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'Tribal Cop' comes from lack of modern lead Native American film roles

Actor, Writer Roscoe Pond
Actor, Writer Roscoe Pond
Roscoe Pond personal collection

Roscoe Pond sent in his VHS video taped movie audition for “The Dark Wind” (1991). He did not know that over 3,000 Native American actors wanted the lead role of Navajo tribal cop Jim Chee. He also didn't know whether casting looked at his audition or not. It really doesn't matter now after 20 years. “Wind” was a murder mystery set on the Navajo Indian Reservation based on the novel written by Tony Hillerman. Robert Redford who served as producer eventually cast Lou Diamond Phillips as Chee over the objection of Native American groups.

It was Roscoe's first audition try for a major motion picture that had a modern-day lead role for a Native American. This movie came on the heels of native themed films like, “Dances With Wolves” (1990) & “PowWow Highway” (1989). “Wind” had many production problems & was never released into U.S. movie theaters. It went straight to video rental to scathing reviews & unpopularity.

There were rumors at the time that Redford was going to film produce the next Hillerman novel “A Thief of Time.” That idea never came to fruition. Roscoe is a huge fan of Tony Hillerman & later considered himself too old to portray Jim Chee in the PBS movies, “Skinwalkers” (2002), “Coyote Waits” (2003) & “A Thief of Time” (2004). Adam Beach portrayed Chee in those films which Redford had produced & bought the rights to Hillerman's Jim Chee/Joe Leaphorn mystery books.

It all began as an idea which became an obsession for Roscoe Pond about tribal cop stories. He sat down to write his own screenplay which became “Tribal Cop” back in 2010. He shut out the world for 9 days & his story came to life about a tribal cop, his two dogs & best friend partner. Roscoe decided that the setting could be on any Indian reservation that has a casino. It had to be a modern day story filled with mystery, greed, power, casino money & of course murder.

Roscoe found that getting Hollywood executives to even look at his screenplay was hard. After two years, many rewrites & sending to film producers. The con-census was that “Tribal Cop” would never see the light of day. Roscoe made the big mistake of letting would-be Native American producers & activists look at it. They had no money, made false promises & had axes to grind. Some didn't even read the screenplay. The politics in the Native film community was too hard to bare.

It seemed that Roscoe was the only person who believed in his own idea. He decided to delve back into more rewrites, take screen writing classes & workshops. That brought more depth & meaning to his story. He is very critical of his own writing & that is the reason for the actor table read coming Feb. 15, 2014 at Albuquerque, N.M. Roscoe needs to hear his words spoken from actors to help bring his story to the next level.

Several movie producers have come & gone over the last three years. Roscoe has a tentative film director attached & they are working on a production budget. The important thing right now is the “Tribal Cop” story & making that better. - For updates on this production you can visit the Roscoe Pond Facebook page.

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