The Oneida Indian Nation is fully financing its first theatrical feature film, greenlighting $10 million indie epic “First Allies,” the true story of the nation’s decision to break from their Iroquois brethren to side with the American colonists in the Revolutionary War.
Ray Halbritter, Oneida Indian Nation representative and CEO of Nation Enterprises, will produce with Alex Siskin (“Mr. Deeds”). Exec producing is former Acad prexy Sid Ganis.
“In the past, we used American Indian runners to spread important messages,” Halbritter said. “But in today’s world, film is the most powerful messaging medium of our mainstream culture. ‘First Allies’ provides the perfect opportunity to relay the story of the Oneida Indian Nation to audiences worldwide while also telling one of the lesser-known and most riveting stories about the founding of the United States of America.”
Though its budget is about $10 million, it has the built-in advantage of being shot on Oneida lands, freeing it from location costs. “It’s not only shot on location, it’s on the location,” Ganis told Variety.
Pic will be financed entirely by the Oneida Indian Nation, one of the six American Indian nations comprising the Iroquois Confederacy. Reps also say the project is actively seeking New York state tax incentives.
Kees Van Oostrum, the Emmy-nominated director of “Miss Rose White” and “Gettysburg,” is set to helm “Allies” from a script by Bob Burris (“The Toy”). Pic is based on the book “Forgotten Allies” by U. of Houston history professors Joseph T. Glatthaar and James Kirby Martin.
Casting is under way for both Native American and Caucasian parts. Shooting is skedded for early fall in central New York.
Ganis said he got involved because the screenwriter and authors of the book brought it to Alex Siskin, his former partner.
“Alex loved it,” Ganis told Variety, “and at the same time, he said, ‘This has to be a commercial project. It can’t be a history lesson.'”