With all the sparkling evening gowns, oversized sunglasses and paparazzi of a Hollywood opening, “Cowboy Reckoning” premiered at the Roxy Twin in Hamilton Friday night.
But instead of a limo, cast and crew members rolled up in a mule-drawn wagon to make their way up the red carpet. Then, with cameras flashing, everyone was ushered into the theater to see the final product on the big screen.
“It was great to get the cast and crew together again,” Writer and Director John Nilles said. “When you are filming you become a family.”
After the film premier, another short film called “The Making of Cowboy Reckoning” rounded out the evening with a look behind the scenes.
Roxy Twin Theater owner Heather Green and Manager Dylan Pollard were instrumental in getting the film premier off the ground, said Nilles.
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“Dylan worked hard to make sure everything was right technically with projection and sound,” he said. “I can’t say enough about how helpful Dylan and Heather were.”
With a Montana cast and crew, “Cowboy Reckoning” was shot in the Bitterroot Valley and Bannack State Park.
“In order to film in Bannack we were told we had to get a one-million dollar insurance policy and so I thought we wouldn’t be able to shoot there,” Nilles said. “But it only cost $400 for the day.”
Nilles’ first film, “Little” premiered at the Roxy Theater in 2002. Shot with a 1955 Bell and Howell 16 mm camera, Nilles worked within a budget of $3,500, most of which was spent for film.
When filming “Little” Nilles said he was heavily influenced by Robert Rodriguez who made “El Mariachi” for $7,000 in the early 1990s. He admired the movie and read Rodriguez’ book about the making of that film.
“In the book, he (Rodriguez) said the only thing his movie was missing was a car explosion,” Nilles said. “So I blew up my own car for ‘Little.’”
It seems some things never change.
In “Cowboy Reckoning” Nilles had his car chopped up by an axe-wielding logger. He also ran a truck through an outhouse.
“Little” was originally scheduled to be filmed in three weeks, but it took three months.
This film was shot over three-and-a-half days with a budget of $9,000 using a rented camera and some sound equipment provided by Missoula Community Access Television.
During this new film, Nilles worked out of motor homes and even had a crew.
“It was kind of like a dream come true,” he said. “I don’t think I could give the cast and crew enough credit especially Becka and Mara.”
Along with acting parts in the movie and other duties, Becka Marshall and Mara Lynn Luther were co-producers of the film.
“It was so exciting to be part of someone’s vision,” Luther said during opening remarks at the premiere.
“Working with John - it was very professional,” Marshall added.
A modern-day western, “Cowboy Reckoning” is a proof-of-concept short film taking two scenes from a full-length screen play that pits two groups against each other in a feud that has been going on for a century.
Originally the plan was to shoot just two story-lines of the screen play in order to elicit backers for the entire film, but Nilles decided to put “Cowboy Reckoning” on the back burner and put forth his proposal for another screen play, “The New Pioneers.”
A feature-length film, “The New Pioneers” follows a small group of characters just prior to and during a major economic collapse.
“They move from their apartments in the city to the country to become self-sustaining,” Nilles said. “Set against the mountainous beauty of Montana, these young characters must find a way to survive on their own as humans have done for thousands of years before. It is a story of hope among the potential difficulties that lay just around the corner.”
It wouldn’t be like it was 200 years ago, but it would be a hybrid of those times and modern day, he added.
“It’s a very exciting proposal,” denise rose, casting assistant for “Cowboy Reckoning” said.
Nilles’ plan is to shoot for two weeks in late summer and then one week in October on “The New Pioneers” aiming for release in 2009.
“There are many talented people in the valley and Missoula and I’m hoping to really expand and include a lot of the community in this next project,” he said.
“Cowboy Reckoning” and “The Making of Cowboy Reckoning” will be at the Roxy Twin again this Saturday at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Tickets are $2. The film has a suggested rating of PG-13.
Reporter Georgia Kay can be reached at email@example.com or 363-3300.