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New Mexico desert road at sunset - photo by jonathan sims

Doing More with Less—Storytelling from New Mexico with Jonathan Sims

In an underserved community where filmmaking is considered “taboo,” Jonathan Sims has found a way to tell compelling stories from his village Acoma Pueblo in New Mexico. He is the owner of No Reservations Productions, which is the perfect name for a video production company paving the way for the future.

Jonathan was a guest speaker during Final Cut Pro’s recent FCPX Global Virtual Summit, which was held from November 16-22, 2020, and featured seven days of cutting-edge sessions, presented by top industry professionals.

He shared his compelling story of what it was like growing up on an Indian Reservation, and how technology like Final Cut Pro and other Apple products have made his work both accessible and relevant.


Behind the scenes in Acoma Pueblo

Jonathan Sims, Filmmaker No Reservations Productions, Acoma Pueblo, New Mexico
Filmmaker, Jonathan Sims

What many don’t know is that there are actually nineteen pueblos in New Mexico that are comprised of twenty-two different tribes. Sims explained that they are all separate entities almost like their own countries, and each has its own administration and language. He is an Acomo Tribal Member, and his home, Acoma Pueblo, is one of the oldest communities in North America. 

From the beginning of filmmaking, Acoma has been the backdrop for many films. It is an ancient community where language and stories are all oral tradition-based; however, photography and videography have never been allowed. As a 15-year production ENG, documentary-trained veteran, and former Tribal Secretary, Jonathan entertained many big-budget film projects over the years, but they were oftentimes turned down as the community was looking out for its people. He is beyond excited to be able to start making films in his community for the first time. 

Jonathan does not consider his filmmaking to be “low budget.”

“I call it nimble…one-man-band filmmaking at its finest, as I run my own audio, camera, and handle the releases,” he said. He’s able to strip down the gear and film in his community without being obtrusive, and many times has shot on his iPhone and found that quality is just as good. 

“We are storytellers by nature, but the community has always been the backdrop, and never the story,” said Jonathan. 


OWC Center for Learning and Technology 

Believe it or not, up until August of 2020, the Internet has not been available in Jonathan’s community. He feels that the ‘birth’ of Pueblo media came from a collaboration between We Make Movies, Apple, the Orphaned Starfish Foundation, and OWC. It all started when he gave Sam Mestman, CEO of We Make Movies, a tour of the community as part of a 1-day Smartphone Studio program. Just one year later the first film school and the first class was created in the Pueblo in partnership with OWC and Apple, all happening during Covid as the entire Pueblo was shut down in quarantine with no visitors allowed on or off the land.  

“Without the help of Sam Mestman and everyone at OWC, none of this would have been possible,” said Jonathan. 

The only Internet connection available is in the library, and the kids are logging in using Verizon Jetpacks. They are quickly learning the tools of the trade, including how to use tripods and mounts, as well as Final Cut Pro, and iOS mobile editing app LumaFusion. Although the kids are primarily shooting on iPhones and iPads, Jonathan Sims is teaching them about the importance of audio when it comes to filmmaking. 

Our kids are natural storytellers, so we just gave them a frame and said give us a beginning, a middle, and an end, and they ran with it,” said Jonathan. 

Based on that experience and how vital technology became during this time, OWC stepped up to the plate. The pueblo of Acoma will be the first of seven OWC Media centers built in partnership with the Orphaned Starfish Foundation. Filmmaking and content creation will now become a permanent part of the Acoma pueblo curriculum.  You can read all about the OWC media center partnership here.

It isn't low-budget. I call it nimble… Click To Tweet

The inspiration behind the story 

Fifteen years ago, Jonathan Sims was a part of 20th Century Fox’s first Diversity Development Class, and was sent with other minorities to Hollywood and told that “it was the only place they could have a career in filmmaking.”

During this time he was inspired by Henay Gigamah, former UCLA Theater Head, who told the students that the best thing they could do was go home to their own communities and share what they’d learned. “You’re going to have to go home and create your own audience from the ground up,” said Henay. Sims took that advice, went home, and has been making media in his community ever since. 

Much to Jonathan’s surprise, the governor has recently started his own YouTube broadcast where he shares what’s going on in the community once a month. 

“This is the first time that anything like this has ever happened in our community,” said Jonathan. “Leadership shooting videos is like a complete 180.”


Watch the full summit video below…


Kim Wacker
the authorKim Wacker
Client Management & Senior Writer
Kim is a seasoned content marketing professional with twelve years of corporate communications experience. Her sweet spot is with creative writing both short and long-form, and she has a proven track record working with IBM, Jackson Healthcare, and Walt Disney World, among many others. Kim is also a singer and actress and has been performing on stage and screen her entire life and has a great passion for TV and film production. Kim works in Client Management and as a Senior Writer for Blade Ronner Media. You can also find her on IMDb.
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