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Montana Film Office

Jun
30
2013
Press: June 2013

'Winter in the Blood' set photoBringing Hollywood to Montana

Selling Montana’s scenery is what Deny Staggs does best.

As film commissioner for the Montana Film Office, Staggs works hard at bringing filmmakers to the Big Sky state. Once they visit here, Montana usually makes the short-list for film locations, he said. Those of us lucky enough to live here already know that our famously wide, blue skies and snow-capped mountains are worth the cold winters, smoky summers and low wages.

Now Staggs and his crew can keep up with other rural states and countries that offer incentives and grants to lure filmmakers. In addition to tax incentives, the Montana Film Office is now offering the Big Sky Film Grant to resident filmmakers who shoot half of their film here using local crew and cast and national filmmakers who shoot 50 percent of the film here or spend $300,000 or more in Montana.

Grants range from $5 to $50,000. This is a boost for Montana because it brings jobs and a chance for our 15 minutes of fame — even if it’s just seeing Montana’s landscape on the big screen. I, for one, am excited to see shots of Montana Avenue, the bus station, and other sites around Billings in November when the film “Nebraska” opens wide. Now-retired jailer Dennis McCave plays a deputy in the film, and Billings actor Jayme Green and Billings woman Carissa Klarich also got some screen time. Lead actor Bruce Dern took home one of the most prestigious prizes at Cannes Film Festival this spring, the Best Actor Award for his work in “Nebraska.”

Staggs was in L.A. last weekend promoting the three-year grant at the Los Angeles Film Festival, which is where the Montana-made film, “Winter in the Blood,” was screened.

“We’ve been working really hard at getting our story out,” Staggs said. “We call it ultimate locations, ultimate results. The quality of their production goes up because our crews and services cost them less. So more of their money that is spent goes on the screen.”

Click here for a PDF of the full article by Jaci Webb of the Billings Gazette.


Dana Wheeler-Nicholson and Chaske Spencer (of Twilight Saga fame) star in Winter in the BloodWinter In The Blood
Filmmakers Alex and Andrew Smith return to Montana for their adaptation of James Welch’s novel about modern American Indian life.

Montana’s Hi-Line, a horizontal strip of speed traps, bars, and post offices, runs 650 miles through badlands and Missouri River country, tracking U.S. Highway 2 and the Great Northern rail bed from Glacier National Park to the North Dakota border. While at times picturesque, the landscape is often a lesson in sparseness, as Lily Gladstone can attest.

“It’s [a] very hollow feeling,” the Blackfeet/Nez Perce actor says, recalling her time in Chinook, Montana, in the north-central part of the state. “But also very beautiful.”

Gladstone was there to shoot her scenes in Winter in the Blood, a film based on the haunting novel by the same name, which premieres June 14 and 19 at the Los Angeles Film Festival. Written by celebrated Native American author and Montana native James Welch, the story is a semiautobiographical portrait of a wayward man who wanders the Hi-Line while trying to come to grips with a childhood ranching accident. Throughout, the man confronts characters like Gladstone’s, who are just like the landscape: hollow but beautiful. “It’s a perfect anal­ogy,” she says.

Since filming wrapped in January 2012, countless whiskey toasts have been raised in Montana to film­makers Alex and Andrew Smith for eschewing conventional wisdom and shooting the film on location in Chinook and Havre, Montana. In a state often frustrated by its one-­dimensional treatment as ­either a pastoral playground for Marlboro-smoking cowboys or a fishing escape for the well-heeled, the excitement is palpable that Winter in the Blood will tell America a truly Montanan story.

Click here for a PDF of the full article by Daniel Person of Cowboys & Indians Magazine. Photo by Ranchwater Films/Ken Billington.


Grants entice filming in Montana

Montana has always looked good on camera but recently local communities are beginning to see the film industry in the same light thanks to a new grant aimed at encouraging in-state productions.

“The economic impact is incredible,” Montana Film Commissioner Deny Staggs said. “We are talking jobs here.”

Created in partnership between the state film office and Department of Commerce, the Big Sky Film Grant provides cash incentives of up to $50,000 for qualifying projects. Staggs said the fund pulls money from the state tourism tax pool and puts it toward encouraging film productions to grace local communities with an influx of business and employment.

Ventures can range from small-scale senior thesis videos to major motion pictures, as long as they employ resident crews and shoot 50 percent of their principle photography in Montana. Stipulations also require that visiting projects spend over $300,000 in the state, a mark which big productions have no trouble meeting.

