Breakout FX on Hulu hit Reservation Dogs speaks directly to native audiences, each episode made lovingly by a bevy of native directors, actors and crew, many of whom found their storytelling voices through independent film. Anyone new to native cinema could do no better than to start their journey with a few choice cuts from these native talents.
The indie-film factor in Reservation Dogs’ success cannot be overstated. Television has a reach that other media do not, yet the path to primetime has never been easy. Any television project can die in development, fall at the pilot stage, or fail to be renewed after one measly season. For underrepresented storytellers, this road is even rougher.
To arrive on the small screen with a fully formed voice, there needs to have been a place to warm that voice up, and it’s more often been in the world of independent film that these opportunities lie for Indigenous artists.
Reservation Dogs is the brainchild of Taika Waititi (Te Whānau-ā-Apanui, Aotearoa) and Sterlin Harjo (Seminole/Muscogee Creek), who were both supported as indie darlings at Sundance under the watchful eye of recently retired native program director Bird Runningwater. (He has left the storied institute in order to produce his own projects.)