TEAMWORK, WORK ETHIC AND STORY-TELLING
According to legend, a silver bullet is a simple and seemingly magical solution to a complex problem. Pamela Pierce, president and founder of the Santa Fe nonprofit Silver Bullet Productions (SBP), certainly seems to have tapped into a magical combination of passion, progress and preservation. SBP was born out of Pierce’s desire to address a multitude of issues she saw facing the Native American communities during her time as director of the New Mexico Coalition for Charter Schools. High dropout rates, boredom and loss of culture were concerns Pierce increasingly had during her tenure.
Pierce began to question what could provide substantive solutions. A good start seemed to be, in her words, “an approach focused on grassroots learning that engaged students with their community while also teaching skills with both immediate and long-term applications. What could provide that kind of relevant jumpstart to educational success? Film.”
As the state film industry began to grow and thrive at a monumental rate, it became clear to Pierce that filmmaking was a viable vehicle for exciting and relevant learning. Along with the support of her husband, Bob, and an impressive volunteer board, Silver Bullet Productions began to take shape.
By the end of 2004, Pierce left her position at NMCCS to focus full-time on SBP, building upon a mission to use educational film projects to solve difficult problems facing rural and tribal communities in New Mexico. “Film requires skills like organization, technology, teamwork, work ethic and story-telling,” Pierce says. “More than a tool for entertainment, film can be used to excite academic topics, secure oral histories, and bring community together.”
An SBP production workshop is organic, thoughtful and far-reaching. SBP’s education committee makes recommendations for possible participating communities in order to ensure it is a good fit for that particular community or tribe. Workshops are funded 75 percent by SBP and 25 percent by the community itself. Every workshop is completely customized and respects the sovereignty of the tribal nation with whom they are working.
The only requirement for workshops is that the final film involve characters who make choices—tough choices. Topics from past student workshop films have included suicide prevention, dropout prevention, health decisions, anti-bullying and leadership. At the conclusion of each workshop, new camera equipment, computer and software remain at the school, in the community.
Beyond awards from organizations including New Mexico Women in Film and the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts, as well as the honor of having community documentary films.
“Canes of Power” and “A Thousand Voices” air on New Mexico PBS, it is the lasting effects of its work in the communities that sets SBP apart from other film organizations.
This spring will see the completion of the latest SBP production, “Defending the Fire,” which provides a look at the kind of person who chooses to fight, protect and defend his/her culture, people and environment. Not unlike the warriors being featured at SBP, Pamela says, “I come to film production as a weapon against ignorance and as a catalyst for learning.”
“Defending the Fire” will have its first public screening on March 23rd at the Jean Cocteau Cinema. Silver Bullet Productions will also be hosting a benefit concert fundraiser on April 19th at Vanessie. Tickets for both events can be purchased at www.silverbulletproductions.com.
To learn how to get involved, visit SilverBulletProductions.com.