Chris Eyre, Native American Director
An Evening with Chris Eyre
On your campus, Chris will introduce a film of your choice, screen it, and then lead discussion, Q & A with the audience.
For more info on Chris, please see – WWW.CHRISEYRE.ORG.
Nearly every Native American living in Indian Country has seen Chris Eyre’s 1998 Smoke Signals. All audiences enjoyed the film as a refreshing departure from stereotypical films that depict Native Americans. Smoke Signals became the unofficial visual anthem of Native people everywhere. Many can accurately quote any given line; a favorite usually begins with, “Hey Victeeerr…” The film received critical acclaim and is known as the first feature length film directed by a Native American to receive national theatrical release.
A decade later, the film continues to instill pride among the Native community, with a new generation now laughing and crying at a story that hits home with so many Natives from around the country.
After Smoke Signals, his successes led to People Magazine calling Chris Eyre “…the preeminent Native American filmmaker of his time”. Geoff Gilmore, Director of the Sundance Film Festival, has simply called him “…a great American Filmmaker”.
Chris’ journey began in Portland, Oregon, in 1968, and his path led to Klamath Falls, Oregon, where he was raised. An enrolled member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribe, Chris’ creative talents became apparent at a young age. His ability to effortlessly, yet beautifully capture life in still images began in high school. Because of his love for photography, Chris attended Mt. Hood Community College with the intent to expand his talents, majoring in Television Production. It was here that he learned the basics of three-camera television and his desire to become a director was born.
After graduating from Mt. Hood in 1989, Chris was eager to continue his media studies and enrolled at the University of Arizona where he later received a bachelor’s degree in Media Arts. The art of filmmaking would capture Chris’ heart and he created three non-sync 16mm experimental films and wrote a feature length script.
In 1991, Chris returned to Oregon and set out to make this first feature length movie based on the script he wrote in college. Things Learned Young was inspired by Chris’ own childhood as a Native adoptee and his search for his biological mother. Chris hopes to further this important aspect of his life by working on a documentary about Native American adoptions in the future.
Chris applied to New York University’s prestigious Graduate Film Program and was accepted in 1992. The timing could not be more exciting. The height of 1990’s independent cinema allowed Chris to fully concentrate on his passion. He was even able to work with filmmakers who had been his idols.
During his time at NYU, Chris made three sync-narrative shorts on 16mm film. His second year film, Tenacity, about two young boys who encounter “rednecks” on a reservation road, garnered much attention and won 1st Place in the Graduate Film Department. The 10-minute short went on to screen in numerous film festivals worldwide and was Chris’ first distributable production. It was also invited to screen at the 1995 Sundance Film Festival.
1995 was an outstanding year for Chris. With the unexpected success ofTenacity, Chris acclimated himself to film festivals and became the recipient of numerous awards including a Rockefeller Film Fellowship, The Haig Manoogian Award, the Martin Scorsese Post Production Award, a Warner Brother’s Post Production Award (1995) and, of course, Best Film of 1995 in the Graduate Film Program.
Later that year, Chris was invited to participate as a fellow in the Sundance Institute’s Directing Workshop under the tutelage of Robert Redford and other mentors. Chris’ submitted project was culled from a short story-turned feature length script that would become Smoke Signals. (Chris’ working relationship with Robert Redford continued with Skinwalkers (2002) and A Thief of Time(2004), where Mr. Redford assumed the role of executive producer.
Miramax Films Co-Chair Harvey Weinstein bought Smoke Signals after a private screening and helped launch the film at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival. The film was an immediate success, winning the Audience Award and the Filmmaker’s Trophy. Smoke Signals won numerous awards worldwide; including the Taos Land Grant Award (5 acres).
Chris later went on to direct Skins (2002) which was produced by Jon Kilik. Graham Greene was nominated for Best Actor by the Independent Spirit Awards for his role as Mogie Yellow Lodge.
Chris’ follow-up feature, Edge of America (2003) received numerous accolades. The film was chosen for the highly coveted spot as opening night film at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival. Actor James McDaniel won an Emmy for his role in the film. Edge of America also won several other awards, including a Peabody Award, a Writer’s Guild Award, a Humanitus Prize, and finally, Chris received the highly prestigious DGA (Director’s Guild of America) Award for outstanding directorial achievement.
A Thousand Roads (2005) was executive produced by Rick West, Jr. and Peter Guber, an industry veteran, who can be credited with over 40 successful Hollywood films.
Chris’s feature, Imprint (2007), where he served as co-producer, stars SAG Award nominee Tontanzin Carmelo. Chris worked on the five-part miniseries We Shall Remain for PBS, where he directed three episodes,People of the First Light, Tecumseh and The Trail of Tears.
Chris Eyre’s vision as a filmmaker continues in the vein of Native America and when asked if he will make a movie with no Indian characters, Chris’ response is a quick, “Of course! I love making movies and telling people’s stories. However, cultural aspects of a film mean nothing if you’re not personally and emotionally engaged in the characters you are watching. I am interested in the people I’m portraying. For that reason, the films that have interested me the most are the ones I’m making.”
Film & TV credits
Hide Away 2011
Friday Night Lights (TV Series 2 episodes) 2011
Freedom Riders (TV Series)
We Shall Remain (2009) Directed 3 of the 5 Part Miniseries episodes:
People of the First Light (Episode 1)
Tecumseh (Episode 2)
The Trail of Tears (Episode 3)
Law & Order: SVU 2008
Imprint (2007) (Producer)
California Indian (2007) (Producer)
Arctic Son (2006) (Consulting Producer)
Taming the Wild West: The Legend of Jedediah Smith (2005) (Co-Producer)
A Thousand Roads (2005) (Director)
A Thief of Time (2004) (Director)
Edge of America (2003) (Director, Producer)
Skinwalkers (2002) (Director)
Skins (2002) (Director, Co-Producer)
The Doe Boy (2001) (Producer)
Smoke Signals (1998) (Director, Co-Producer)
Things We Do (1998) (Director, Executive Producer)
WHAT SCHOOLS ARE SAYING
Just a note of thanks! Chris was GREAT! What a pleasure he was to host!!!
The film was wonderful, his Q and A afterward was a hit, and hanging out with him throughout the night was a delight! Many thanks!
Thomas Christopher Priester, Advisor, Campus Activities Board
Monroe Community College
Chris was outstanding – the film was excellent and he did a great job interacting with the students. I think he really captured their imagination and interest in his work, and what a great role model. We’d like to coordinate with you to have him participate in future events when the opportunity arises – thank you again for helping make it happen.
Thanks for your assistance and we look forward to working with you again.
Stephanie B., Bureau of Indian Education
My sense is that students particularly enjoyed a couple of aspects about Chris’ talk on campus. First, they enjoyed his openness – he interacted extensively with the audience throughout the question and answer session as well as afterwards, he addressed their inquires about the substance of the film as well as the craft of filmmaking, and he seemed genuinely interested in their reactions to the film. Second, even if they might not express it in this way, they enjoyed the fact that he challenged them – when he screened the new film he pushed students to move beyond just seeing and thinking about a Native filmmaker creating a film about other Native peoples. He continued this in his really thoughtful responses to questions afterwards, pointing out to students the kinds of issues and questions evoked in the film that are ultimately about living a good, meaningful live for all people. From my perspective the event turned out better than I could have hoped.
Peter U, Stonehill College