Mallard's Road | All Lakota Cast and Crew!



 2019 story

It has an all Lakota cast. Albert Two Bears III (OLC Graduate and Hunkpapa) as Rolly Lamoreaux is the lead Male, Allyssa Comer (Oglala), Plays Mary Flies at Night, rounded out by Wicahpi Bison (Cheyenne River), who plays Constance Talking Crow. 


180 Degrees: Is Mallard’s Road, the most Native production ever made

Mark St. Pierre, Reel Jobs Film School co-founder with instructor German Vijay. (photo courtesy Mark St. Pierre)

Mallard’s Road is a Lakota Produced, Romantic Dramedy set around Kyle S.D in the heart of the Pine Ridge Reservation. It is the story of Rolly Lamoreaux, hitting thirty-five, still single, related to half the women in the community, who desperately wants to start his own life. Connie Talking Crow, a recent arrival from the city, who has a growing identity crises having never before lived with her own people, and Mary Flies at Night, a young widow and mother, whose husband died a year earlier in a crash while texting with her.

If you want to make a low budget Narrative film, there are certainly typical ways to go about it, then there is the individualized creativity and ingenuity every struggling production company pulls together to create their film. But what Cloud Horse Media did to finish Mallards Road may be a full 180 degrees from any previous story you have heard. This is that story.

There is no question that Mallard’s Road is the most Native American film ever produced. With the exception of Dan Snethen, the director, everyone involved with this film is Native. While Dan may not be Native, he grew up on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation, his half siblings, are enrolled, and Dan has lived and taught biology and coached Drama at Little Wound High School, in Kyle on the Pine Ridge Reservation, for 27 years. Simply put, he is part of the furniture here.

True diversity in stories and production teams is a dream held by many in the film industry, but in the lifetime of this writer, it has moved very little. Yes, a Native American Story, or more properly a true First Nation’s story may come more frequently out of Canada as they have a fifty-year head start on us and Canada as a more socialist country, in a variety of ways gives financial support to these films, the U.S. simply does not.

A day of shooting at Reel Jobs Film School. (Photo courtesy Mark St. Pierre)

Robert Redford’s Sundance Film Institute’s Native American Writer’s program has produced some non-distributed, low budget films and has encouraged the development of very real Native Directors, but, in some ways, it also created a sense of ownership that as much as it helped, actually resulted in a bottle neck, as almost “the only hope for Native directors and story tellers to get a chance. “

Yes, as all of us who have been invited to meetings in L.A., have heard ad nauseum, “Native People only make up a tiny percent of the American population.” Perhaps the number is growing, yet 3.5 million out of 350 million is 1 percent, add another 3.5 million who may be Native American, but either non-enrolled or members of a state recognized tribe as are many on the East Coast Tribes, and folks who have ancestry important to their identity. So… we are looking at about 2% of the population who have a direct interest in Native Stories. As a result, Hollywood, says, it’s “too small a market to be bothered with.” And when a movie does get made it too often relegates Native People to the past, as if modern communities are not as authentic as their ancestors. All the good Indians are dead, right?

South Dakota is a state with roughly 150,000 Lakota people and another 30,000 Dakota people, (linguistic first cousins) yet Native people never get to see a movie they can truly identify with. Why can’t our children ever see a person on TV or in a movie who looks like them or comes from a Native community, why can’t Native People see entertainment, morality stories, love stories, adventures or mysteries that feature them and their community? This is a question many of us have had our whole lives.

We at the Cloud Horse Art Institute, a dream of Tilda Long Soldier-St. Pierre, and Reel Jobs Film School, created an entirely different approach to making a movie.

Here is our story.

In 2015 Cloud Horse had acquired an abandoned 1970’s Head Start Campus in the village of Kyle, in the center of a reservation the size of Connecticut. We wrote a small South Dakota Arts Council grant to try a shot at Community Theater in our small, newly added, Black Box Theater. Knowing a large number of community people who had been active and successful in the only competitive, intramural high school drama program in North America. Yes, you read that correctly and if we are wrong please let us know. The play that was chosen was “Ice Wolf”, an Inuit culture-based story, by Joanna Kraus.

