Award-winning screenwriter Wenonah Wilms visited Missouri State University in Minnesota to participate in MSU’s film series hosted by the Department of Media, Journalism and Film. She presented her 2016 short film “Waabooz” on Tuesday, November 30 at the Robert W. Plaster Student Union Theater. As a Native American herself, she thinks it is extremely important to show a variety of cultures in the media.
The film is about an insecure and shy Native American boy named Rabbit. Rabbit, a member of the Ojibwe tribe, is extremely nervous about dancing in the next powwow and begins to draw Waabooz (which means “rabbit” in the language of the Ojibwe people) – a superhero who embodies this he wants: daring and courageous. Through traditional oral storytelling and magical imagination, Rabbit’s mysterious grandfather helps bring Waabooz to life.
Wilms knew she wanted Waabooz’s storytelling to be visualized as a comic book, so the movie goes back and forth from live action to animation. Waabooz’s story is told in a comic book style format that was produced by artists and animators Nicolas Selma and Amanda Aguilar.
âThe idea came from an article I read about a comic book artist named Jeffrey Veregge who was Marvel’s first Native American artist,â Wilms said. âI’m also Native American and the article was about him growing up on the reservation and how he always wanted to be Batman or Superman. The things he drew were always mainstream comics, and I thought it was really sad because we don’t have our own superheroes.
Wilms expressed how important it is for individuals to carry on the traditions of their heritage, whether the culture is known or not. Everyone has interesting stories from their past that have been passed down from generation to generation – especially Native Americans. The way Wilms keeps her Native American traditions alive is to express them in a movie, as she says they don’t get shown much in the media.
âIt’s very important to tell your own story,â Wilms said. âIt creates a much more authentic voice because people have been there. They know these characters, they know the setting, and they know what is important to the culture in particular, like the oral storytelling of the eldersâ¦ It’s just something that should be in our stories.
Wilms said the most important quality for screenwriters is the ability to work as a team. Cinema is an extremely collaborative industry, so avoid being “too precious on ideas”.
Wilms has also given advice to writers trying to overcome writer’s block. âI know the smartest thing to do is create an outline, but it’s just not for me. My process is very internal and I usually don’t pitch the idea by anyone for a little while because it takes my breath away. Once you give it some life by sharing the idea before you write it, people will put holes in it and you will modify it before it is even written â.
Wilms is currently adapting the young adult novel “Firekeeper’s Daughter”by Angeline Boulley for Obamas’ Higher Ground Productions and Netflix.
During the screening of âWaabooz,â Wilms shared a lot of information applicable to aspiring writers and people looking to succeed in the film industry. MSU Department of Media, Journalism and Cinema will continue to host events like this in their film series throughout the school year.
A link to the official trailer can be found here.
Follow Gianna Kelley on Twitter, @gianna_kelleyyy
Subscribe to The Standard’s free weekly newsletter here.