Staggs cited the recent movie “Jimmy Picard” starring Oscar-winning actor Benicio Del Toro, which dropped nearly $400,000 while filming around the towns of Browning and Cut Bank.

“That’s a lot of money in those communities,” Staggs said.

Click here for a PDF of the full article by Brett Berntsen for the Missoulian.


on the set of 'Winter in the Blood'L.A. Film Fest Review: ‘Winter In The Blood’

It’s been over a decade since twin brothers Alex and Andrew Smith’s film “The Slaughter Rule,” starring Ryan Gosling, debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in 2002, and their follow up film, “Winter in the Blood” returns them to their home state of Montana, this time focusing on a young and troubled Blackfoot Indian, Virgil First Raise (Chaske Spencer). Things aren’t going so well for Virgil— he’s developed a hell of a drinking habit (he wakes up in a ditch) and his wife Agnes (Julia Jones) has left him and taken his rifle and electric razor (probably to pawn for a drink). He lives on a ranch with his mother and grandmother, but he’s wayward, aimless, motivated only by where he might find his next drink and how he might get his father’s rifle back.

“Winter in the Blood” aligns the audience heavily with Virgil’s troubled mind, combining the present day with flashes of memory and his own alcohol-induced collapse and confusion of time. One stylistic device used throughout the film are dissolves that show Virgil’s passage through time and space, unifying the present and the memory together in the frame. During his benders, quick flashes of imagery from the night before, as he wakes up in a state of undress and unsure of where he is, perfectly recreate that process of remembering what happened last night. The film seeks to visualize his internal thought processes, so you’re never quite sure what is real and what isn’t because Virgil isn’t so sure of that himself.

Virgil is soon thrown off his original goal of getting back his wife, who seems to exist only in memory or fantasy, when he encounters a wacky, wild white man, played by David Morse and going only by the nickname of Airplane Man. Virgil’s encounters with Airplane Man have a Coen Brothers meets David Lynch sensibility, mixing bizarre characters, humor and surreality. For a moment, you may even wonder if Airplane Man is a figment of Virgil’s imagination, because we’ve been so steeped in the purgatory of real life and memory/fantasy. And Virgil isn’t the most reliable of perspectives to hang on to. Airplane Man gets him involved in a border crossing drug smuggling (possibly?) scheme. They’re also being pursued by two menacing suited characters straight out of “Mulholland Drive.” But Virgil, though hapless and incompetent most of the time, manages to wriggle his way out of the situation and into the fist of his romantic rival. It’s clear he’s seeking, something, anything, but he just isn’t sure just what.

The film is artfully and skillfully made, with stunningly gorgeous cinematography of Montana’s High Line, and pitch perfect, highly detailed ’60s era production design. The score is beautiful, evocative and moody, and the performances (particularly by the Native American actors) feel authentic and lived in. Where the film suffers, though, is in its storytelling.

Click here for a PDF of the full article by Katie Walsh of IndieWire.


on the set of 'Winter in the Blood'L.A. Film Fest: ‘Winter in the Blood’ depicts life on reservation

ilmmakers Alex and Andrew Smith were thrilled but stressed Thursday afternoon as the debut of their passion project, “Winter in the Blood,” about life on an Indian reservation, rapidly approached.

The Montana natives were close family friends with James Welch, the author of the novel on which the book was based, and sought to bring Welch’s words to life in the best way they knew how.

After filming on the Montana Hi-Line on a budget that they raised themselves by all manner of grass-roots fundraising — from readings and concerts to T-shirt sales and a Kickstarter campaign — the product of their toils, a tribute to Welch’s work, came to life.

“He [Welch] gave a unique perspective. No one had seen the first-hand dispatches from the front,” Andrew Smith said. “We wanted to try and capture that.”

The Smiths’ first film, the Sundance hit “The Slaughter Rule,” starring Ryan Gosling, was also shot on the Hi-Line, the northern part of Montana that is adjacent to U.S. Highway 2. Their mother, writer Annick Smith, co-edited (with William Kittredge) the renowned anthology of Montana writing “The Last Best Place.”

Though filming in Canada promised greater financial incentives, the Smiths were drawn to Montana, the novel’s setting.

“Montana just called us back,” Andrew said.

The film, based on the novel by Welch, tells the story of a nameless young Native American man who struggles with his heritage and his life. In the film, this character, Virgil, feels “as distant from myself as a hawk from the moon,” “Winter” is a story where not a lot happens but everything is revealed.

Click here for a PDF of the full article by Dana Ferguson of the LA Times. Photo by Patricia Williams/For the News.


