Documenting the Pipeline: Fishers grad travels to North Dakota to film protests, Native American life


By Anna Skinner

The idea for Erin Lattimer’s documentary project for a college course was inspired by a Facebook post.

“My cousin had shared something on Facebook back in August. I was in a documentary film production (class) and we had been looking for a subject,” the 2013 Fishers High School graduate said. “Even though I saw it on Facebook, it didn’t really click until somebody in class started talking about their project, where they went to document Native Americans. Then, the idea of going somewhere where people hadn’t been much when they mentioned that, it clicked.”

Lattimer and her project partner, Ryan Leen, traveled to North Dakota to document their time at the Dakota Access Pipeline for five days around Halloween. They continued to edit the documentary, called “Peace at the Pipeline,” until mid-January, as President Donald Trump’s executive order to advance approve the pipeline influenced the documentary’s ending

“The documentary is about the camp at the Dakota Access Pipeline protest,” Lattimer said. “My production partner and I went out there and focused on people being at the camp vs. the protests. Just in general, we went around talking to a bunch of different people about how they were getting around and learning about the cook shack they were running there and what schools were starting up there.

“It was really about the experience and learning about the people living at the camp vs. at the actual protest.”

The documentary was shown at the Notre Dame Student Film Festival, but the project didn’t end there. The documentary also has been entered into the April 21-30 Riverside International Film Festival in Riverside, Calif.

“We are talking with our professor to apply for funding to go out there,” Lattimer said. “We are hoping to. We want to go out there. There is a (question and answer) panel they set up with all the directors and stuff and asked us to be on the panel, so we are really hoping (to go).”

The students applied to other film festivals but might not know the acceptance status until summer. To Lattimer, the  project has meant more than entering film festivals.

“One thing that really stuck with me out there is it didn’t seem to be just a fight about clean water,” she said. “It was also a fight just for recognition for Native American tribes and the treaties they had with the U.S. government. It seemed like they wanted people to know they were still relevant. They had been just ignored for so many years.”

The documentary is approximately 10 minutes long and can be viewed at

“Creating this documentary has made me a better filmmaker,” Lee stated in an email to Current. “This documentary pushed me well outside of my comfort zone, into an unfamiliar, and initially, frightening place. Going into the camp, we were warned that it would be difficult. We were told that many had entered the camps pretending to be Native Americans in order to do harm or stir up controversy. Because of this, many of them were hesitant to approach us and to trust us with their stories. Likewise, I was hesitant to approach them. However, we were lucky in that many of the people there were happy to talk. In fact, several came running up to us, showing us photos and telling us stories of the struggles and horrors that their people were facing. It was heartbreaking at times, but it also encouraged us to work hard to create a film that told their side of the story.”

Lattimer and Lee are working on a short fiction film through their advanced digital cinema production course.

Future Festivals

Erin Lattimer and Ryan Lee partnered to create a 10-minute documentary on the Native American tribes at the Dakota Access Pipeline. They are still waiting to hear back from eight film festivals to which they’ve applied to. The festivals include:

  • DocuWest Film Festival
  • Tulsa American Film Festival
  • San Pedro International Film Festival
  • Cine Las Americas International Film Festival
  • USA Film Festival
  • Illinifest Student Film Festival 2017
  • Student International Film Festival (STIFF) (Croatia)
  • Sunset Film Festival Los Angeles