Actors Connor Fox, Chaske Spencer and Q'orianka Kilcher with 'Shouting Secrets' director Korinna Sehringer

A Chat with Korinna Sehringer, Director of Star-Studded Shouting Secrets


Shouting Secrets is a story of a splintered Indian family trying to connect in a time of crisis. It is the first feature film by Korinna Sehringer, and stars some of Indian country’s leading talent, both veteran and up-and-coming. Siblings Wesley (Chaske Spencer), Pinti (Q’orianka Kilcher) and Tushka (Tyler Christopher) must get along with their father Cal (Gil Birmingham) when their mother June (Tantoo Cardinal) becomes seriously ill. Each of the kids is finding their way in the world, some fumblingly: Wesley has become successful and famous for writing a tell-all book about growing up on the rez; Tushka is in a failing marriage and straying; Pinti is pregnant with a white underachiever’s baby.

The film debuted at the American Indian Film Festival, where it won the award for Best Film. Days before that first screening, Indian Country Today Media Network spoke with Korinna Sehringer as she was putting the final touches on the print at her home base in Munich, Germany.

How did you, a Swiss-born, Europe-based filmmaker, come to make a movie about American Indians?

We were searching for a universal family story. This story could happen with a family at the North Pole, South Africa, Venezuela. And since it’s a universal story, we said, let’s put it in a setting that we’re not so familiar with.

So you didn’t start out with an inherently Native story—how did you go about putting it in that setting?

I started writing it with Mickey Blaine,a young Caucasian writer I had met through a mutual friend in L.A. I saw his one woman show "pipe dreams" which was simply amazing writing work and his ultra low budget feature "Commit" and decided to work with him because I felt he is very talented. He wrote the first 4 drafts of the script. The story is his. I felt the story and script needed a better dramatic structure and the humor needed to come out through the culture. That's were Steven Judd [Kiowa/Choctaw] and Tvli Jacob [Choctaw] came in and did a great job. It was a fruitful collaboration and one could not have done without the other. I thought it was interesting to see that especially the scenes where the Caucasian and the Native American cultures collide turned out to be the funniest. Steven and Tvli could tell me, “Yes, that’s what we are, those are our jokes, this is our culture.” And we put so many jokes into the script—when we did our last table reading, we were dying laughing. A lot of those jokes didn’t end up in the film; the film we made is definitely a family drama. It has some humor in it, and it’s overall a hopeful story.

What were your guiding principles for assembling what turned out to be a very impressive cast?

We did extensive research for casting. I wanted fresh faces, but faces with experience. I found Q’orianka Kilcher through a YouTube clip. And then when I was interviewing her, I asked for recommendations and she suggested Chaske Spencer. Tantoo Cardinal was the exception; she’s the grande dame of Native cinema. Getting her for this film was our dream.

How did you find shooting on the San Carlos Apache Reservation?

The reservation is an incredible mix of beauty and hardship; for a filmmaker it’s fascinating because of that contrast. We didn’t have to change anything. We found a family that would let us shoot on their property. This 50-person crew shows up, invading their living space, and yet—they were cooking for us. They made us frybread. And then suddenly the neighbors are cooking frybread, and then they made a soup and had everybody over for dinner. And it was delicious.

Were there any drawbacks to shooting on reservation lands?

It wasn’t really a drawback, but one time I wanted to shoot a scene in a particular location and was told I couldn’t film there because it was sacred. That turned out to be a really lucky development, because it made us look for another location, and when we did, we found one that is just stunningly beautiful. It was perfect—better than the original spot—for what is really a climactic scene in the movie.

What—if anything—do you feel this film could accomplish, culturally speaking?

There’s a preconception that today the Native Americans who live on the reservations all have drug problems or are all alcoholics. This movie can show that’s a misconception. Yes, there are problems, but these are people trying to live their lives. White people have problems too. When the cast read the script, they were like, Yes—finally we can play real people, we don’t have to ride a horse or be alcoholics.

