If you’re reading this and it’s warm and sunny outside, you might want to stop right here and continue later.
That’s because I want to tell you about a collection of one-minute films that attempt to capture various aspects of Montana, and you’re liable to think, as I did, “What’s the harm in watching a few one-minute films?”
Next thing you know, you’ll have blown a good portion of a beautiful afternoon staring at your computer screen. On the other hand, there are so many good short films here, and such a variety of Montana scenes, that you might not even mind.
The shorts are part of a “Real Montana” competition sponsored by the state Office of Tourism. By my count, the competition attracted 137 films in five categories, “Food and Beverage,” “Artists, Culture and Events,” “Montana Places,” “Outdoor Adventures” and “Wildlife and Scenery.”
Anybody can watch the videos and vote for their favorites once a day for the duration of the contest. Voting in the first round started last Tuesday and goes through April 21. The top two videos in each category will then go to the final round of voting, which will run April 22-29.
Prizes totaling $40,000 will be awarded during the competition and some films will be featured on the state travel website, VisitMT.com and in other tourism advertising.
I didn’t watch every entry, but I’m pretty sure my favorite is the simply titled “Montana,” by Colin Ruggiero, a time-lapse tour of the state. You’ll be amazed at how many stunning vistas, from the peaks of Glacier National Park to the badlands of Eastern Montana, Ruggiero manages to pack into one minute.
The funniest of the lot has to be “Montana in a Minute” by Andrew Porterfield. It intentionally tells you absolutely nothing about the state, with terrible animation and worse audio. What’s not to like? Another funny one is “How to wave ‘Hello’ in Montana,” referring to rural-road protocol of lifting an index finger off the steering wheel, contrasted with the very unMontana-like practice of waggling all the fingers on one hand.
An unintentionally humorous video is “Rarely Seen Wildife,” parts of which appear to have been filmed in the 1960s. The video even ends with a clip that will be familiar to anyone who used to watch television in Montana back in the dark ages.
In that distant age—and this is true, young people—there were only a few channels available, and they all signed off sometime at night, resuming early the next morning. One of the stations closed each broadcast day with a playing of the National Anthem, accompanied by footage that included a bald eagle swooping down and plucking a fish out of a river. That vignette is featured in this inexplicable entry.
Western Montana, as you might expect, is heavily represented here, but two good films from the southeastern corner of the state were produced by Eric White, one on Ekalaka and the other on Carter County.
Fort Peck Lake is captured in a beautiful video that will make you want to head up there pronto, and you might get a dose of travel fever from watching “Beartooth Highway: Opening day … worth the wait.”
Also from this area of the state are good videos on the Red Ants Pants Music Festival and the Red Lodge Ales brewery, and an exceptionally well done paean to downtown Billings, about which I have written before.
There’s one more Billings video, which might also have the longest title in the competition: “North to the Tasting Room for a Made in Montana Bloody Mary Bar.” It is a joint production of Trailhead Spirits on Montana Avenue—which provides the vodka and all the fixin’s—and the makers of Parker’s Hangover Tonic, which the folks at the Trailhead swear is the best Bloody Mary concentrate drink mix available.
Another interesting aspect of this competition is that it is hosted by Audience Awards, which, according to the Flathead Beacon, “is a Missoula-based business that provides a social media platform for videos, short films and other film-related projects.”
We don’t know whether the Montana Legislature will continue to support the state’s film industry, but the advent of Audience Awards, and the quality of so many of these shorts, should be enough to raise anyone’s hopes for the future of made-in-Montana movies.