Rezolution Pictures’ dramedy Mohawk Girls director Tracey Deer will soon start shooting season five of the show, but, after a delay in obtaining a permit, will not be shooting as much in the community where the show is set.
Mohawk Girls was granted approval to film its final season this week after weeks of delay due to complaints that will result in thousands of dollars leaving the community, the film’s creator Tracey Deer said.
The Rezolution Pictures dramedy applied for the permit May 9 to shoot for six weeks for the show’s fifth season.
The permit, however, was delayed.
Council chief Clinton Phillips brought the permit complaints to the council table May 15 during the housekeeping portion of the meeting.
Although specific details of the complaints were not given, Deer is well aware there are criticisms of the show and her as a person. Her name has been brought up in multiple community and CDMP (Community decision-making process) meetings due to her marriage to Sylvain Pratte, a non-Native, which under the currently suspended membership law, would mean Deer would be in jeopardy of losing her status as a Kahnawake Mohawk.
But because the membership law is being amended and has not fully brought up to snuff, no decisions on revoking memberships are being made at this time.
An Eastern Door story October 14 on a special membership and residency meeting reported community members questioning whether Deer should be allowed to shoot in Kahnawake because of her marriage.
Others complained about the show’s content and depiction of characters at the same meeting.
“It was definitely a very distressing three weeks because what, as far as I understood, was a very standard process and has been for the last four years, this year, turned into a very distressing process,” said Deer.
“We were informed that there were complaints and we absolutely wanted to address those complaints and know what they were and take care to fix them.”
“There was a slight delay and that was because of the complaints that came in,” said MCK political attaché Joe Delaronde. “They put a hold on it while they looked at the complaints and just made sure they did all due diligence.”
The delay caused stress for the crew getting ready to shoot, and Deer wished she could have spoken to those with issues with the production.
Delaronde explained that after the discussions, the council table unanimously voted to approve the permit this week.
“At the end of the day, after a quick meeting, it was clearly decided by chief and council that it should go back into the hands of the lands department, who handles the approvals for these kind of things,” said Delaronde.
“They have their approval for their shoot… When it came back on Monday (May 29) it became very clear that there was no place for council to stick their nose in there.”
Though the shoot would have proceeded regardless of permit, Deer is disheartened that she cannot film the entire six weeks in Kahnawake, as she did last year.
“We wanted to do everything that we needed to do to shoot in Kahnawake,” said Deer. “That is super, super important to me, very important to Rezolution Pictures and the entire team because the show is about Kahnawake.”
Rezolution Pictures pays $500 per day, per location to the MCK to shoot. In addition, producers pay the owners of the property where they shoot, in addition to neighbouring properties where crews and trailers set up.
One hundred percent of season four was shot in Kahnawake last year. The crew paid $11,850 to the MCK for their film permit and very location fee, while $90,000 was paid to residents and business owners for the use of their homes and business establishments for sets and support locations.
“This is only a portion of the amount of money we spent in the community. But this is the area that will be most affected by the fact that we have to shoot 50 percent off reserve,” said Deer.
For Deer and the crew, it was important to spend as much money in the community as the budget allowed.
“It’s very important for us to shoot there and what goes along with that is the amount of money that we’re able to leave in the community,” said Deer. “Making a television show is a very expensive business. There’s lots of money involved and we all have been very proud to be able to leave as much as possible in Kahnawake, and we do so in many ways.”
In addition to permits, and rent, the production hires local hair and makeup artists, extras, and crew and stars two local actresses: Brittany LeBorgne and Heather White.
“Our team is between 80 and 100 people every day, who come on the reserve and buy gas and buy food and get to know the place. There is always a lot of money that gets left there every year,” said Deer.
Due to the delay in getting the permit approved, producers were left with no choice but to find locations in LaSalle and Chateauguay for a good portion of the filming this year.
“Every day is crucial for the success of the show and every day they need to work on a plan for what they are going to shoot, and we need locations,” said Deer.
“When our permit got delayed and we were left in the dark, we had no choice but to start looking off-reserve for replacement locations. We knew we would have a show to shoot in three weeks, so while we are so thrilled now to be able to shoot in Kahnawake with our permit, unfortunately the two-and-half week delay has meant that we had to go ahead and choose a number of replacement locations for our usual sets.”
Deer stands behind her show, and repeated her pride at being from Kahnawake and shooting her show in the community.
“Despite what people say, my show is a love letter to Kahnawake and my people,” she said. “That love letter is truthful in that here we are, here’s what’s great, and here are some things that maybe we should look at and consider.”