Directed by brothers Alex and Andrew Smith, pic stars 'Twilight' thesp Chaske Spencer‘Winter in the Blood’ Makes Splash at Los Angeles Film Festival

The state of Montana touted its filmmaking prowess Friday at the Los Angeles Film Festival with the world premiere of ”Winter in the Blood,” from director brothers Alex and Andrew Smith.

Shot in 23 days in the northwest plains of the state, the adaptation of James Welch’s novel received $45,000 in grants from the state — or about 5% of its $1 million budget.

“We started working on this in 2007 and originally wanted to make it for $6 million but we had cut that in half and then cut it in half again and then half again and then cut some more,” Alex Smith reflected at the post-screening bash at White Rabbit Studios east of downtown.

“When we started, we were working on an assignment of adapting a not particularly good story — and ‘Winter in the Blood’ was what we really wanted to do, so we started cheating on the other one and this script really became our mistress,” he mused.

Click here for a PDF of the full article by Dave McNary of Variety .


Montana will pay you cash to make a movie here

The Montana Film Office is in the middle of an exciting run. Two films made in Montana premiered at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival last month and Winter in the Blood, the much-anticipated adaptation of James Welch’s classic novel, premieres today at the Los Angeles Film Festival.

So, how does Montana entice all those filmmakers to come to our neck of the woods? Cash.

The L.A. Times noted as much in a “Business Behind the Show” story that ran in advance of the Winter in the Blood screening.

It’s not enough to offer tax rebates and credits to lure filmmakers. Now Montana has joined a handful of states offering outright cash to get Hollywood’s attention.

In addition to breathtaking mountain scenery and pristine wilderness, Montana is touting its Big Sky Film Grant, which provides up to $1 million in cash per fiscal year to Montana-based film and TV productions.

The article goes on to explain that Montana offers the funding quicker than most other state rebates, and the cash grants supplement “an existing refundable tax credit of 9% on production-related expenditures in Montana and 14% on spending for local crew and talent.”

To be clear, this is an example of spending money to make money — or, more specifically, create jobs in the state. A film production requires tons of labor, from on-set to catering.

Click here for a PDF of the full article by Skylar Browning of the Missoula Independent.


David Morse and Chaske Spencer‘Winter in the Blood’
Movie adaptation of Welch novel debuts at film festival in LA

In many ways, the new film “Winter in the Blood” is a love story to Montana.

Based on a book written by a Montanan, adapted for the screen and filmed by twins from Montana, it features actors from the region and is shot exclusively in the state. The DVD may as well have a Made In Montana sticker included with it.

Montana movie buffs will have to wait a little longer to see the result, however, as folks in Los Angeles will get a first look at the Big Sky Country product. “Winter in the Blood” premieres this week at the Los Angeles Film Festival, and its creators, Alex and Andrew Smith, couldn’t be happier.

“It’s very exciting. I’m really proud and pleased to have the world premiere there,” said Alex in an interview with the Tribune from his home in Austin, Texas. “It’s nice to bring it back to Los Angeles. We made this one so outside of that arena that it’s nice to be able to merge our two worlds at one festival.

“This film is going to take its own path, different from other films we’ve made,” Andrew added. “This (festival) is a wonderful place to start that journey.”

Click here for a PDF of the full article from the Great Falls Tribune by Patrick Douglas. Photo by Kenneth Billington.


Set of Winter in the BloodMontana offers cash grants to lure more movie, TV shoots

It’s not enough to offer tax rebates and credits to lure filmmakers. Now Montana has joined a handful of states offering outright cash to get Hollywood’s attention.

In addition to breathtaking mountain scenery and pristine wilderness, Montana is touting its Big Sky Film Grant, which provides up to $1 million in cash per fiscal year to Montana-based film and TV productions.

The program, which launched earlier this year, targets feature-length films and television series that shoot at least 50% of principal photography in Montana.

Eligible projects receive funds 30 to 60 days after shooting wraps, far sooner than most traditional state film rebates and tax credit programs.

The cash grant supplements an existing refundable tax credit of 9% on production-related expenditures in Montana and 14% on spending for local crew and talent.

Over the years, the Big Sky State has drawn some high-profile movies, including “A River Runs Through it,” “The Horse Whisperer” and “Far and Away.” Now Montana is hungry for more.

“It is our goal with the Big Sky Film Grant to offer Montana’s one-of-a-kind places and production talent to filmmakers,” Montana Film Commissioner Deny Staggs said in a statement.

Click here for a PDF of the full article by Richard Verrierm of the LA Times.


