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BUTTE – Skiing all 16 of Montana’s ski areas has long been a dream for Cory Birkenbuel. The thing is, he’s always wanted to do them at once, as in 16 resorts in 16 days. As of Monday, Birkenbuel reached his goal when he made turns at his home hill of Maverick Mountain west of Dillon.
“This has been quite the adventure,” the 33-year-old student at the University of Montana-Western and Dillon native said Friday from the slopes of Great Divide Ski Area near Helena. “It’s very emotional – and it’s awesome.”
Birkenbuel teamed up with Kevin Hilton, a Montana State University film student, to make the journey. Together the skiers are making a film about the adventure that they plan to take to festivals for skiing and mountain films. The project is dubbed “Montana’s Sweet 16” and is serving as an internship for Birkenbuel, who’s majoring in business. It started with his passion for skiing but it also took some planning. Last summer, Birkenbuel went to the Montana Ski Areas Association and pitched the plan and the owners of hills all agreed to give him free tickets. Friends pitched in, too, including the use of a vehicle to make the drive and other contributions.
From there Birkenbuel planned his route, beginning on New Year’s Day at Big Sky Resort. He mapped out a schedule to keep each evening’s drive to a minimum. His next stop was Moonlight Basin before heading east and hitting the hills counterclockwise. Birkenbuel said throughout the journey he’s experienced everything that makes Montana skiing special. That includes great mountains, quality snow despite a tough year and, most of all, friendly people.
Read a PDF of the full article by the Nick Gevock of the Montana Standard.
One of 10 finalists in Montana’s “Pitch the 406” contest will be the ultimate winner of a $20,000 production package to get his/her film made in Montana. Selected by viewer popularity, the top 10 finalists now go on to be judged by a panel of film-industry veterans, who will choose the ultimate contest winner. The Montana Film Office will name the winning filmmaker at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival later this month.
“The judges have a lot of quality film pitches to consider,” said Montana Film Commissioner Sten Iversen. “We’re thrilled that so many filmmakers found inspiration in our state’s one-of-a-kind places.”
The top 10 video pitches, proposed by filmmakers from across the country, tell the stories of Native American plights, ranch family sagas, child abductions and families facing death and hidden secrets—all of which pitch Montana as the best place to shoot their films. Through their video pitches, the top 10 screenwriters, directors and producers all make the case for using Montana’s locations and its ideal cinematographic qualities as the backdrop of their independent films, from Montana’s long summer “magic hour” to the natural beauty of the state’s plains, vistas, rivers and unblemished wilderness. The filmmakers also found inspiration in Montana’s authentic communities, including the eastern Montana agricultural town of Glendive, the college/mountain town of Bozeman and the working class neighborhoods of Great Falls. On the financial side, many of the filmmakers also credit Montana’s competitive incentives as a reason they are seeking to shoot in the state.
The Montana Film Office launched the “Pitch the 406” contest in September 2011, calling for interested filmmakers to submit a video pitch on why their project should be made in the Big Sky state. The winning filmmaker will be rewarded $20,000 in production equipment and services to shoot his/her project in Montana. To view the top 10 video pitches, visit http://scout406.com, and for more information on all Montana’s one-of-a-kind locations and the Studio 406 Incentive Package, visit the Montana Film Office online.
Read a PDF of the full article by Screen Magazine.
The actors bounced a few lines off each other as they prepared to shoot their next scene at the bar of the Silver Dollar Saloon in Uptown Butte.“Yeah, that will work,” Kelley Mattingly says as he sets up the camera.This is how the 28-year-old filmmaker wants his first feature film to be: loose and realistic.
“I don’t really have a script. It’s more of an outline,” Mattingly told The Montana Standard between takes Thursday afternoon. “I want it to be more spontaneous and improvised acting.”
The University of Montana graduate student is spending the next two weeks filming the full-length independent movie at locations around Butte. The Butte native’s project, titled “Hotel Finlen,” makes his hometown as much of a character in the film as the other actors.
Many of the scenes for the fictional story are being filmed at Butte’s historic Finlen Hotel, Silver Dollar Saloon and Gamer’s Cafe. Mattingly wants to show the gritty side of Butte, with its neon lights and wandering souls. The film also stars two former Butte residents who came in from Los Angeles where they work as professional actors. Brick Patrick plays the lead role of Sean — a self-destructive young man who works as a custodian at the Finlen.
Read a PDF of the full article by the John Grant Emeigh of the Montana Standard.
A group of Kalispell-based lumberjacks is one of six crews featured on the upcoming fifth season of “Ax Men,” a highly rated reality show on the History Channel. The new season begins airing on Jan. 8. A producer with the show said the crew from Siderius Logging would be introduced around the fifth episode in early February.
“We were really excited to go to Montana this year,” said Sarah Whalen, an executive producer with the show’s production company, Original Productions. “The style of logging is different than other areas. We knew it would be very dramatic and difficult logging … We wanted to see how the crews were able to handle their environment in that terrain.”
The Ax Men film crew followed the lively group from Siderius Logging for six weeks last fall as it harvested timber in the Swan Valley southeast of Flathead Lake. Dan Siderius started the logging excavation company three years ago, which presented an intriguing dynamic, Whalen said.
“Whenever you have a young company like that with a lot at stake it’s interesting to follow them,” she said.
The press release for the new season describes the group in a much more colorful manner.
“Still struggling to find its way, Siderius Logging is an outfit with a lot to prove and the egos to do it: over-talkative yarder operator Josh Fite, rigging slinger Travis Reynolds, hook tender Drew Koffler, and greenhorn Jesse Kelleher.”
Whalen said the show’s goal from the beginning has been to showcase the logging industry and its rich heritage by following crews in different regions across the country as they brave the dangers of harvesting timber.
“A lot of our shows focus on the blue-collar heroes,” she said. “This (show) is very much in line with the high-risk, high-reward programming that we do.”
Ax Men has become one of the most popular series for the History Channel and Original Productions, which currently has 14 series playing on seven channels, including the hit shows “Deadliest Catch” and “Ice Road Truckers.” Last season’s Ax Men was the highest rated yet, averaging 2.8 million total viewers. This season will feature logging companies across the country, from Washington to Florida and back to Montana. Ax Men has previously filmed in the state; Season 2 traveled to the Bitterroot and featured R&R Conner Aviation, which does helicopter logging.
Producers were searching for new rugged terrain to capture on film and Northwest Montana stood out as an obvious destination, Whalen said. Logging has a rich history in the Flathead Valley dating back to the first settlers and is still an important source of income for many businesses like Siderius. Producers typically find crews for upcoming seasons by cold calling businesses or organizations around the country. Someone recommended the local company and once staff members from Original Productions flew to Montana and met the Kalispell team, they knew they found what they were looking for, Whalen said.
“We were just crazy about the crew at Siderius,” she said. “The group of guys on the crew were young and very charismatic.”
Once producers decided Siderius was a perfect fit, they worked alongside the state’s film office going through the approval process with the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation to film on location. With “great” support from the governor’s office, the production was given the green light and the film crew was shipped to Bigfork where it stayed throughout production.
Read a PDF of the full article by the Dillon Tabish of the Flathead Beacon.