The response from our stage acting community was impressive to say the least. In a thirty-day calendar, 40 young adults, built sets, costumes, cast and rehearsed often to 1:00 in the morning. At day 25 we had our first community audience. In three nights, our tiny theater hosted an audience (standing room only) of almost 200 community members. With the energy of all involved in the production, at the wrap party, I asked how many would like to make a movie? All responded enthusiastically “Yes!” 

Now because none of us had made a narrative film, we lacked the knowledge or ability to make my silly question a possibility. Cloud Horse Art Institute then wrote a grant to the United State Department of Agriculture, who strangely or not, has jurisdiction over Native American Economic Development funds. We wrote a Rural Jobs Development Grant and received $99,000 to create Reel Jobs Film School. Through the grant we were able to acquire a reasonable set of good film making tools, such as a Black Magic Cinema Camera, a Manfrotto Tripod, Cannon Cinema Lenses, a Sound Design capture system, Sennheiser boom mikes and Lavs, hot lights and LED’s and a nice Mac editing suite. This was in our first year.

To give the classes a focus we looked at Mallard’s Road, a script written by this writer, for a Boston based production company “who never found the resources” to make the film. We brought in teachers from the larger narrative film and documentary film industry to teach intense three-day workshops held one a month in our own facility. Our initial class was 30 students. Our first class was taught by the amazing, Ms. Tara Ansley, who in her class on Film Production, made it clear we had a long way to go and a lot to learn.

Over the next year (2016), classes were held in Camera, lighting, sound capture, production methods and ethics, film acting, film make-up and Wardrobe organization. In each case we found the best folks we could Including Ms. Irene Bedard, lead actress in “Smoke Signals”, and “Into the West”, Wardrobe was taught by Cathy Smith who won an Emmy for “Son of the Morning Star” and did the Native Wardrobe on “Dances with Wolves” which won an Oscar for wardrobe.

In the Spring of 2016 we asked Dan Snethen a film school attendee and experienced Drama Coach, to Direct the film. We then did some casting calls and assembled the cast for a 12-day shooting schedule. None of the actors with the exception of Albert Two Bears (Rolly Lamoreaux) had ever been near a camera. Albert had been a top High School stage actor and in a few small movie projects. Virtually everyone in Kyle who was asked to help or provide a set location did so joyfully so there was no cost for that. Since as our USDA Grant Officer, Clark Guthmiller said, “You can’t have a summer film camp for your production students without actors).” Through the grant we were able to pay the actors $150-$200 a day when they worked. As Tara had taught us, all departments call sheets with a shooting schedule, were organized for the shoot. Tilda Long Soldier St. Pierre was Executive Producer (and set design and wardrobe), and paid the production crew $200 a day. I acted as the line producer acquired vehicles, purchased all key props and did all set locations and any construction, exhausting our tiny life savings. We had shot only 65% of the original script and were out of funds. Production folks got angry, our lead actress, Wicahpi Bison, left and moved away, and… it look like so many things in Indian Country, we had snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

We continued to offer film school classed with our USDA Grant attracting new students. In the Summer of 2017 we made some nice student films, but Dan Snethen, despite a sense of defeat, never gave up the idea of finishing Mallard’s Road. In the Spring of 2018 Dan called and asked if there was a way, “we could use most of the footage we already shot and finish the film?” I said, you will have to organize the sound and video for all the scenes shot, look at what is useful before we can even think about it. Dan sat apparently without eating, in the editing suite for forty hours organizing and labeling each take of each scene. 

Chance Pettigrew on the set at Reel Jobs Film School. (Photo courtesy Mark St. Pierre)

We had a meeting on a Sunday about whether it might be possible. Two days later I gave him the first draft of the rewrite. He loved it and though it would make “An even better movie than the original script.” With his enthusiasm hot, I told him he would have to put $10,000 of his own money on the film. He agreed.

A casting call brought, award winning, high school actress Allyssa Comer in as Mary the new lead female. Her sincere and deep nervousness about “acting in my first movie,” resulted in a character, early viewers have fallen in love with.  

From January to June of 2018 we trained an entirely new production crew. Ms. Shannon Wray, 40 years in Film and TV in Canada and the U.S., behind and in front of the camera, became a major force at Reel Jobs and in finishing Mallard’s Road. Her intense production management workshop (a little scary) resulted in a scene by scene, full break down of the new script and scenes to be completed. That resulted in call sheets for a 10-day shooting schedule.

