There's nothing like a road trip. Get out on the highway, see new places, meet new people, maybe speed a little and enjoy the open road. We did just that in early May. Producer Brian Homman, Cinematographer Doug Hostetter, Writer Pete Fromm and I took off from Great Falls with the hopes of finding our locations. We drove all over the place. We found cool places and drank a beer or two in some run down little hole-in-the-wall joints. Like most road trips, stories start emerging and we learned a lot about each other. Pete always had the best stories. I can't even begin to share them with you here, but we laughed until our guts ached.
We quickly began to realize the real challenge of location scouting in Montana would be to keep our locations close together. It is very easy to find one spot to shoot, then find the next place 200 miles down the road and, you are still in the same county! We felt a little stumped. Nothing was either fitting the bill or with in a reasonable distance from Great Falls, our chosen base camp city.
Highlights of the trip: Stopping for Brian to make a call. He was working on a spot for Citibank. The agency producer had to talk to him right then so we pulled over and waited for him to finish the call. We had cell service, so he had to do it right there in the middle of the road some where between Coffee Creek and Stanford. The call seemed to take forever. Some fire was burning at the ad agency and Brian was trying to put it out. Pete, Doug and I waited on the side of the road killing time by throwing rocks at signs, posts or whatever was a challenging target. Pete, never exposed to silly production behavior before, asked if Brian's producer call was par for the course. Doug and I laughed. Yup. Get use to it, we said. Pete couldn't believe it, so he started hurtling rocks at Brian. Brian scrambled into the borrow pit and ran trying to miss a direct hit. We're still laughing at that one! Brian is still a little pissed.
The other "highlight" and now funny story is about Maggie. Maggie is my black lab. She's a real lover and probably likes road trips more than most people I know. She came along on this excursion and fit right in. At Pete's house, his boys immediatly took to her and loved playing ball in the back yard. On our first day of scouting, we had room in the car since Doug hadn't gotten to town yet, so Maggie came along. We had pulled off the road to survey a particularily stunning section of road just west of Hilger. The road stretched out for miles in the middle of a beautiful prairie like a black snake winding through fresh green grass. Maggie ran off into the pasture and explored. We took pictures and enjoyed the view. When it was time to load up, Maggie came running back with a big smile on her face and a stink that followed for miles. She'd found something dead to roll in. I tried cleaning her up. It was that or leave her behind 'cause the guys couldn't stand the stench of her in the car. As I cleaned the goo off by dragging her through the grass and pouring seltzer water (that's all we had for liquids) on her, it began to rain. And I don't mean some lame Seattle rain...this was full on Montana kick your ass rain and it came down hard. I got her fairly clean and off we went. Of course, the guys were laughing at me and my dog, but you could hardly help but laugh!
After two days, our location scouting was not going as successfully as we had hoped. Of course we had found some interesting locations, but nothing was reasonably close to make things effecient during the shoot. Brian had to leave and Doug and I had one more day to kill before heading back to Seattle. We made a big loop from Great Falls up to the highline, down to Valier and through Dupuyer. As we motored down State Highway 89, we were feeling frustrated. The right location had eluded us. Then, the town sign of Pendroy appeared. On the map, it was represented by a tiny dot...it must have something there! We pulled into the tiny town. It was perfect. We'd found our town for the first several scenes of the movie. It was desolate, right in the middle of wheat fields and it was close to other potential locations.
We stayed for awhile in Pendroy talking about where we'd shoot, blocking the scene and thinking about how it all will work. It finally felt like we were making progress and a whole lot closer to shooting the picture. As we stood there in Pendroy, one of the locals walked up to talk. Jim has lived in Pendroy for ahwile. He insisted we take a photo of him and his pets. He was hoping to submit his photo to the paper and get publised! I guess we are now just getting to know our new "neighbors!" Apparently, there are about 75 people or so that live there. We'd met one so far. I bet we meet the rest by the time we finish up shooting in Pendroy.