Written, filmed and produced by Browning Public Schools students, “Blackfeet Country” will premiere on Thursday at 7 p.m. as part of the PBS series “Stories From Montana’s Future.”
“Blackfeet Country,” which is the first episode in the series, features three stories produced by students in partnership with MAPS Media Institute, a nonprofit that aims to empower young Montanans for professional and community success through media arts. The project was supported by Montana GEAR Up and the Greater Montana Foundation.
“The Last Day” and “Aisitsimstā (Imagination)” are narrative fiction films, which were written and produced in an intensive 5-day MAPS workshop. “Browning Rising Voices” was a months-long project and follows a high school poetry club.
The “Browning Rising Voices” film won the National Student Production Award for the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in November 2019, which MAPS Executive Director Clare Ann Harff said is the highest award student filmmakers can earn nationwide.
“It translates to a student EMMY,” she said. “It’s a really big deal.”
Harff said MAPS has seen “tremendous success” not only in the program model but also in growth among students.
“Every skill students learn at MAPS is relevant and completely transferable,” she said.
“It’s so important for people to understand technical skills, like learning Apple OS or industry-standard software or how to use a camera and audio equipment. All of these skills are associated with collaboration. … Students learn to problem solve and make decisions together which are needed in the job force. It’s critical for their growth as citizens.”
Ali Archambault, who in 2018, was the student director of “Browning Rising Voices,” said working on the project was invaluable to her.
“I learned about film itself and the discipline of directing. I loved getting to know everyone at MAPS and still have a relationship with them even three years later,” she said.
Archambault, 19, now a student at the University of Montana, said she hopes viewers will watch the film and learn more about Browning.
“A lot of people see Browning as a sports town, but it’s a lot more than that. There are other talents here. Our culture is really alive, and I’m excited for people to see that and recognize that,” she said.
MAPS Media Institute works with local organizations and schools to develop projects and bring media arts to communities that might not otherwise have access to the necessary tools or mediums.
MAPS has expanded and is now working with Fort Peck Community College on its Chanté Project, which will bring programming to students in Brockton, Frazer, Poplar and Wolf Point schools.
All films are available for streaming on the MAPS YouTube channel.
For more information on MAPS Media Institute, visit www.mapsmediainstitute.com.