Mr. Jack Sitch of JSA Productions in Rapid City, whom I had worked with a few years earlier on another film, became a driving force in teaching the technical side and helping our brand-new crew with their confidence level. Jack not only taught camera, lighting, acting etc., he also hovered over our crew for the first three days of our schedule. For two weeks in July, housing the crew at the Odd Duck Inn (our B&B). we shot half of what was to become Mallard’s Road.

We had all learned a ton, the production crew and actors were very motivated and accomplished an exhausting if rather painless and quite fun 10-day shoot. Chance Pettigrew AD, worked hard helping the actors rehearse. To be honest all the b-roll and transitions were shot at another time.

Trevor White Dress, lead camera, expressed a strong interest in editing. Since Dan’s teaching and drama schedule prevented him from full time editing duty, I stepped in and worked with Trevor to create a 1-82, scene by scene assemblage. We knew we had something.

Shannon returned and led us through and amazing process of “throwing Mark’s script out the window, because we can only make our film from what was actually shot!” taking a linear scene by scene assemblage and re-arranging it into the scene order of the film you see now. I learned more in that class than I care to admit! Later, Trevor created a score from public access, music and we screened it for the Little Wound High School students and staff. The response was powerful and rewarding. “That is the first movie we have ever seen about us!” was a common response. “You should make the state legislature watch so they we know we are human!” was another.

Shannon did a scene by scene basic musical structure and told Trevor and I we had to also create a true soundscape for the movie, starting with clear voice and adding everything that would be true of your environment. “Those Crickets you hear in the film are my Crickets” Tilda later said.

A remarkable event was when Multi Nami Award winning Anishinabek Musician, Keith Secola, came to do a scoring class and with the help of our students actually live scored the movie! Community members also added/donated original music.

We submitted the film to our two regional festivals South Dakota Film Festivals and the Black Hills Film Festival and were rejected by both.

We did however get into Skinsfest, a film festival, held in LA in November of 2019. This allowed me to see the film on a big screen, hear the sound on a real system, make a bunch of notes and… go back to the editing suite.

Trevor and I put another two months of hard work “finishing the film.” Jack worked hard with us on improving where audio including music, “should come in” and making our transitions much better. We finished the final film the very week the reservation was shut down due to Covid.

What are principle factors that allowed us to make the film? We shot 70% of the film on the five acres we live on, emphasizing to the students, that you must use what you already have. Grandpa Johnnies house was a building from our Inn, Connie Talking Crow’s house was another Inn building. Rolly Lamoreaux house was our home. The horse coral is behind our house, the Night Dance scene behind our house, etc. The camera only sees what the audience will see. This allowed us to have control over many of our sets, and while enriching the cinematic quality of the film, at no real cost. Utilizing our film school our All Native, students were exposed to excellent people who sincerely and effectively encouraged them, while focused on what was most critical, and thus helped first time film makers succeed in making what many have described as “One Cute Movie”.  By the film school owning all of the equipment we were both familiar with every piece and able to finish the film with a tiny cash budget. If we had rented the equipment it would have added another $150,000 to the budget. Cloud Horse Art Institute owns an interest in the film, and revenues will be used for future films and new equipment.

So… we have done what no one else has done, given an all Native cast and crew the chance to make a real movie. By doing this, we were investing heavily in the human capital necessary for true diversity and an industry that must crawl before it can walk. And a bunch of young Native People now know, it can be done, and… Reel Jobs Film School just got refunded.

And better yet, Mallard’s Road has been picked up for distribution by Buffalo 8 in Santa Monica and will shortly, perhaps by the time of this conference be seen on the Amazon Network by the world.

We are currently enrolling students for another round of film school, if you have a sincere interest in learning how Documentary or Narrative films are made, Reel Jobs is a unique and powerful tool in our area. 

All participants will be encouraged to make their own film projects. Call Reel Jobs Film School at (605) 455-2972


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With You in Spirit

After a tragic accident, three young siblings are lost in the Badlands of South Dakota and they must rely on one another as well as the spirit that guides them to survive and find their way home. 


Original Screenplay by Mark St. Pierre

In Development



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