May 8, 2016 · by Herb Ryan · in Hill City, The Arts. ·

The Black Hills Film Festival Awards, Hill City, South Dakota
Best Feature Film
Misfortune: Desmond Devenish, producer, Director, Writer, Star. Roger Stelien Producer, Scott Lautanen Producer, Locations provided film cars. Corey Trolley provided film cars

Best Short Film
Bird Dog: Katrina Whalen, Writer, Director. Producer, Jack Parlaute Producer, Charlie Koss, Carolyn Eperspecher.

Best Documentary – Feature
The Legend of Swee’ Pee: Benjamin May, Director. Anne Marie Lawless Writer, Karl Holland and Daniel Levin Producers.

Best Documentary – Short
Phil’s Camino: Jessica Lewis and Annie Oneil . Director, Annie Oneil Producer.

Peoples Choice
Lakota Girl’s: Molli Cameron Director, Russell Cameron, Producer

By Herb Ryan

Russell Cameron. producer, director of photography and actor, and Molli Cameron, director, writer, producer and costumes, were awarded the ” Peoples Choice” Award for the full length movie Lakota Girls Saturday evening at the Hill City Film Festival in Hill City, South Dakota.

Lakota Girls is a historical drama about Mato Win, an eight-year-old Native American girl who lives at Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. She is sent to live with a white family at a horse ranch in the Black Hills. She stays with Clara, an eight-year-old white girl and her family, but Mato Win is determined to get back to the reservation. She runs away to the mountainous forest, but is found. Mato Win is afraid she will be kept from her parents and does not trust Clara’s older brother Cavan. Mato Win questions Clara about an old photo of two Indian men in her home. Clara tells the story of her great-great grandma, Emylon, who rode the train from Indiana to teach there, a hundred years ago. The girls discover they have more in common than they knew. See Lakota Girls Movie Web Site

When I talked to Molli and Russell at the premiere of Lakota Girls Thursday at the Journey Museum in Rapid City, the film had not been shown yet. First time jitters and nervous energy were flowing around them and their children Cavan and Clara who both have parts in the movie. This was a new venture, Molli had written the story and Russell has a background in photography, but., there was zero experience in making a movie. Molli and Russel decided to commit and do what every was necessary to understand the film making process..Russell confessed that he had spent close to forty thousand dollars on camera equipment, he said. “That was a very expensive purchase, we also attended an accelerated film school in Chicago and the whole family was enrolled in an acting class as prep for the production. All our actors were paid, plus travel expense and production time, script adjustments and editing all add up”. Molli added: “There was all that on top of the fact, this was a family oriented movie, we wanted to take a chance and do something that relied more on the story line than the current cinema trend, something that is sensitive and informative and again suitable for a general audience, now we will wait and see how the audience will react to the movie”.

In a conversation with Avatar actor Stephen Lang at the Warrior’s Work Gallery in Hill City Saturday evening, we discussed the advances in movie technology. Stephen Lang said:” Yes, the technology really adds to the visual impact of a movie and I’m all for that, as actors, we all learn how to tell the story standing in front of a green screen which by the way can be difficult at times”. Lang continued: The green screens, 3-d modeling and other special effects are really not the soul of the movie, it needs a great story and actors that can perform their craft with conviction, that my friend is what makes a memorable movie, a movie that does not leave you feeling ,unfulfilled or hollow inside”. Lang’s submission to the Hill City Film Festival was “Beyond Glory” based on journalist Larry Smith’s best-selling war chronicle, Beyond Glory combines the art or theatre and cinema to tell the graphic conflicts of WWII, Korea and the Vietnam war. Screenplay by Stephen Lang, mollicameronawardno1opti lakotagirls557016

Current In Westfield Cover Story


Family film: The Cameron family travels to South Dakota to film ‘Lakota Girls’

By Anna Skinner

Molli Cameron always wanted to tell the story of her great grandmother, a woman who taught school in South Dakota and married a Native American man, something completely unheard of at the time.

Molli wrote the script, and, after taking her husband, Russell, to film school in Chicago, the couple, with their two kids, Caven, 12, and Clara, 10, traveled to South Dakota to film “Lakota Girls.” Both children attend Westfield schools.

“I wasn’t sure if I could sell the script or if anyone could make a movie and produce it, so we decided to produce and make the film ourselves,” Molli said.

Two-thirds of the story takes place in present day, revolving around a young, white girl and young, Native American girl, yet the middle portion of the story jumps into the past to tell the story of Molli’s great grandmother.

“Most films made with Native Americans are rated R. They focus on the violence, the poverty, the alcohol and the drugs, and so I wanted to make something that the Native American children and my children could watch,” Molli said. “I wanted a positive film that showed the two cultures connecting and getting along.”

Russell filmed, and Caven and Clara both acted and assisted with the filming. If one of the kids wasn’t acting, they were holding horses, watching the children of the actors or helping Russell film. Clara helped Molli with dialogue, as the main characters in the “Lakota Girls” are young girls. Both kids took acting classes, and Russell and Molli said they learned by observing.

Russell also acted occasionally but spent most of his time filming and editing the takes.

“One of the most difficult parts of the film-editing process is getting the audio correct,” he said. “It takes a lot more time than you think. One scene might be 30 or 40 takes.”

The Camerons began filming in June 2014 and finished in January 2015. The national screening for the U.S. premiere was May 5, in Rapid City, S.D. at the Black Hills Film Festival.

“We will have an Indiana premiere. I submitted the film to the Indy Film Fest, and we find out in the beginning of June if we get in,” Molli said. “It’s our first film, so we’re thrilled to have our film in any festival.”

And although both Caven and Clara enjoyed acting, neither wants to pursue a career in the field.

“It’s a good skill to learn, but I’m not going to be an actor,” Caven said. Clara said she hopes to be a surgeon.

“It was a good family experience because it was something I wanted to do, and each of (the kids) could help get it done,” Molli said.

For more about the film, visit


Length: 94 minutes

Rating: PG

Russell’s favorite line: “There’s no shame in being from the reservation.”

Clara’s favorite part: When she feeds the horses in the beginning of the movie.

Family ranch: Custer, S.D.