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Film incentives have become the name of the game, but not everyone, it seems, is willing to stop there. Two years ago, Montana Film Commissioner Deny Staggs made a decision to take state support of production ventures to a whole new level.
Enter the Montana Department of Commerce’s Big Sky Film Grant (BSFG). The multi-tiered grant program that offers assistance in the development and sustainability of Montana production and media entities has allowed for innovation and leveraging of Montana-centric content on an unprecedented scale.
“The inspiration to create a grant program was centered in my desire to encourage more Montana-centric stories and production to occur in the state. The overall film industry has shifted away from location-based productions to business-based productions that look at incentives over location,” Staggs explained. “I wanted to reward productions that valued Montana as a location and a central element in the story.”
Partnering with leadership at both the Montana Department of Commerce and the Montana Office of Tourism, Staggs came to the conclusion that for the film grant to see success and offer the best opportunities to the Montana media community, the Montana Film Office needed a partner. It didn’t take long to decide on the most ubiquitous video platform in the world today: YouTube.
A swirl of commercial productions, amateur films, movie trailers, video game streams, and (of course) adorable cat videos, YouTube has become the leading source for Video on Demand in the world. With more than one in three people actively searching for video content on the site daily, Staggs knew he had found his platform.
Now with the Development Grant portion of the BSFG, content producers may apply to create Montana-centric, web-based video content for one of three channels hosted by producers in the state. From adventure videos on Epic Montana to the human interest pieces of the Montana Experience to the film-focused content of Reel West Montana, the BSFG is providing new, engaging content to fans of Montana around the world.
Staggs has seen projects such as a travel docu-series called ” Between the Parks,” which follows young Montanans as they trek from Yellowstone to Glacier, to completely immersive trans-media projects such as “The Orphan Girl,” a partnership with Headframe Spirits revolving around the ground swell of new innovation and pioneer spirit of Butte, America.
As YouTube stars such as Jenna Marbles and Hannah Hart begin translating their internet success into real-world (and multi-million dollar) production, it’s clear that YouTube’s power is beginning to redefine traditional media barriers.
But what of Montana? Is there room for the Big Sky State under that bright red banner? Staggs is far from worried. “The Montana Brand has a very high value. Consumers are really enamored with Montana’s authenticity and uniqueness.” He assures viewers, “Our Montana-based producers have the best vantage point of this and can look within their own circle to craft a great story.”