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Vision Maker Media

Executive Producer

'The Bears on Pine Ridge' is a proud recipient of Vision Maker Media's 2021 Annual Public Broadcasting Media Fund. Each year, Vision Maker Media funds media projects intended for PBS broadcasting that represent the cultures, experiences and perspectives of Native Americans and Alaska Natives. Films are reviewed by a panel of public media programmers and Native American filmmakers, and board approved based on Native involvement, topics of relevance that can garner a wide audience, guideline eligibility, and meeting technical standards of PBS broadcast quality. 2021 topics communicate social justice, climate and environment, health and wellness, democracy and arts.

Fourteen television projects were selected for 2021 funding and are executive produced by Vision Maker Media for PBS television broadcasting. The filmmakers represent 23 different Native nations.

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Sonny Skyhawk

Executive Producer

Sonny Skyhawk is a Native American (Sicangu Lakota) producer, having made a career in Hollywood for 40 years. Sonny is a member of the prestigious Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, most recognized for his acting roles during the western era. Since then, Sonny has been a strong advocate for equality in Hollywood for Native talent. Sonny grew up on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota, which not only neighbors Pine Ridge but shares the same struggles in regards to poverty, unemployment, substance abuse addictions and suicide rates.

Executive Producer's Statement

As a Native American (Sicangu Lakota), it's an honor to represent a project that is showcasing the voice of our Native youth. The resiliency that our young Native children are showing by moving beyond their struggles to help the community is an inspirational story that everyone should get behind. This is a remarkable group of young individuals who are speaking up and bringing hope, honoring life. It is also our responsibility as adults and human beings of any race, to care and to find solutions for suicide amongst our children. What a travesty it is for a young person to have to resort to suicide in order to want to put the pain away. Why would someone not care about this issue? I’ve been using my platform in Hollywood to discuss our Native people's issues for decades and I feel strongly about this film’s mission to bring a wider awareness and a story of resiliency and hope, against insurmountable odds. 


Noel Bass

Producer / Director

THE BEARS ON PINE RIDGE short film is Noel Bass’ first professional film project. Before transitioning to documentary filmmaking, Noel lived in Los Angeles as a professional photographer for 15 years. Noel began making trips to the Pine Ridge Reservation in 2011 as a volunteer where he began to learn more about the crisis. In 2017, Noel left Los Angeles permanently in order to travel full time in a small RV, living remotely, staying on location for this documentary project. During the filming of THE BEARS ON PINE RIDGE, Noel lived primarily in an RV, parked in back yards or open lands, occasionally staying in Tiny’s daughter’s home on the reservation. Filming for The Bears on Pine Ridge officially began in 2015.

Director's Statement

This documentary is something very important to me. Many of the people in this film are now "family" and the community is like a second home to me. I began this journey a decade ago, and feel like it has shaped who I am personally. Through this project, we are hoping to help spread awareness about the ongoing youth mental health crisis, an extremely underrepresented issue happening to Indigenous communities nationwide. I am so grateful for the countless volunteers and organizations that have given their time and efforts to make this project possible. I am inspired every day, blessed to be able to share the story of some truly amazing heroes on the Pine Ridge Reservation. 


Miroslava Gonzalez

Co-Producer / Executive Producer

"Miros" began as a volunteer for THE BEARS ON PINE RIDGE in 2020 and soon became a driving force as a producer for the project. Her efforts have helped to take this short film project to dozens of festivals and screenings, in an effort to spread awareness about the ongoing Indigenous youth mental health crisis. Miros was also instrumental in helping the TBOPR project become a feature film, expected to broadcast on public television later this year.


Miros comes from an inspiring lineage of strong Yoeme Mexican American maternal figures - Yaqui "warrior women" from the Sonoran Desert. She is an enrolled member of the Yaquis of Southern California and has currently set off on a documentary filmmaking journey to make a personal film, exploring her Indigenous family lineage.


Miros studied journalism at the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communications and Journalism and recently completed a Public Leadership Credential at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. In addition to News Writing and Production, she also studied Political Science, Cinema, Business Administration, Contemporary Moral & Social Issues, and Ideology & Political Conflict. 

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Rebecca Kassay

Associate Producer

Eleni Stamatinos

Associate Producer

John Maisch

Associate Producer

PR and Impact Strategy Team

Jorge Castillo

Mayra Jiménez

Raul Verdugo




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