On several occasions, he would be wearing a wireless microphone and go into a house ahead of us. Our sound recordist could hear his associates inside begin to talk about robbing us and stealing our equipment, and we would be outside in the car trying to decide whether to drive off. Then Rob would artfully steer the conversation in another direction and find a way to make it okay that we were there.
So he was really a collaborator from an early stage, and we even gave cameras to Rob and Kevin along the way. Some of the footage they shot made it into the final cut. And of course the relationship developed and deepened over the 14 shoots we completed. It's a journey with a lot of trust flowing in both directions.
JB: What's your filmmaking history, Jack? Had you done anything similar before?
JPR: I studied filmmaking as an undergraduate and have been working in the field since then, producing and directing narrative shorts, commercials, and music videos. About nine years ago I made a short documentary for the Slow Food Organization and that's what first brought me to the White Earth Reservation. It's called The Sacred Food and it's about the wild rice that's held to be a sacred gift by the Ojibwe tribe (available to watch here ). Wild rice is a big part of their oral history and the Seven Fires Prophecy that brought the tribe from the Northeast to the upper Midwest, 500 years before the coming of white settlers.
JB: You did a fine job but no one would ever accuse The Seventh Fire of being an upbeat film. Has that fact affected viewership? How has it been received?
JPR: I think the film takes you into a world and a subculture that most Americans have never seen before. If you watch our trailer, which has been well received, it sets up the right expectation for the viewer.
Audiences are so savvy these days and have seen so much. I know that as a viewer, I'm looking for stories that haven't been told before, stories that are complex and visceral and stick in your head. And for me, there's a lot of humanity, heart and beauty in The Seventh Fire, despite how raw and real it is.
We've had an amazing response from critics, many of whom have picked up on the empathetic, intimate approach we had to filming and the unprecedented access inside this community and inside the Minnesota prison system. And we've had very positive and diverse feedback from audiences around the world and across the country. I don't think people shy away from tough subject matter if they're drawn into the story.
Rob Brown shows Kevin Fineday Jr how to cut his own hair in a scene from The Seventh Fire
(Image by Jack Riccobono, Courtesy of Seventh Fire LLC) Details DMCA