Lights. Camera. Action.
Charine Pilar Gonzales (English-Communications, ’18) writes, directs, and produces documentaries that preserve culture through storytelling.
Growing up back and forth between San Ildefonso Pueblo and Santa Fe, New Mexico, Charine Pilar Gonzales (English-Communications, ’18) understood from a young age the importance of preserving culture through storytelling.
In her first years at Fort Lewis College, Gonzales explored different communication modalities. When she wasn’t studying film in Michele Malach’s Film History course and Stacey Sotosky’s film and multimedia courses, Gonzales worked at El Centro de Muchos Colores and the KDUR radio station on campus and served as the 2017 Miss Hozhoni First Attendant. During her senior year, she applied for the 2017 Sundance Indigenous Program Full Circle Fellowship and was one of four fellows nationwide selected for the prestigious title. As her confidence and collection of experiences grew, Gonzales felt something click.
“I was on top of the world after Sundance,” Gonzales said.
"I hope that my work can provide a common ground for people to understand who we are and why our voices as Native people are important."
Two months before graduation, Gonzales’ 19-year-old brother Tyler Gonzales passed away after undergoing emergency heart surgery. She deferred her education for a year to care for her family and herself.
“My professors were understanding and helped shape who I was to become as an adult,” she said. “Fort Lewis was instrumental in helping me work through those early grieving stages. It’s a tiny campus with a big heart.”
Five years after her brother’s passing, Gonzales uses her grief to inform her work as a writer and director of documentaries, dramedies, and stop-motion films. She owns Povi Studios, a Pueblo multimedia production company. In 2021, Gonzales was the Sundance Institute Indigenous Program Native Lab Artist in Residence for episodic screenwriting, a First Peoples Fund Artist in Business Leadership Fellow, and a Jackson Wild Media Lab Fellow. Besides her degree in English-Communications from FLC, Gonzales also earned a degree in Cinematic Arts & Technology from the Institute of American Indian Arts.
“I feel like Fort Lewis gave me such a solid foundation to express myself and develop the communication skills I’d need to succeed in the film and television industry,” Gonzales said.
During a short return to FLC in 2019, Gonzales met Carol Fleisher, senior producer of Rocky Mountain PBS and producer in residence at FLC. Fleisher oversaw Gonzales's internship position with the television station, where Gonzales learned the behind-the-scenes of writing, directing, and producing documentaries. She now works with Fleisher on the Native Lens series as the lead editor.
Over the last couple of years, Gonzales has participated in the 2022 LA Skins Fest and Native American Media Alliance TV Writers Lab sponsored by Netflix and Amazon Studios. In the TV Writers Lab, she developed a series pilot script about a Pueblo woman who develops time-warping superpowers. She also directed a short film, Our Quiyo: Maria Martinez, about her family's six-generations-long legacy of traditional San Ildefonso Pueblo pottery. The film premiered at the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., and later showed at the Santa Fe International Film Festival and LA Skins Fest.
She’s currently in post-production for her first narrative fiction short film, River Bank (Pō Kegeh), which Gonzales wrote and directed from a Pueblo perspective. She’s also working on a documentary about Tewa language preservation in the Pueblo community.
“I’ve grown up with the notion that I should always bring back what I’ve learned through my education and amazing opportunities to my community,” Gonzales said. “It’s all for them. I hope that my work can provide a common ground for people to understand who we are and why our voices as Native people are important.”