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dmkorman's picture
Submitted by dmkorman on
So when will the film be available to the general public? Will it be distributed to theaters? DVD? The trailer is very promising. I look forward to seeing the movie.

jfortier's picture
Submitted by jfortier on
Once again we have outsiders, from Germany no less, coming into a Native community and telling our stories for us. A German and white guy from Hollywood write a script about a Native family and then bring in two Native consultants to help them get the dialogue down and add some Indian humor. WTF is wrong with this picture? Shame on Steven Judd and Tvli Jacob for acting as enablers of this cultural appropriation. Anything for a dollar and a credit I guess huh? Where's the outrage from Native filmmakers, writers? This is exactly why there really is no such thing as a Native American Cinema, we sit ideally by, or worse, we collaborate with non-Natives, as they bring our stories to a wider audience filtered through their non-Native prism and perspective. And shame on any Native Film Festival that purports to support Native Filmmakers while awarding (let alone screening) non-Native filmmakers who continue the century-old practice of mining our cultures, communities, and histories for their artistic endeavors. And you wonder why there is no authentic Native American voice in our national media consciousness? This is so depressing.

rezzdog's picture
Submitted by rezzdog on
jortier, no one tells out stories for us, they tell our stories despite us. Despite our inability to tell our own, for what ever reason. My Dad was a Union Iron worker. If he sat around, gripping, about how Natives do not build their own buildings, thus keeping him from viable work and pay, he would have died poor. Instead, he thought, hell, I am an ace welder, I will work for who ever pays me the best, no matter the building. These Native dudes that worked on this film you are dissing, went to work cause they are talented, they love the work and they found a project that will pay them for what they do well and because of it, they are able to take care of their families. And you are going to bitch at them for earning for their families? No, my dear, shame on you. We work our craft, we do not work (earn) based on our claims to being Native. A talented Native is worth just as much as a talented anglo, you have a problem with that? Then you have a problem with you.

sjudd's picture
Submitted by sjudd on
Rezz Dog, thanks for the kind words. Not sure if you was able to see my thank you to you in the comment above, so I wanted to post here as well.

artbypaul's picture
Submitted by artbypaul on
jfortier- Did you even READ the interview??? Since when is "Swiss born" German? And you come off as a bigot implying that being white or German are somehow less worthy than a "Native" person. Again, READ the interview before posting misinformed opinions. The original story was not based on Native Americans, but it is a story that translates to any person of any race or nationality. I've heard many complaints about the stereotypical "feathers and horses" portrayal of natives in stories/film/tv, and here is an example of one showing them in a different light and yet you still find something negative to say because a "white guy" helped create it. In order for there to ever be a true understanding of other cultures we first must embrace each other and be receptive. It seems in your mind, being "authentic" is segregating yourself from any non-native. Do you not see that in today's world part of the native reality is integration? Do you not know or work with any non-native people? I wish people would learn to read with some comprehension before spouting off... This is so depressing. ;)

Anonymous's picture
Submitted by Anonymous on
Korinna, We met briefly during the Sedona Film Festival where I was stationed to prevent Film Fest goers from parking at an adjacent plaza. As you were passing through the parking lot after the first screening of your incredible movie, you took time to speak with me, the parking attendant. You generously offered me a ticket to the second and last screening of your movie, which I gratefully attended and was profoundly moved. What I wanted to share with you was the reaction in the audience after you had spoken with us following the movie. The folks sitting next to me were singing praises for your film. I engaged in conversation with them and found that they had met you in line the previous day while going to another movie and upon hearing that they were attending your movie the next evening and had purchased the last 3 tickets leaving one of the people without access...You graciously provided them with a 4th ticket so they were all able to enjoy the movie together. Your acts of kindness are not lost on the people you touch. I wish you much success with this movie and hope to see more of your work in the future. Bless you for telling such an incredible story! Jen the "parking police"