- Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019
The success of Scottish director, Steven Lewis Simpson's movie adaptation of the best-selling novel by Kent Nerburn, Neither Wolf Nor Dog, defies logic - Hollywood logic that is. It was audience-financed, shot in 18-days in one of the US's poorest region with an average crew of 2 and a 95-year-old Lakota Elder as the star. It has become one of the widest released, truly self-distributed movies in years. Simpson flipped the Hollywood model upside-down by launching in small towns and it has the longest theatrical first-run of any movie in at least a decade: 131 weeks so far.
The film opens in Los Angeles on September 13th.
Neither Wolf Nor Dog takes audiences on a deeply moving road trip through contemporary Lakota life. Its humor is wry and pulls no punches, introducing deep characters and poignant vignettes that challenge the viewer to see the world differently.
The film’s opening week at the Landmark Lagoon Cinema in Minneapolis had more admissions than the film with the top screen average in the entire US that week. In Vancouver, WA it was the theatre’s second-best performing film in a year. With only six showings, it beat eleven of the twelve summer blockbusters at a multiplex nearby. In a South Dakota cinema, it beat every blockbuster in 15 months. 120 of Neither Wolf Nor Dog’s theatres have been in Oregon, Washington, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Maine and Minnesota (less than 7% of US market).
“Hollywood has a simplistic view of the audience, but theatres understand their patrons. I flipped the usual model of major cities first and opted to place the film in the heart of its audience instead. I knew we could be a big fish in a small pond rather than a minnow in an ocean. Thanks to a remarkable groundswell of audience support, we're no longer perceived as a minnow and now look forward to opening in major cities”, said Simpson. Simpson recently gave a TEDx Talk on film distribution.
In real-life, Lakota actor, soldier, stuntman and musician, David Bald Eagle was left for dead during D-Day and Christopher Sweeney was awarded the Silver Star from the Gulf War. Yet it was the film’s other star, Yuchi-Muscogee Creek multidisciplinary visual artist, poet, and actor, Richard Ray Whitman, who was never in the service, who spent the most days under fire during the 71-day occupation of Wounded Knee in 1973 where the government fired hundreds of thousands of bullets at American Indian Movement activists.
The film's climax was filmed at Wounded Knee where David Bald Eagle had relatives at the infamous Wounded Knee Massacre of 1890, sacred ground for the stars. Because of this, Simpson threw away the script so Dave could improvise the scene and speak from his heart. At the end of the take, Dave said, “I’ve been holding that in for 95-years.” David Bald Eagle died in 2016.