When I met Susan Funk for the first time I was very impressed with her approachability and her presence. She is tall and beautiful with a devotion to the projects she creates in film and to the industry she represents. Through her work experience, Susan has a diverse resume in all aspects of movie-making including line production, assistant director and casting. She is known for her work on Twilight, Men of Honor and The Road.
With opportunity and doors opening like never before in the film production field, Susan, a Native American, is stepping out, continuing to carve and refine a career through her talents and passion. From our first meeting I was impressed with her determination to tell the stories that need to be told; stories that can make a difference.
Susan’s background gives hope and encouragement to Native Americans and other minorities who want to pursue a movie career. She is a regular person who is taking the hard steps toward her dream — she is a “Dream Catcher!” I am privileged to be working with Susan on a number of projects.
“It is never too late to be what you might have been.” ~George Eliot
Jane Fitzpatrick: What is your background and story?
Susan Funk: I was born and raised in Portland, OR. My parents are a mixed race couple. My mother is of Serbian and German descent and my father is of Native American with a little French and Scottish descent. I only mention the mixed race because it was important to my childhood. I remember being told “go back to the reservation,” or, “the only good injun is a dead injun.” Or called, “redskin,” “squaw,” “injun.” I always looked at the people saying those things as stupid. I honestly thought something was wrong with them because my life was awesome. And my reservation was awesome. I loved going there. But I lived down the street and was born at the local hospital. So with racism, though I have experienced it and understand the pain it causes, I never took the comments as coming from an intelligent perspective.
I grew up in a time and neighborhood when you knew all your neighbors. As a kid I could hop on my bike after breakfast and take off for the day, just coming home for lunch then off again until dark. It was a “small town upbringing” in a city. I went to the same grade school from Kindergarten through 8th grade, then one year at a private school, then transferred to the same high school my dad and his brother and sisters graduated from. Shortly after graduation I started working full time for the Indian Health Service, working with my aunts and a cousin. The job was interesting as the dynamic between “city natives” and “rez natives” was very polarized. It caused issues between some in the office, and as the youngest employee in the Portland area office I had to learn how to stand up for myself.
I got married a year after high school and gave birth to 3 wonderful kids. I tried hard to make a bad marriage work and finally left a very bad situation after 19 years. Unfortunately, the fight to get divorced took 9 years to finally obtain. I am very happy with my life now even though I’ve had many difficulties over the last 5 years and a near fatal car accident on Friday, September 13, 2013…
JF: How did you get involved in entertainment specifically and why did you make it a career?
SF: I have always loved the entertainment industry. As a child I wanted to be an actress and a model. Which I did! I pursued both for many years. Unfortunately, my height and coloring were hindrances. Being taller than most male actors made it very difficult to book a role no matter how good I was. At that point I realized there were a lot more jobs behind the camera and started transitioning into the production world. Working my way up from production assistant to Producer/Production Manager/Extras casting Director.
JF: What awards have you received?
SF: I haven’t received awards in film, as yet, but I’m working on it!
“Most Enthusiastic Cheerleader” from the youth organization, Word of Life, Western High School division. “Most Enthusiastic Cheerleader” from the cheerleading camp I attended with my high school squad.
JF: Tell us about the process you’ve been through to garner attention for your work.
SF: I think just my work ethic. As a woman starting out in the Assistant Director role I struggled with how to gain the respect of the almost completely male crews without compromising myself, and my work ethic. Once I figured out how to communicate so that people looked past how I looked and listened to me, respect followed. I now have an excellent reputation in the industry, something that is extremely important to maintain.
JF: Can you tell us about some of the people who have stepped up to support your efforts?
SF: That’s a hard one. I have many friends who support me. There aren’t specific people I can point to as mentors. I know that I have had to work hard to progress and to gain the respect I have. No one has handed me anything.
Because of my hard work and work ethic I have booked jobs on my reputation alone.
JF: What do you see developing in the future? Any further dreams?
SF: I plan to see where life takes me. I never set out with producing in mind. It’s just worked out that way. And I’m enjoying it.
At the moment, I am working on the development of a major epic film production and I believe it will open up many doors in the future.
JF: How can people learn more about what you’re doing? Website?
SF: I try to keep things up on Facebook. IMDB.com shows my experience and the projects I have worked on.
Susan Funk on IMDB
JF: Do you have some advice or encouragement for “Dream Catchers” in the entertainment industry?
SF: One of the most important things is to check your ego at the door. With some, it is not an easy thing to do, especially when the limelight is achieved. There are so many opportunities in the entertainment industry today, new possibilities everywhere you look. There really is room for everyone who has a dream, so pursue it. Listen to those who have come before you; advice from experienced people is priceless. Bad attitudes, and meanness are unnecessary.
As my favorite quote implies — never give up on your dreams, no matter what life throws at you!
JF: Do you know of organizations “Dream Catchers” could utilize to further their careers?
SF: Check your local film community and film office. Search Facebook and LinkedIn for local groups. Do your research. No one alive today has discovered the new, better way to make movies. Use the resources available.
Dream Catcher Susan Funk.