Ray Halbritter, the Oneida Indian Nation Representative, CEO of Oneida Nation Enterprises, and a trustee of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences Museum, has launched Standing Arrow Productions, a privately-funded, independent film and TV production company aimed at increasing the representation and championing the narratives of Native American and Indigenous peoples on screen. Halbritter has already optioned the first book that he will adapt: “The Real All Americans: The Team That Changed a Game, A People, A Nation” by award-winning sports journalist and Washington Post columnist Sally Jenkins.
“Representation on the movie screen and throughout popular culture is tremendously important for marginalized communities, and especially important for young people, to see images of themselves on screen,” Halbritter told Variety. “That’s the biggest single factor in my decision to launch Standing Arrow Productions. Growing up, I never saw anyone on screen who looked like me or reflected my life experience. The goal of Standing Arrow Productions is to make entertaining movies that reveal the complexity, challenges and beauty of the Native experience to global audiences.”
The book chronicles the true-life exploits of the Carlisle Indian School football team, which was the most innovative and successful football program in the United States in the early 20th century, regularly beating better known and financed Ivy League competitors and ruling the college gridiron in 1911 and 1912. Ultimately, in a competition rich with meaning, the Carlisle Indian School football team defeated the United States Military Academy West Point. The team was led by Coach Glenn “Pop” Warner and its best player, Jim Thorpe, won the 1912 Olympic Gold Medal in both the Pentathlon and Decathlon. The book explores the history of the team, the racial and political bigotry faced by the students that still resonate today over a century later, as well as the violent attempt to decimate a culture and the birth of a game that has thrilled Americans for several generations.
Halbritter will produce and guide the project, which is currently out to writers. The deal was negotiated on behalf of Standing Arrow Productions by Andrew Herwitz, president of The Film Sales Company, who will be an executive producer on the project.
“The importance of telling compelling stories about Native people that go beyond simple stereotypes is exactly why I am so enthusiastic to produce a film based on Sally Jenkins’ remarkable ‘The Real All Americans.’ Telling the story of Carlisle’s extraordinary Native American athletes and the team’s historic contributions to American football is both a challenge and an honor,” Halbritter added.
Halbritter and Jenkins first met at a Native American function at the Carlisle school several years ago. Halbritter was there talking about his “Change the Mascot” grassroots campaign to pressure the Washington DC NFL team to drop its now-former racist slur of a name. Jenkins was at the conference to talk about the book, “The Real All Americans.” Wanting to share this story with a global audience, Halbritter checked on the book’s option status regularly, and reached out to Jenkins when the option became available several months ago.
Native businessman Halbritter has spent his life working to increase understanding of Native American issues, Native American law, environmental justice and the injustices that his people have been subjected to by the government, resulting in economic, social and cultural disparity. He believes in the potency of media in all its forms to exert tremendous power over American culture and attitudes and to promote change. Most recently, Halbritter executive produced the Sundance Audience Award and Hot Docs-winning documentary “Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World,” directed by Catherine Bainbridge and Alfonso Maiorana. He serves on the boards of directors of the Environmental Media Association, Harvard Native American Law Board and the American Revolution Center. Halbritter is a member of the Recording Academy, the National Congress of American Indians, and United South and Eastern Tribes.
Jenkins was named the nation’s top sports columnist by the Associated Press in 2001, 2003, 2010 and 2011. She is also the author of 12 books, four of which were New York Times bestsellers, most recently “Sum It Up: A Thousand and Ninety-Eight Victories, a Couple of Irrelevant Losses, and a Life in Perspective” with legendary Tennessee basketball coach Pat Summitt. Jenkins was among the legion of sports reporters and columnists who went on the record to say they would no longer use the “R” word in their coverage of the Washington DC NFL team as a result of Halbritter’s “Change the Mascot” movement.
Variety's Mónica Marie Zorrilla contributed to this post.