CannesNothing makes the Montana Film Office prouder than seeing a Montana-shot project come to life on the big screen. Founded in 1946, Festival de Cannes brings films and filmmakers from all corners of the globe to Cannes, France for a week of film that crosses all genres. This year, two of the prestigious “official selections” came from Montana: Alexander Payne’s “Nebraska” and Arnaud Desplechin’s “Jimmy P.”

Traveling to represent the Big Sky State at the international debut of these great films were Deny Staggs, the Montana Film Commissioner, Alison Whitmer, a Montanan who served as the Unit Production Manager on “Jimmy P.”, along with the directors, cast members Benicio Del Toro and Misty Upham, and many more.

“We all know just how powerful Montana is visually on the big screen,” said Staggs. “But to see these films bring Montana to a world audience was just breathtaking. It really showed the kind of impact that Montana can bring to a film.”

Both films were well received by the Cannes audiences, with Bruce Dern winning the Palme d’Or award for best actor for his role as Woody Grant in “Nebraska” and “Jimmy P.” receiving a standing ovation lasting over ten minutes.

LAFFLos Angeles
Keeping the energy of Montana’s success abroad going, the MFO team dove right into the Los Angeles Film Festival at the LA Live! Convention Center. As one of the biggest independent film festivals in the country, the excitement and prestige surrounding LAFF is constantly palpable, and this year Montana was dead center of it all.

With Montana-shot film “Winter in the Blood” selected as one of only twelve films to compete in the narrative competition and MFO’s continued sponsorship of the film festival, Montana was the state to beat.

The selection of the film was a coup for the Montana-born directing duo, Alex and Andrew Smith. “Winter” was well-received by audiences and critics alike, with Kenneth Turan of the La Times commenting that the “sense of reality and storytelling coming together is especially strong.”

MFO also seized the opportunity to introduce Director of Commerce, Meg O’Leary, to the on-the-ground Montanans who work and live in Los Angeles. Between promoting the screenings of “Winter in the Blood”, Montana’s locations, and the new Big Sky Film Grant, MFO powered their way to the forefront of the buzz around the festival.

The office then returned to the LA Live! Convention Center for the AFCI Locations Tradeshow. Teaming up with film commissions from around the globe, the MFO crew made the best of the opportunity to really sell Montana face-to-face with the film industry. MFO staff met with filmmakers and producers looking to film in Montana and pitched them locations, crew, and production services only Montana can offer.


Iconic names spell out iconic shots
Featured LocationBig Timber. The Crazy Mountains. Sweet Grass County. Here where the waving grains of the Eastern Montana plains lap at the feet of the soaring Rocky Mountains, even the names of the places are iconic, like something out of a novel.

But the cinematic qualities of the vistas here aren’t fiction, they’re fact. Films large and small, including “The Horse Whisperer” and “A River Runs Through It,” shot here. Big Timber and the surrounding area have served as something of an auto showroom for the world. Ford, Dodge, Mercedes, Pontiac, and Suzuki have utilized the area’s valleys and roads to showcase cars and trucks of all sizes; add folks like Sprint, Remington Rifle, and Disneyland, and it seems like no one can resist the intersection of small-town charm and untamed wilderness.

In fact, you could say it’s easier to find Big Timber on the big screen than under Montana’s big sky. With a population of just over 1,600 people, Big Timber is easy to miss if you aren’t looking for it. But what it lacks in residents, it makes up for in vivid character.

"Films large and small, including “The Horse Whisperer” and “A River Runs Through It,” shot here. Big Timber and the surrounding area have served as something of an auto showroom for the world." Arrayed along a short main street of squat, brick buildings, Big Timber glints with the soft luster of an old penny under the sun. Fill it with ’23 Studebakers, and the town could pass for an early-20th century Western outpost. Roll a ’71 Buick Riviera down the drag, and suddenly it becomes a humble late-century hometown. A slice out of virtually any decade, the town hosts a mid-century soda fountain, a classic 1913 Carnegie Library and the old Wool House — a massive brick warehouse built back when Big Timber was the wool capital of the United States.

Venture in three directions from downtown and soon enough you will find yourself in the midst of the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness, a pristine swath of forest that blankets 944,000 acres and encompasses two towering mountain ranges. Out there, the star-speckled night sky can seem to swallow you whole, while daylight reveals natural wonders traced from dreams.

