What about Montana inspired you to create your short?
I grew up in Western Montana, and what I love about it is that only minutes away from your front door you can literally be out in dense forest. My thought was to showcase one slice of that experience, and the Rattlesnake Valley really exemplifies what it feels like to be out in the forests of Western Montana. So, in order to showcase that experience I felt like it was important to tell a story – because otherwise you’re just showing pretty pictures, and to me the heart of filmmaking is storytelling. And I felt like a unique way to tell the story was to try to combine a place with an activity, and do that through my dog’s eyes. I love running on the trails of the Rattlesnake. But Otis REALLY loves it. This film was a way to show the beauty of Western Montana, and the joy of being out in nature; and I don’t know anyone who is happier doing that than Otis.
What other videos competing in Real Montana did you enjoy and why?
Obviously, those filmmakers who are currently in the final round all did amazing jobs with their films, and it was fun to see the wide range of experiences and techniques in storytelling. Of the films that didn’t make the final round, I really enjoyed “Weekend Coma” by Brian Powers. It told a story using some really nice visuals, and made me miss the winter (which is surprising, since I really am not a winter person). I also really liked “Anna” by Colin Ruggiero. Again, beautiful shooting, a great story – and a unique story. I thought Erin Schermele did a really nice job with “A Montana Love Story.” It was a very poetic film. The same can be said for “Montana Dreaming” by Jessica Mostad Szerwo. I know what it’s like to miss Montana, and this film really captured that mood. Finally, I really enjoyed seeing what some of the young (like, teenage!) filmmakers came up with, especially “Making the Moment” by Cameron Demars. He told a fun story – the kind of film you wish you were on the crew of. And, I might add, he taught us all a thing or two about marketing and getting your name out in front people.
What is your next project?
My next project is up in the air right now. It’s always been struggle with how to juggle work that pays the bills, with work that I’m passionate about pursuing personally. A lot of the time, I’ve let the “money” work take all my energy. But I’m trying to work towards creating a better balance in that regard. My company, BACKTRACK films, has a couple of projects we’ve been tossing around, but we need to commit to something and pursue it. It’s really a matter of how much time and energy (and money) you want to put into the next thing.
What do you plan to do with the prize money if you win?
I always try to give back through my filmmaking, and in this case I could have the ability to do so literally. If I were to win one of the top three prizes in this final round, I am planning to give a big chunk of it to an organization called One World Running, which provides running shoes to those in need. I’m lucky to have already won $2500, having won my category in round 1. But to have a chance at more is really amazing. Obviously, winning the top prize of $10,000 would also give BACKTRACK films the opportunity to more easily pursue the next film. And it would make some of our more ambitious ideas a little more plausible. This contest has been amazing in that the prizes are substantial, and I’m so grateful for that.
Watch Elgin Smith’s film “Montana Places: Rattlesnake Valley” and vote for it in the Real Montana Finals.
Follow Elgin Smith’s career at The Audience Awards.
The Audience Awards is film’s social network connecting audiences to films, filmmakers, film schools and film festivals. The Audience Awards hosts short film competitions where the audience chooses the best films.