The Santa Clarita International Film Festival is thrilled to announce a STELLAR line up to kick off the festival and define its voice and mission.

Thursday Dec 8th @ Laemmle Theater


Inspired by real events, ON SACRED GROUND follows Dan, a war vet journalist who suffers from PTSD, during what becomes the spiritual transformation of a lifetime. Dan is hired to go to North Dakota and cover a confrontation around an oil pipeline that is being built at the Standing Rock Native American Reservation. Dan soon finds himself in between two worlds: the world of the pipeline company and the world of the indigenous people whose land the pipeline crosses. As the confrontation builds and battle lines are drawn, Dan is forced to make a series of impossible choices that will alter his life and the future of America itself.

Opening Night – Directors

Josh and Rebecca Tickell are a multi-award-winning filmmaking couple who specialize in films with environmental themes including FUEL, THE BIG FIX, PUMP, and GOOD FORTUNE and the recent hit Netflix film, KISS THE GROUND (with Woody Harrelson). ON SACRED GROUND is their debut scripted film.

Director Statement

In 2014 Chief Arvol Looking Horse, keeper of the sacred bundle for the Lakota, Nakota and Dakota peoples, visited our home in Ojai, California. During a profound retelling of the history of his people that stretched from the beginning of time through trials and tribulations until modern day, he told us of a Lakota prophecy which would soon change the course of our lives and the lives of many others.

Chief Arvol explained that for generations, the Lakota people have spoken of a series of events that, if they came to pass, would indicate the beginning of a dark time for humanity. Sometimes called “the prophecy of the black snake,” Arvol described it simply by saying, “when the black snake crosses the land, a time of great troubles will begin.”

Two years after our first encounter with Chief Arvol, a protest began at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation over a massive cross-continent oil pipeline called the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). To many indigenous people, this pipeline represented the black snake that had been predicted in their prophecy.

We made ON SACRED GROUND partly to try to tease apart why, despite numerous legal, ecological and ethical arguments against it, the Dakota Access Pipeline was successfully completed. On a deeper level, there was a very difficult to capture clash of racial, ecological and cultural issues that for the first time in our nation’s history were laid bare at Standing Rock.

Standing Rock/DAPL was a fight between that which is socially acceptable and that which is morally right. It is also a fight that is not over. This is the core conflict that Dan, the main character of ON SACRED GROUND faces. He must choose between following his social conditioning versus following a group of Native Americans who are fighting for sovereignty, dignity, and justice. The implications of which side Dan takes (and which side our country ultimately takes) are vast.

As predicted by Lakota prophecy, we now live in the “time of great troubles.” The moment when oil began flowing through “the black snake” in late 2016 is a line of demarcation in our country’s history.

Josh and Rebecca Tickell
Ojai, California

Opening Night – Host & Emcee

Kermet Apio was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii and moved to Seattle, Washington to attend college. He has lived there ever since. Comedy began for Kermet at an open mike night in Seattle in 1989. Nearly two years later, he decided to make the leap to full time comedy. Kermet has been invited to showcase at comedy festivals in Aspen, Las Vegas, Grand Rapids and Vancouver. He was the 2009 winner of the Great American Comedy Festival in Norfolk, Nebraska, a national competition held in Johnny Carson’s hometown. He has appeared on television and radio, with over 40 appearances on “Rewind,” a show heard on NPR. Kermet Apio has performed in 47 US states, 7 Canadian provinces, as well as Hong Kong, Israel, and Pakistan. He has also entertained at military bases tours in Qatar, Bahrain, and Jordan.

He has appeared on television shows such as “Star Search”, “Evening at the Improv” and “Comedy Showcase with Louie Anderson.” He has his own special on Dry Bar Comedy and can be heard regularly on Sirius/XM satellite radio. He is a past winner of both the Seattle Comedy Competition and the Great American Comedy Festival. He has showcased at comedy festivals in Aspen, Vancouver, Grand Rapids, Boise, and Las Vegas.


A familiar face in the community, Santa Clarita resident Kelly Packard Privett is also a familiar face on our viewing screens. She is best known for her roles as Tiffani Smith on “California Dreams”, April Giminski on “Baywatch” and her numerous hosting roles, including “Ripley’s Believe It or Not.” Kelly is married and has four children with Emergency Medicine physician, Dr. Darrin Privett, of the Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital. When she isn’t busy acting and he isn’t busy saving lives, chances are you can catch them at a Hart High School football game.