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Paya: The Water Story of the Paiute is a completed short documentary film currently in festivals and up for distribution. There is a book and a feature film currently in development associated with the property. It is a co-production between Her Pictures and USC Media Institute for Social Change.

Logline: Four Paiute recount the history of how they lost their water rights while uncovering sixty square miles of their ancient indigenous water networks still remnant in the landscape.

Synopsis: Paya tells the untold story of America’s longest lived water war between the Owens Valley Paiute and the city of Los Angeles. Using in-depth interviews, 2-d animation, archival footage and photography, Paya documents the history of the Owens Valley Paiute who constructed and managed sixty square miles of intricate irrigation systems for millennia, long before Los Angeles diverted the Owens River through the Los Angeles Aqueduct, 220 miles across the Mojave Desert. After the Indian War of 1863, surviving Paiute returned to the valley from the Eastern Sierra and White Mountains to find their ancient waterworks taken over by white settlers. Over 150-years later, the Paiute continue the fight to save their waterworks, which are remnant in the Owens Valley landscape. Using archival maps from 1856, the filmmakers spent four years working with Paiute elders to locate and map their remnant irrigation systems using GIS technology, ultimately laying the foundation for a ‘first use’ water rights case now underway. Paya is currently being used by the Owens Valley Paiute and the Native American and academic communities nationally to mobilize tribes. 

Social Issue(s): Native American sovereignty, water rights, indigenous water management, cultural representation, California water politics and history, environmental engineering, American memory, water wars

Filmmakers' diversity demographic(s): Female, First time documentary filmmakers, Native American filmmaker (Paya Returns), LGBT, African American animator

Target Audience(s): Native Americans, Scientists, Policymakers, Government leaders, Native American and American History enthusiasts, Eastern Sierra and Los Angeles residents, Water and environmental activists, 

Additional Projects in development based on this property:

Feature film titled Paya Returns directed by Jenna Cavelle & Kaleena Stone

Book titled Paya: The Water Story of the Paiute for Heyday Publishing

TRT: 36:23 minutes with credits


EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS: Leslie Chapman, Joan Dangerfield,

Gary Sommerstein

ASSOCIATE PRODUCERS: Ryan Christensen, Devin Kirschner, Jesse Archer

CINEMATOGRAPHY: Jenna Cavelle, Chris Morrow, Ryan Christensen

ANIMATION: Brian Vincent Rhodes

EDIT: Chris Morrow, Jenna Cavelle

SOUND: Chris Morrow, Derek Sepe

MUSIC: Obsidian Domes

SCORE: Eric Schroeder

Festivals: Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival, Red Nation Film Festival, Native Women In Film & Television Festival, Klamath Environmental Justice Film Festival

Academic curricula: Columbia Law School, Vermont Law School, University of Arizona Indigenous Peoples Law & Policy Program, University of California, Los Angeles, University of California, Berkeley, University of Southern California

Awards: “Best Documentary Short” Red Nation Film Festival

Copyright: Her Pictures, LLC 2015; Paya LLC 2015