Vision Maker Media
'The Bears on Pine Ridge' is a proud recipient of Vision Maker Media's 2021 Annual Public Broadcasting Media Fund. The funding will help the filmmakers create a feature length film set for 2023 release. 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.
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.
Producer / Director
Before transitioning to documentary filmmaking, Noel grew up in Southern California, living in Los Angeles as a professional photographer for 15 years. Noel eventually chose to leave Los Angeles in order to travel full time, living remotely, staying on location for his first documentary project, called The Bears on Pine Ridge. Filming the documentary covered an extensive period of time, covering individuals on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, during a State-of-Emergency suicide crisis. The mental health crisis on Native Reservations is a subject that has not received the media attention necessary to provide resources for assistance. The goal of Bass' documentary project is to reach a wider audience about the issue, hoping to ultimately bring change to the lack of assistance and inadequate response to the crisis by government officials and agencies.
In 2021, Noel released TBOPR as a short film, winning several awards for best short documentary, including the Phoenix Film Festival, South Dakota Film Festival, and earning an award nomination from the prestigious Big Sky Documentary Film Festival. The film drew the attention of Vision Maker Media, who partnered with Bass to help create a longer feature film version, to be released in Fall 2023.
As a documentary film director and producer, my journey spanned several years and was filled with a range of emotions. Throughout the process, I developed deep and meaningful connections with the subjects I covered, and they became like family to me. However, I also faced moments of heartbreak as I lost some of them unexpectedly. These experiences left an indelible mark on me, shaping my perspective on how I view the world. Witnessing the subjects start families and experience the ups and downs of life was both humbling and fulfilling, capturing their stories with sincerity and sensitivity, striving to capture the essence of the human experience in all its complexity. The documentary experience has left me with a profound appreciation for the resilience and strength of the human spirit.
Co-Producer, Associate Producer
"Miros" began as a volunteer for THE BEARS ON PINE RIDGE, after filming had completed. Her efforts have helped to take the short film project to dozens of festivals and screenings, in an effort to spread awareness about the ongoing Indigenous youth mental health crisis.
Miros found inspiration while volunteering on the project to look deeper into her indigenous roots and has since created her own short documentary documenting her journey exploring her family lineage. She became an enrolled member of the Yaquis of Southern California this past year, and continues to seek a connection with her Tribal community and lands.
PR and Impact Strategy Team