New workshops teaching film production to Montanans

By Dillon Kato

A new series of courses in Missoula aims to teach film production skills with the hope of growing the industry across the state.

Deny Staggs, film commissioner of the Montana Film Office, which is partnering with the Montana Film Academy at the Roxy Theater in Missoula for the workshops, has made part of its mission to grow and develop a media production skills in the state.

“We really think this concept of media manufacturing is the perfect fit for Montana. We see it growing and we want to provide more opportunities, and it’s a growth in a job that pays well,” Staggs said.

He cited the example of the recently released feature film “Cut Bank,” which despite its namesake was largely shot in Alberta, Canada. At a screening in the town the film is named for, the writer was asked why it wasn’t shot on scene.

“The two main reasons were tax incentive and workforce. They didn’t feel like they had a workforce to support a production of that size,” Staggs said.

He said the four weekend classes in the Production Intensive Series can be taken separately to learn specific skills or together for a well rounded picture of working in media.

The first session May 2-3 will feature production manager Allison Whitmer and 10 professional mentors from across the state who will lead participants through the daily work that happens on a set production. Attendees will learn how to correctly and safely handle equipment, all of the lingo used on a set, and how to keep a production shoot running smoothly.

Ingrid Lovitt, the development director for the Montana Film Academy at the Roxy Theater, said Montana author Sherman Alexie has provided the May intensive with an original script, and on one of the days the group will deconstruct a scene from it to learn how to stage and shot it.

“We have a surprise guest planned for each of the weekend courses of the intensive,” Lovitt said.

The Montana Film Academy project was started in 2005 to provide hands-on exercises for developing new skills in the media world.

The four weekend sessions of the intensive series will be held on May 2-3, June 27-28, Oct. 3-4 and Nov. 14-15. The cost of attending the Production Intensive Series is $150 for each weekend or $400 for all four. More information, including how to sign up, is available online at

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