About Us

In June 7, 1964, a driving rain buckled dams and flooded vehicles on the Blackfeet Reservation, sweeping crying children from mothers’ arms, and ferrying homes and bodies across the prairie. By the time it ended, more than two-dozen Blackfeet Indians had drowned in the worst natural disaster in Montana history.

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Our mobile, documentary narrative tells the story of the worst natural disaster in Montana history: the 1964 flood on the Blackfeet Reservation. As the 50th anniversary approaches (June 8, 2014), the project provides the opportunity to archive interviews with survivors and tribal leaders, as well as present a mobile narrative of the tragedy that viewers can experience online as well as “in the field” at the site of historic events.

We have received funding from Vision Maker Media and Humanities Montana for this work, as well as support from Washington State University.

Who are we? Good question.

Director and Producer : Benjamin Shors, M.A., an associate professor of journalism at Washington State University, is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in numerous news publications. Shors is a former fellow with the International Center for Journalists and project manager for the Murrow News Service at Washington State University’s Edward R. Murrow College of Communication. In addition to his teaching responsibilities, he has provided external training for rural citizen journalists, Arab media students, and Hispanic healthcare workers.

Producer: Brooke Pepion Swaney, M.F.A., (Blackfeet/Salish) is an emerging filmmaker and presently a Time Warner Fellow through the Sundance Institute. Since her undergraduate work at Stanford University, Brooke has researched the portrayal of American Indians in the Media and has worked to add dimension to otherwise stereotypical representations of American Indians through her films. “OK Breathe Auralee,” her NYU graduate thesis film, screened at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.  It also was finalist in NBC/Universal’s Short Cuts Film Festival, wherein the lead actress won Best Actor. Amongst editing, Brooke’s experience also includes producing a local feature film, “Bella Vista, ”and freelance work on political campaigns and corporate videos around Montana.

Editor: Jacob Bearchum (Northern Cheyenne, Walla Walla, Salish) is a freelance video editor based out of Seattle, Washington. Since studying digital film editing at Shoreline Community College, he has gone on to edit two narrative-based features, one feature-length documentary and three short documentaries. Over the past two years he has worked extensively with Longhouse Media (Seattle, WA) on various projects.

Director of Photography: Torsten Kjellstrand, M.A., a former National Photographer of the Year, has a rich history of documenting the lives of American Indians. A native of Sweden, Kjellstrand transitioned to video storytelling after working as a newspaper photographer for more than two decades. His current hour-long documentary film, “Finding Refuge,” explores the efforts of the Alutiiq people on Kodiak Island, Ala., to preserve their language and culture, Kjellstrand will be a visiting professor at the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication in 2013-2014.

Mobile director: Brett Oppegaard, Ph.D., assistant professor of communication at the University of Hawaii, has a research expertise in mobile place-based media. He was the individual recipient of the regional and national 2012 George and Helen Hartzog Award for his research into mobile app development and media delivery systems within the National Park Service. He was chosen for a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship as a journalist and later earned National Endowment for the Humanities’ grants as a scholar for his innovative mobile media projects. His research specialty of mobile media has led him to explore ways in which journalism and mediated interpretation can expand into place-based forms, through locative media, augmented reality, and mixed reality.

AssistantProducer: Lailani Upham, B.A., (Blackfeet/ Sisseton Wahpeton/ Gros-Ventre) is a writer and photographer with Char-Koosta News on the Flathead Reservation, and has done freelance writing for the online publication Reznet News. She studied photojournalism at the University of Montana and business entrepreneurship at Salish Kootenai College. A 2003 American Indian Journalism Institute graduate from the University of South Dakota, following AIJI, went on to the Freedom Forum’s Chips Quinn Scholar program. She was chosen for photo internships with the Missoulian and Great Falls Tribune. She was selected for The Associated Press Diverse Visions photo project in 2004.

Editor: David Grewe, M.A., has taught visual journalism and multimedia storytelling at the University of Alabama, Syracuse University, and Washington State University. Grewe has more than twenty years of experience working as a multimedia editor and photo editor for The Hartford Courant, The Aurora Beacon News/Copley Chicago newspapers, and was a staff photojournalist for several New York State newspapers, including The Ithaca Journal, The (Auburn) Citizen and The (Schenectady) Daily Gazette. He has a master’s degree in photography with an emphasis on multimedia production from Syracuse University.

For more information, contact us below.

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