This is also an area known for its picturesque waterways. The Boulder River tumbles and froths out of the Absaroka Range, at one point cutting its own natural bridge out of solid limestone as it cascades into a crystalline pool. On the eastern edge of town, the Boulder merges with the legendary Yellowstone River. Numerous cobbled streams cut switchbacks through the surrounding mountains and countryside.
With so much beauty in one place, even the colorful names on the map ultimately fall short of encapsulating what you will find here. But where words fail, images prevail. Come find the Mountain West of your dreams on the other side of your lens.


From finding props to wrangling bull riders, no job is too odd for Billings filmmaker
Featured CrewIt was late 2012, and Anne Gauer was standing by as Oscar-winning director Alexander Payne prepped to shoot a scene for his new film, “Nebraska.” Everything was going fine, but something kept gnawing at the back of Gauer’s mind.

“I kept thinking, there’s a better place for this shot,” said Gauer, who had helped scout locations for the film. “So I suggested it, and he ended up changing course and filming there instead.”

At the new location, just before shooting the scene, Payne turned to Gauer. “He said, ‘This shot’s for you, Anne,’” Gauer recalls. “It was a pretty thrilling moment for me.”

"I love the pressure and adrenaline rush of putting together something that’s happening live, where you can’t get another take." Payne is known for keeping it real. His most famous films, among them “Sideways” and “The Descendants,” feature scenes shot in their actual settings, often with locals playing themselves. So it made sense that “Nebraska” — which follows a father and son on a trip from Billings to Nebraska — would come to Montana and employ Montanans.

But for Gauer and other Montanans — from seasoned film professionals to diner waitresses along the way — this wasn’t just about good-paying work. It was about helping a filmmaker make a great film.

“I think the whole crew was pleasantly surprised when they got here,” said Gauer, who served as assistant location coordinator for the Montana shoot. “They found good restaurants, good lodging and — most of all — really friendly people. Where else can you get a road closed in an hour? People really welcomed the crew with open arms.”

It helped that local film professionals like Gauer are used to filling multiple roles and problem-solving on the fly. As the co-owner of Spotlight Productions in Billings, Gauer officially bills herself as a writer/producer/director. But when she is out in the field working on commercials or educational videos for her Montana clients, Gauer often serves as everything from prop manager to film editor.

Thanks to her diverse experience and skills, she has worked on projects for ABC News, CNBC, The Weather Channel, America’s Most Wanted and others. She doesn’t only take big clients. She was recently honored by the YWCA of Billings for her work for area nonprofits including Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch Foundation, Girls Scouts, Boy Scouts, and Big Sky Senior Services.

As a side business, Gauer also manages the stage at live events such as Professional Bull Riders competitions, "Antiques Roadshow" and the NBA when they come to Billings.

“I love the pressure and adrenaline rush of putting together something that’s happening live, where you can’t get another take,” she says.

If it sounds like a fractured way to make a living, Gauer wouldn’t have it any other way. “When you live in Montana, you really need to wear many hats,” she said. “I love adventure and love to learn new things, so it’s a perfect business for me.”


Recent projects generate a TOTAL Economic Impact of $1,754,250.
Note: Total economic impact numbers are based on the dollars generated from the in-state spend a production generates while filming and factored with a 1.5 rollover within Montana’s economy.


Total Economic Impact: $30,000
Subterranea Filming Dates: 5/22 – 6/11
MT Crew Hired: 2
Local Extras / Cast: 8 + numerous extras
MT Service Providers: 2
Film Locations: Missoula area, Daly Mansion, Glacier National Park, Milltown Dam area.

SUMMARY: Subterranea is the story of man who, held captive his whole life, never seeing the light of day or another human being, is released into society for the first time as an adult. Through his journey of discovery and revenge, the film focuses heavily on morality and true human nature. Filmmaker Mat Miller was inspired by the prog rock band IQ’s concept album of the same name. “My aim with this project,” writes Miller, “is to bring more and more attention to Missoula as an artistic community so that we can continue to grow and compete with other burgeoning film cities and towns.” Miller and the production team have done this by hiring in-state crew such as Filmlites MT, Wise Foley Entertainment, and actors Lily Gladstone, Russ Gay, Willie Brown, Tashia Gates and more. In addition to in-state cast, the film will also feature such stars as Bug Hall, William Katt and Nicholas Turturro. For more information on the film and the team behind it visit

The Thin Line

The Thin LineTotal Economic Impact: $135,000
Filming Dates: 4/22 – 5/10
Crew Hired: 10
Local Extras / Cast: Numerous
MT Service Providers: 3
Film Locations: Whitefish

SUMMARY: Billing itself as an “unromantic” comedy from the minds of Neil and Eldon Thompson, the Whitefish-shot picture focuses on the life of a coffee shop employee, Jessica, as she attempts to find a new start in a mountain resort. It follows her and her fellow employees as they navigate life in a tale of optimism, misanthropy and humor. Starring Neva McIntosh, Jamie Elman, Lily Gladstone, Erica Ibsen and a host of Montana extras, the film completed principle photography on May 10th. The film worked with multiple service providers in the Whitefish area, including DePratu Ford, whose vehicles are featured in the film and NPI for their payroll and set financial services.

