In 2012, some actors and directors strolled past the Native Youth reporters of On Native Ground, assuming they were ill-prepared and not worth the time. But after these young reporters stepped up, played hardball and asked real questions, attendees at the Sundance Film Festival were forced to listen.
According to Jack Kohler, executive producer and founder of On Native Ground, though the youth were at first disregarded, they quickly gained respect.
Alex, Danny & Koli of ONG
“Typically, some of the film directors and producers would walk past our media position, thinking the youth reporter was not prepared and not worth their time to stop and chat. However, in 2012 there was a major blizzard, and the same old questions were being asked on the red carpet, such as ‘who are you wearing?’ or ‘how do you like the snow?’
“In this instance, our youth was covering a Spike Lee film and shouted a question to the director which made him stop in his tracks. Once they started the interview, it was obvious our youth reporter was very well prepared, and the media outlets to our left and right, including Reuters, CNN, ET and Vanity Fair, all stopped their chatter and listened to our interview.”
Independent of the standard outlets that provide media coverage, On Native Ground (ONG) is the very first Native American credentialed media outlet, made up of Native youth ages 15-22, who have covered the world’s largest independent film festival, the Sundance Film Festival since 2009.
As credentialed media, ONG stands front and center at the red carpet premieres and alongside the bigger names in media, hold interviews with the directors, producers, filmmakers, actors, musical composers and cinematographers.
According to Kohler, the ONG media crew in 2016 is another powerhouse of young talent and consists of publicist Koli Kohler, a recent graduate of University of Hawaii, and an award-winning musician and composer.
Cameraperson Alex Greenlee is a senior in high school and is a recent alumnus of On Native Ground’s summer mentoring program as part of the California State Fair Youth and Media Production Team. Greenlee is already an award winning filmmaker, director and screenwriter.
Danny Deleon is the studio anchor for On Native Ground’s award winning original television series, On Native Ground Youth Reports, which airs on the FNX channel. Deleon is an accomplished actor, musician and athlete and is conducting the red carpet interviews at Sundance Film Festival 2016.
“There was no question in our mind that our youth reporters and our media team had earned our place on the red carpet media galley and everyone took note,” says Kohler.