If you grew up in many parts of the United States, you’ve likely have heard the adage, “I”m a Mutt,” or “American as Heinz 57″ to describe those whose cultural heritage is mixed. But these terms can be extremely negative and have lasting impacts on kids and teens. Bullying is real. Emotions are real. People and their feelings are real – people have a strong need for acceptance.
When I came across a request for “extras” for a movie being made back home in the UP of Michigan, I was intrigued and decided to find out more. Written, directed and produced by Rick Allen, the movie, “Mutt” is currently being filmed and is under production in Upper Michigan. Based on a true story, this movie has a great story line and I really hope a strong release occurs. Erica Lord’s life was one on the “cultural limbo” and the story is based on her experience of not being accepted in her mixed cultural heritage – either not being white enough or not being Native American enough.
This is a movie about culture, acceptance and a whole lot more. Rick Allen has received the following awards:
- 2011 Specs Howard School of Media Arts Graduate, 1st in Class
- 2013 Michigan Association of Broadcasters Award Winner (Best Television News Story, Market 4).
- Producer of “Never Say Mush: Jerry Trudell and the Copperdog 150″; ABC-10 Television Documentary
- Producer/Director/Writer of “Mutt”, target release date February 2014.
Here’s a brief Q&A on the movie, Mutt.
What most interested you in this story?
RA: I originally thought the story was somewhat unique to the real person our story is based upon, being that she was both Finnish and Native American. What has been so enlightening is how many people in this area have a mixed race background and have experienced the same things as our main character. Most people view racism as a white/black issue, but our film has shown that racism can take many different forms. I felt this was an important subject that I hope will lead to more discussion about this issue.
How did the Tribal community perceive your request?
RA: We have been met with a lot of enthusiasm and support from the Ojibwa tribe–mixed with a cautious skepticism. Let’s face it, the track record of trustworthiness of whites dealing with Native Americans is a bleak one. I am certainly a novice when it comes to Native cultures but I’ve had a lot of help in the making of this film. Cast members like Don Stolp, Sr., Mitch Bolo, and Samantha Bach have been there for me when I’ve stuck my foot in my mouth. They helped me when I went before the Tribal Council to get their blessing in the making of the film. The Council also agreed to partially financially support it and I pledged to begin a $1,000 yearly scholarship for a KBIC member to attend the Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College.
What will be the most difficult step after production?
BA: Being a new production company, we will need someone to distribute the film. Our goal is to be seen by a nationwide audience. Not many independent films make it into theaters, but there have been exceptions. We are most likely looking at DVD and streaming, where it is tougher to make a profit. Since we intend to use the revenue from this film to finance our second and third, it’s important that we get a lot of exposure.
What are your thoughts on acceptance of the “others” in a cultural sense? What barriers do you think a movie like “Mutt” can help to break down?
RA: Some like to think that racism is disappearing because it’s not as verbal as it used to be. I would say that has more to do with political correctness than the absence of discrimination. We know that there are societal repercussions for speaking our minds, so instead people choose to keep their feelings to themselves. This leads to a sort of “out of sight, out of mind” mentality. This film shows that even today, people of mixed race backgrounds experience racism from both sides. It may not be as obvious as in the past, but being subtle doesn’t make it any less destructive. I hope people will see this film and have the courage to ask questions and come to an understanding with one another.
A movie about culture and more – Male Lead, Mitch Bolo, speaks
Playing the male lead is Mitch Bolo, a local of Baraga, who is working on his digital cinematography degree at Northern Michigan University. He’s also been a DJ since his teen years for the tribal-owned radio station, Eagle Radio (Mitch the Kid, though he’s not a kid anymore!). A member of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, Mitch plays Neil Sheldon and is extremely happy to see this movie come to fruition, saying: ”
This story has to be told. Its beautifully written, and covers so many different aspects. There’s the love story and the romance that comes with it. There is also the race issues in the film which haven’t really been talked about in such a direct public venue.
The CAST of “Mutt:”
- Samantha Bach as Meda Paavola
- Mitch Bolo as Neil Sheldon
- A.J. Farrell as Kay
- Don Stolp, Sr. as Ben
- Katie Zutter as Sam
- Aubrey Freeman as Robert
- Pasi Lautala as David
- Jaycie Forcia as young Meda.
Also starring Greg Wakeham, Kris Kyro, Christian Lytikainen, Ren Olson, Lisa Denomie, Roxanne Carlson, Kate Van Susantre, Cody Blue, Clancy Tunstall, Emma Blair, Brenda Turunen, Paul Smith, Nate Sherman, Marianne Peterson, Rob Innis, Chase Peterson, and special appearance by Hannah Bethel (country music artist, also providing music for the film).
Crew of Movie “Mutt”:
- Kevin Heras (Director of Photography)
- Paul Kirby (Sound Engineer)
- Matthew Nanney (Editor)
- Levi Grannis (Production Assistant)
- Audrey Small (Script Supervisor)
- Charlie Weighman (Set Designer)
- Joe Kirkish (Production Assistant)
Funding and support for “Mutt” movie
The movie had a Kickstarter campaign which fell support. They are currently using revenue from the commercial side of the production company and the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community Tribal Council has made an investment in the film. The group needs financial support, but Rick Allen indicates, “we are determined to finish either way.”
I look forward to seeing this movie on culture come to fruition. Anyone reading this have contacts with film festivals, ala Sundance or others?
Please take a look and follow Early Spring Production on their Facebook page for updates.