Inupiaq Yup’ik actress returns to Alaska to launch film company

Inupiaq Yup’ik actress Irene Bedard, best known as the voice of Pocahontas in Disney’s animated classics series, is returning to Anchorage, where she grew up, and launching a film production company.

The name of the company is Sleeping Lady Films Waking Giant Productions.

It’s based on the legend linked to Mt. Susitna, across Cook Inlet from Anchorage, about a giant woman who will awaken when the world is at peace. Bedard says that fits with the company’s focus:

“It’s a production company that focuses on inspiring stories that feature Native characters, Native themes, Native stories that are inspiring, Alaska stories, and it’s something just to be proud to say that we’re here in Alaska,” Bedard said.

Bedard said the company will also help round out the image of Alaska.

“We are excited to have the shows Deadliest Catch and the Alaska State Troopers and I have been very proud to see those shows but I think there’s so much more to show and to be able to go to rural Alaska is something we’re excited about doing,” Bedard said.

She says she’s also excited to help build the growing film industry in Alaska.

“We have people who work in the production office. We have people who work behind the camera. We have people who work in front of the camera,” Bedard said.

“So all of those facets of working in the industry need to be utilized while we’re up here especially if we’re going to have more than one show running at the same time simultaneously. So that is something we are hoping to be able to do. It’s called action. And we’re hoping to be able to bring up some industry professionals and do some training programs.”

The company has a couple of projects underway, one involving the Maori people of New Zealand, another a Christmas story told through live action and animation. The company’s CEO, Tom Denomme, says they’re also pitching a series called “Reservations not Required” for distribution on public television.

“It features Eddie Mitzuee, who is Navajo, and classically trained as a Cordon Bleu chef. But he also has a background in cultural anthropology. So what he does is travel to reserves and reservations throughout North America and he rediscovers what really is indigenous foods. So it’s a cultural show. It’s a cooking show, and it’s a travel show, all wrapped up in one,” Den-oo-me said.

Bedard was nominated for a Golden Globe award for her breakthrough role as Mary Crow Dog in the 1994 television movie “Lakota Woman:  Siege At Wounded Knee.” She’s also known for roles in the feature film “Smoke Signals,” and the PBS series American Experience series, “We Shall Remain.”