Robert Redford photo by Jay MallinA River of Cash Runs Through It

While some states are debating whether they should have film tax incentives at all, others are starting to offer cold, hard cash to attract Hollywood production. Montana just joined the ranks of those offering cash benefits to filmmakers.

The state of Montana is now awarding the Big Sky Film Grant, which will provide up to $1 million in cash per fiscal year to Montana-based film and TV productions. In order to qualify, the feature film or TV show will have to shoot at least 50% of its principal photography in the state. Projects that qualify will receive funds 30 to 60 days after shooting concludes, which is a much faster time window than most state film rebates and tax credit programs.

A million dollars spread among several productions doesn’t amount to a lot by Hollywood standards, but the state is using it as added bait for its refundable tax credit of 9% on production-related expenditures and 14% rebate on spending on local crew and talent. The cash grants that can be used to pay back investors quickly are appealing to filmmakers who have antsy financiers looking to get a quick return in order to finance the film.

Click here for a PDF of the full article by Gina Hall of LA Biz. Photo by Jay Mallin.


photo by MICHAEL GALLACHER/Missoulian‘Mountain Men’ show helped Missoula production company expand

The growing crew of Warm Springs Productions will watch from a Rattlesnake Valley garage filled with burgers and beer Sunday when the History Channel debuts the second season of its hit reality series “Mountain Men.”

Millions of people tuned in last season when the show debuted, introducing the world to a set of appropriately grizzled self-proclaimed mountain men who live off the land, shooting arrows, hunting and skinning rattlesnakes or working their fields with horse-drawn plows.

Portions of the show put on display the marvels of the living off the grid in Big Sky country. One of the show’s stars is bull-rider-turned-hide-tanner Tom Oar of the Yaak Valley.

Season two will introduce Rich Lewis, a mountain lion hunter from the Ruby Valley who “always lived in the mountains and always had a gun in my hand.”

Behind the scenes of “Mountain Men” is a Montana-made production staff of Warms Springs.

The show is a breakout hit for Missoula-based company that was founded six years ago.

Click here for a PDF of the full article by Jenna Cederberg of the Missoulian. Photo by Michael Gallacher/Missoulian.

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Press_6-13_WeWereYoungMissoulian

Missoula animator seeks volunteer voices for WWI oral history

Andy Smetanka figures he’s about halfway done with the stop-motion animation on “And We Were Young,” his feature-length oral history of World War I.

Since he began work a year and a half ago, the Missoula silhouette artist has completed about 100 minutes of animation comprising about 120,000 shots.

For each of those shots, he positions a cutout silhouette over a colorful background, clicks the shutter on his 30-year-old Russian Super 8 camera, and repeats the process again. And again, and again.

It’s been a “long, dark night of animation” since November, he said.

But now he needs voices to narrate it. Mostly older voices that are scratchy, gravelly and reflective. He needs male voices, mostly, but women as well.

Click here for a PDF of the full article by Cory Walsh of the Missoulian. Photo by Andy Smetanka.

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Press_6-13_TangledTaleExploreBigSkyMontana made film is on a roll

BIG SKY – A Tangled Tale is an official selection for this year’s Annecy International Animation Film Festival, the most prestigious and longest running animation festival in the world. The short film will also screen at the Hamburg International Short Film Festival, Maui Film Festival and the Palm Springs International Shorts Fest, making June a very busy month for Big Sky-based director Corrie Francis Parks.

The film follows two fish hooked beneath the surface of a Montana river. As the two fish struggle, they realize that the very thing they are trying to escape is also what draws them together. The resulting romance is a tangled tale.

Parks, who will be traveling with the film to Europe, was recently awarded a Big Sky Festival Grant by the Montana Film Office to travel and promote the film at the festivals.

Click here for a PDF of the full article by Tallen of Explore Big Sky.

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Montana will pay you cash to make a movie here

The Montana Film Office is in the middle of an exciting run. Two films made in Montana premiered at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival last month and Winter in the Blood, the much-anticipated adaptation of James Welch’s classic novel, premieres today at the Los Angeles Film Festival.

So, how does Montana entice all those filmmakers to come to our neck of the woods? Cash.

The L.A. Times noted as much in a “Business Behind the Show” story that ran in advance of the Winter in the Blood screening.

“It’s not enough to offer tax rebates and credits to lure filmmakers. Now Montana has joined a handful of states offering outright cash to get Hollywood’s attention.

In addition to breathtaking mountain scenery and pristine wilderness, Montana is touting its Big Sky Film Grant, which provides up to $1 million in cash per fiscal year to Montana-based film and TV productions.”

