When Thomas Loftus read a book about North Dakota National Guard Cpl. Nathan Goodiron, a Three Affiliated Tribes' enrolled member who died in Afghanistan, he wanted to make a film about him.
Goodiron, 25, with the N.D. Army National Guard's 1st Battalion, 188th Air Defense Artillery in Grand Forks, died on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 23, 2006, when a rocket-propelled grenade struck his vehicle while he was on patrol.
Loftus' project has taken several years of planning, with the help of Goodiron's parents, Paul Goodiron and Harriet Goodiron, and Nathan's grandmother Lyda Bears Tail, all of Mandaree, and other relatives.
In August, Loftus and a screenwriter visited the Fort Berthold Reservation to meet with family members.
This week, Loftus, a Vietnam veteran from Clarksville, Va., and a three-person film crew with the production company Lucia Josh Lucia, chief of videography, Matt Joyce, photographer/editor, and Tamara Lovelace, lighting and sound; all of the Danville, Va., area are in the New Town and Mandaree area and other sites on Fort Berthold.
There they are conducting interviews and filming for the documentary, with the main focus on Nathan Goodiron and his role as a father, son, a member of the Three Affiliated Tribes and a soldier with the N.D. National Guard.
He said the secondary theme of the documentary is the patriotism of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation the Three Affiliated Tribes. "We're interviewing as many veterans on the reservation as we can," Loftus said.
The working title of the documentary is "Young Eagle," "Distant Thunder," Nathan Goodiron's Indian names, Loftus said.
"We're going all over the reservation," said Loftus. He said they are also visiting significant historical sites on the reservation.
Loftus said the plan is to have footage for a 1 1/2-hour documentary. Any footage not used in the documentary will be used for other purposes, Loftus said. He said they also intend to make a 2-minute trailer with highlights of their interviews for YouTube.
When they have completed the documentary, he said the plans are to distribute it at powwows and at film festivals including the Sundance Film Festival in Utah and Tribeca Film Festival in New York City, as well as the National Congress of American Indians.
Later, they will pursue national and international companies such as BBC America and Public Broadcasting Service.
Loftus' company for making the documentary is called Young Eagle Distant Thunder LLC.
Besides conducting interviews Loftus is the interviewer and filming on Fort Berthold, Loftus said they are going to Bismarck today to meet with members of Nathan Goodiron's N.D. Army National Guard unit who were with Nathan when he died.
Loftus has been working on the project since four years ago when he attended a Native American trade show in Las Vegas.
"The MHA Nation had a booth and Randy Phelan was there representing the tribe and selling hunting trips at the lodge," Loftus said.
He said among the items Phelan had for sale was a book by Paul Goodiron, Nathan's father. "I bought it, read it, came back the next day and started reaching out to the Goodiron family for guidance. That's how the project started," Loftus said.
Loftus figures the documentary will be ready in late February. He said his plan is to share the final copy first with the Goodiron/Bears Tail family who have editorial control over the content.
Currently, the project is being financed with private funding, Loftus said. He said that later they intend to solicit for corporate and foundation support.
After the documentary is circulated, he said they may want to make a commerical movie. "That's the goal," he added.
"We're making the movie for the benefit of the Goodiron/Bears Tail family," he said.
He said Nathan Goodiron's family wants to be able to finance scholarships at Minot State University in honor of their son. Nathan Goodiron attended MSU and planned to return after his military stint to finish his degree.
Loftus and the film crew return to Virginia on Sunday.
For more information or those interested in being interviewed for the film project can email firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 703-201-6632 (office) or 703-201-6632.