SuperFly: Students will produce a documentary film in 36 hours

SUQUAMISH — By the time their films premiere at the Seattle International Film Festival June 1, 50 student filmmakers will have worked for 36 hours straight to produce their community-based documentaries on the Suquamish culture.

Longhouse Media created SuperFly eight years ago as a youth filmmaking challenge to complement the SIFF Fly Filmmaking Challenge, where filmmakers and actors collaborate and showcase their skills “on the fly” according to SIFF.

“But we wanted to up the stakes and make SuperFly faster and more intensive … a real challenge in 36 hours,” Longhouse Media co-founder Tracy Rector said.

Beginning May 30, 50 students from around the country will gather in Suquamish, split into eight teams for production, soundtrack, animation and photography. The students will have 36 hours to storyboard, direct, shoot and edit a collection of unique stories based in the Suquamish Tribal community, making a total of five films.

“Suquamish has been incredibly generous financially, emotionally and physically,” Rector said. Tribal elders and other members have volunteered themselves to be interviewed and tell their stories of Suquamish’s past and present culture. The Tribe will host the students in the fashion of potlatch, Rector said.

“The stories are community-based within the Suquamish community, but ultimately SuperFly is about breaking apart stereotypes and creating a positive experience and expression of Native culture and identity from this region,” Rector said.

The documentaries are a different direction for SuperFly, one that Rector is excited about. In the past, SuperFly filmmakers have worked with an indigenous script writer to produce films, including Sherman Alexie, Sterling Harjo, Peter Bratt, Andrew Okpeaha MacLean and Sierra Ornelas.

SuperFly films in the past have been comedies, dramas and musicals.

This year, for the first time, the students will create documentaries. For example, Suquamish Chairman Leonard Forsman will be shadowed by a film crew for three days for one documentary.

SuperFly is a scholarship-based program; students age 13-19 are chosen from around the country to participate. About 70 percent of the students are Native American. Some are experienced filmmakers, others are new to filmmaking and are passionate about learning to make films, Rector said. Mentors will be on-hand to help guide the students.

Each year, a tribal nation hosts the SuperFly students; this year, Suquamish is donating time and funding for the students. It takes about $90,000 to $100,000 to produce SuperFly, and the Suquamish Tribe is donating about a quarter of the funds, Rector said. The rest come from grants and donations. Seattle-based Koerner Camera is donating the film equipment.

Longhouse Media, a nonprofit indigenous media arts organization based in Seattle, has worked with Native youth on projects over the past eight years. Recently, four students from Chief Kitsap Academy produced a film with Longhouse Media, titled “We Are Aware/Are You?” about ocean acidification awareness. It was presented at the annual Student Summit on the Ocean and Coasts in Washington, D.C. and screened at the Smithsonian.

One of those students, Vincent Chargualaf, is also participating in SuperFly. Kate Ahvakana and Barb Santos, instructors at Chief Kitsap Academy, are assisting the Suquamish students in this endeavor.

Rector, who is Seminole and Choctaw, said these films showcase a part of Native culture that needs to be highlighted.

“Native people have multifaceted identities and expressions, and we’re not these [tried] and true stereotypes — the stoic Indian, the alcoholic, the shaman — but the contemporary Native identity can be rooted in so many different experiences.

“SuperFly highlights we are a complex people with a lot of influence, with a very special cultural base we can draw upon,” Rector added.

SuperFly and Native Shorts Showcase will premiere June 1 at 4 p.m. at The Harvard Exit Theatre, 807 E Roy St., Seattle. For more information and tickets, visit

For more information on Longhouse Media, go to


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