Click here for a PDF of the full article by Skylar Browning of The Missoula Independent.

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Press_6-13_GrantLocationGuideMontana launches Big Sky Film Grant as extra location filming incentive

Montana has launched an extra location filming incentive in the form of its Big Sky Film Grant. Qualifying productions can get up to 20% of their local expenditure back in cash within as little as 30 days after principal photography wraps.

The new programme is designed to attract features and TV productions to Montana, and has a fund worth a million dollars a year for the next three years. Eligible projects will shoot at least half of principal photography in-state and will spend USD300,000 locally.

“It is our goal with the Montana Big Sky Film Grant to offer Montana’s one-of-a-kind places and production talent to filmmakers,” Montana Film Commissioner Deny Staggs explained.

Click here for a PDF of the full article by Nick Goudry of The Location Guide.

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New Grant for Montana Filmmakers

By Allison Molin

A new grant is now available for filmmakers in Montana.

The Montana Film Office announced its new grant today, the Big Sky Film Grant. This new program aims to attract in-state film projects that will also help boost Montana’s economy.

Several grants have already been awarded this year and have helped productions meet tight budgets, and employ in-state cast and crew. The Montana Film Office estimates the total economic impact of one production getting a grant was $90,000.

“What this allows us to do is support our resident filmmakers and nurture them, as well as entice and bring in more feature film projects to the state of Montana, helping the economy grow,” Montana Film Commissioner Deny Staggs says.

To qualify for the grant, the project must shoot at least 50% of its principal photography in Montana and employ resident cast and crew. Filmmakers who apply can receive up to $50,000. The Big Sky Film Grant is a three year program set to expire in 2016.

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Grant looks to draw filmmakers to Montana

HELENA – The Montana Film Office has launched a new program to attract more in-state film projects.

The Big Sky Film Grant gives cash to resident filmmakers shooting in Montana to help meet tight budgets and employ in-state cast and crew.

“The state provides the Big Sky Film Grant, and financial tax incentives, to help grow Montana’s economy by bringing in film and television and commercial production into the Big Sky,” explained Montana Film Commissioner Deny Staggs,

One of the films that has already benefited from the grant is “The Thin Line,” a feature-length comedy which was on location Whitefish in April and May.

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Press_6-13_FilmsKUFM_DenyStaggsMade in Montana movies getting international exposure

Montana’s film industry has had a busy couple of years, with three feature films produced in the state.

Two of the films – “Nebraska” and “Jimmy P.” – were shown at the Cannes film festival held in May. The third –“Winter in the Blood” – will premiere at the Los Angeles film festival this Friday.

Film Commissioner Deny Staggs sat down with News Director Sally Mauk to talk about those films – and Montana’s growing film and television industry.

Listen to the interview at kufm.org

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Press_6-13_FilmmakerMissoulianFilmmaker finds avenues to audiences

Paige Williams is an award-winning documentary filmmaker several times over, having taken two of her films – “From Place to Place” and “Mississippi Queen” – to more than 70 film festivals, where they won eight awards between them.

Williams, a transplant from Mississippi who founded Porch Productions in Missoula in 2006, is dedicated to telling people’s stories.

“Mississippi” tells Williams’ own story of a gay woman with devout Christian parents who founded an ex-gay ministry.

“Place” follows three Montana kids as they strive to find their way and voice after growing up in the foster care system. Their journeys lead them to Washington, D.C., where they inspire systematic change as they share their stories.

“What I really get off on is telling people’s stories. In whatever form I can tell them, I will,” Williams said.

Click here for a PDF of the full article by Jenna Cederberg of the Missoulian. Photo by Hannah Perkins.

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Press_6-13_DreamIsNowBillings-BobZellarSenior High school student featured in documentary about young undocumented immigrants

Jocelyn, a 17-year-old daughter of Mexican immigrants who settled in Billings 14 years ago, says she doesn’t like to think about the risk of deportation she and her family faces.

She is in the country legally, at least for the time being, but her parents, Sandra and Manuel, could be deported at any time.

“I try not to think about it,” Jocelyn said Wednesday, adding that her loved ones help her deal with the challenges she and her family face. “They know what’s going on, and it’s just a weight off my shoulders when I’m around them.”

Jocelyn, whose last name is being withheld to protect her family members’ identities, is among the young immigrants featured in “The Dream is Now,” a 30-minute documentary about challenges faced by young undocumented immigrants and their families.

Click here for the full article by Eddie Gregg of the Billings Gazette. Photo by Bob Zellar.