From MovieMaker Magazine Winter 2016
Sarah Adina Smith reports to MovieMaker from the Inagural Montana Film Festival.
MISSOULA IS SO MUCH COOLER THAN YOU – The Montana Film Festival unites a fascinating town. I don’t know what I was expecting from the first annual Montana Film Festival. I knew Missoula would be at least a little cool. It’s a college town, after all-a liberal beacon in an otherwise conservative state. But I didn’t expect Missoula to be so brilliantly, creatively, genuinely cool. There’s a vibrant community of artist-philosophers there, many of whom came to Montana to step away from the hustle and focus their attention where it should be-on crafting a life.
It’s an educated, energetic place filled with independent thinkers. And there’s a delightful collection of wackos, too. I saw an 80-year old woman flying down Higgins Avenue on her bike wearing spandex and a sombrero. (I’ve lied in downtown L.A. for a decade, so I’m kind of a wacko connoisseur…Missoula’s were top notch).
At the opening night party, I met a people who had built an art commune in the wilderness and made an improv film in its belly. I met a lumberjack-ish fellow who transformed an old school bus into a psychedelic vision machine. And do you know what a “smoke jumper” is? I didn’t… but now I can tell you: These people jump out of airplanes to fight wildfires. Why has no one made a film about this yet?!
The fest was hosted by The Roxy, an art house theater with tons of character run by people who love films and make them, too. They’ve cultivated a community of film buffs, so films play for an audience hungry for challenging material. The reason MTFF was my favorite fest of the year was because I saw my favorite film of the year there-Krisha. So good. And seeing good films surrounded by good people is what it’s all supposed to be about, right?
By the time the fest wrapped up, I’d not only met new friends, but new collaborators. We ended up shooting my latest film, Buster’s Mal Heart, a few hours north of Missoula and many of the crew members we hired and the actors we cast were people we met at the festival. Sky Bennett, Kier Atherton, Kendra Mylenechuk, Lily Gladstone-just a few of the many Montana locals I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to work with. These artists, craftsmen and smoke jumpers are definitely, indisputably way cooler than I am. I feel very lucky.