Rick Schroder doesn't claim to be an expert on the plight of poverty-stricken Indians living on reservations. But the 34-year-old former TV star, writer and director of "Black Cloud," which opens Friday, did his best to learn about the society he features in his film.
"I learned a great deal about people culture working on 'Black Cloud,' " said Schroder, formerly the star of "Silver Spoons" and "NYPD Blue." "I didn't know there were 560 tribes. I didn't know about the challenges facing them. I didn't know a lot about them, but I learned quite a bit."
Funding for the film, about a tormented boxer trying to slug his way onto the U.S. Olympic team, came from partners, including three Indian tribes and 10 individual Indian investors. Schroder said he often relied on tribal members for input for the sake of authenticity. He studied the tradition of Navajo Reservation boxing. He hopes the recent emergence of Tucson's professional boxing scene will help fuel interest in the film.
The beginning of "Black Cloud" features a debate over the moral quandary of building casinos to generate needed revenue.
"I'm all for gaming for tribes, to help create an economic future," Schroder said. "The Navajos have just started gaming. I think it's a good thing when that the money is used to help education and build schools and infrastructure."
Schroder's stance on gaming is probably a good thing, because earlier this week, he visited Desert Diamond Casino for the movie premiere.