Bella Vista (update)

Total Economic Impact: $46,500
Bella Vista Filming Dates: 2/1 – 2/4; 3/29 – 4/9
Crew Hired: 12
Local Extras / Cast: 71
MT Service Providers: 19
Film Locations: Missoula, Flathead Indian Reservation

SUMMARY: “Bella Vista” is a dramatic feature-length film telling the story of a newcomer to Missoula whose life is at a crossroads. “Bella Vista” takes its title from the name given to the Missoula Valley by Italians interned there during World War II. The film uses the local landscape as a character and centers around displacement — individual and historic. The first stage of production was completed in February. The film used Montana crew and talent as well as many service providers in the Missoula area. Besides the film’s lead actor, Kathleen Wise, who hails from Brooklyn, NY, the production company also had nine international students from The University of Montana (UM) who played roles in the film. The film crew included professionals as well as graduate students in UM’s Media Arts Program. The second half of shooting wrapped in April in the Mission Valley and Polson areas. Visit for more information.

Cowboys v. Dinosaurs

Syfy Total Economic Impact: $412,500
Filming Dates: 5/28 - 6/16
Crew Hired: 13+
Film Locations: Livingston, Paradise Valley, Butte, Montana State Prison

SUMMARY: From open-pit to strip to hard and soft-rock, the mining industry has faced plenty of challenges, but this summer they get to face something new: dinosaurs! Late this spring the Syfy Channel chose the jagged peaks and iconic towns of Montana to film their newest original movie “Cowboys v. Dinosaurs.” In the film, a group of miners accidentally blasts through the wrong wall and unleashes a prehistoric fury that can only be stopped by a few rough and worldly cowboys. Syfy teamed up with Montana cast and crew and shot all over southern Montana, including the Montana State Prison, the M&M bar in Butte, and downtown Livingston. Keep up with the Montana Film Office’s Buzz page and Facebook for the release date!

HGTV House Hunters

HGTVTotal Economic Impact: $5,250
Filming Dates: 6/22 - 6/24
Crew Hired: 2
Film Locations: Helena

SUMMARY: HGTV series “House Hunters” has been around the world helping enterprising couples find their dream home. This season there’s a chance a couple could decide to make their dream a reality under the Big Sky. In early June, the HGTV team met up with two local crew members and filmed a home in Helena for an episode to be aired later. The team spent two days filming a spacious home just outside of Helena’s capitol neighborhood and then wrapped up with some Capital City hospitality at a local bowling alley.

Chevy Truck Commercial

ChevyTotal Economic Impact: $1,125,000
Filming Dates: 5/16 - 6/1
Crew Hired: 45
Film Locations: Bozeman, Cooke City, Rock Creek area

SUMMARY: After the success of the ubiquitous GMC commercial that blew away Super Bowl viewers, it’s no surprise another company looked to capture that signature Montana character. Chevy Trucks spent nine days around the Treasure State shooting rugged Montana locales. With a team of ninety people, many of them Montanans, Chevy used the Bozeman, Cooke City and Rock Creek areas to their full potential. Airing in late summer, the Chevy commercial will once again put the Montana’s ultimate locations on the national stage.


Winter in the Blood After two years of labor, the Montana-shot film “Winter in the Blood” made its world premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival and then came home to the screens of Missoula. Check out some of the media highlights of the film’s journey:

Montana Film Office Annouces Montana Premiere of “Winter in the Blood”
Deep thaw From book to screen, Winter in the Blood finds its way home
“Winter in the Blood” film a labor of love for Native American actors
Cowboys & Indians - "Winter in the Blood"
L.A. Film Fest: "Winter in the Blood" depicts life on reservation
Explore Big Sky - "Winter in the Blood"
LA Film Fest 2013 Review: WINTER IN THE BLOOD Captures The True Western Spirit