“Real Montana” filmmakers and the Big Sky State make their Global Debut

May 6, 2015

Last month the Montana Office of Tourism sponsored its first “Real Montana” competition, a one-minute video competition showcasing the Big Sky State’s natural beauty and rich culture. The online competition hosted by The Audience Awards produced 140 video entries that generated more than a half million views and 8 million social impressions around the globe.

Jeri Duran, the Division Administrator of the Montana Office of Tourism commented “Both the PR and the content exceeded my expectation. It was a great collaboration.” Montana Film Commissioner, Denny Staggs, added “Partnering with The Audience Awards was a great way to place our instate filmmakers in front of a huge audience and showcase their talents to those seeking inspiration to visit Montana from around the world.” Winning filmmakers Colin Ruggiero and Abbey Nelson are also celebrating the success of the competition which presented their videography of Montana’s iconic landscape to the world.

Colin, where did you shoot your film, Montana?

Ruggiero: I shot the film all over Montana.  One of the things I tried to do was include footage of many of the diverse landscapes and regions in Montana and not just the iconic mountains in the west.  Much of the footage came from Southeastern Montana near Rosebud County and Otter Creek.

Abbey, where did you shoot Montana: Defying Expectations?

Nelson: I shot my film in a variety of locations all surrounding the Bozeman area and the Gallatin Valley, including at Hyalite Reservoir, the Bridger Mountains, the Gallatin Canyon and skydiving at Three Forks Airport.

What about these locations inspired the creation?

Ruggiero: So many things about the state inspire me. Not just the epic landscapes but the wildness of those landscapes and the fact that we still have relatively intact ecosystems with predators and large herds of ungulates. I like that the state is sparsely populated and that human achievement is not the only thing here to celebrate.

I would also like to add that the music was an original piece by Matthew Marsolek.  People often undervalue music in filmmaking but it’s a critical part of what gives any film its emotional impact.  Rather than use a standard length song of some sort and just fade it out at the end, I wanted to use something that was custom made for a short film and would begin, climax and end in one minute.  Matthew is a very talented musician who has been composing for a long time and lately has started doing some composing for film.  He has a small library of original music available for license and he does original scoring as well.  I really hope he gets some recognition through this as well and that the Montana film community realizes what a great resource he is for film music.  Check out his website, here.


Colin Ruggiero shooting “Montana”

Nelson: I wouldn’t say the locations themselves inspired anything in particular, rather that they were just convenient to where I live. I’ve grown up in Bozeman and these areas have always been my backyard (in the case of the horse scenes, my literal backyard), so I felt comfortable going out and exploring them and filming all of the different sports and activities you see. Hyalite has always been one of my favorite places to go in the summertime, but for this video I got to experience it in the winter with its world famous ice climbs and the beautiful stars that shine over the lake.

Colin, How long did it take you to capture these time-lapse shots?

Ruggiero: It probably took me a total of a few months to capture these different time-lapses and then many more weeks to process them. It’s a pretty time-intensive post production process but worth it when you see the final result.

Abbey, how does it feel to have won $6000?

Abbey Nelson

Real Montana 2nd place winner Abbey Nelson

Nelson: It feels pretty fantastic to come away with this much money! It’s not often that you can actually make a profit off of a personal project like this. It feels great to be rewarded for doing something I love and showing off how amazing Montana really is.

Colin, how does it feel to have won $12,500 for your film work on The Audience Awards’ Real Montana Competition?

Ruggiero: Of course it feels good to win some money! Documentary filmmaking isn’t something you get into for the big paychecks so it’s nice to be in the green once in a random while.

What are you doing with the money?

Nelson: I am planning on updating my camera gear and audio gear by upgrading to the Nikon D750 as well as buying some wireless lavaliere microphones.

Ruggiero: The money, like pretty much all of my money, will just go back into more filmmaking.  The equipment required for this stuff is very expensive and changes rapidly so keeping up requires a lot of investment in new gear.  And there is a long list of other expenses on any production as well.  And then I guess you have to keep eating to make films so that has to factor in somewhere too.

What is your next project?

Nelson: I stay busy with my job with at Montana State University doing a variety of different video promotions and news stories for them. However, my next personal project is a new documentary looking at science education and inspiration in America. My video What is Physics- Inspiration, illustrates the power that science and technology have in our society today as well as the problem of building a culture of adults who remain ignorant of both. My documentary will take a more in-depth look at some of these issues and why it is important to have a dream to aspire to.

Ruggiero: No project is a guaranteed thing in this biz so you usually have several different irons in the fire at any given time.  I’m still working on promoting, Exuma, my recent film about the Bahamas as well as doing several shorter projects for conservation organizations.  I’m hoping to start a more ambitious project this year as well that will take a closer look at the impact our lives have on the other life on the planet and how that is reflected in our attitudes about killing other animals for food and how we conceive of our place in the world.  I don’t want to get into the details of the narrative but in general terms it will focus on how we make sense of life and death and will explore the modern disconnect our culture has from the realities that underpin our lives.


Considering Real Montana’s success, would you like to say a few words about the importance of this for your film career and for the state of Montana?

Ruggiero: I think the competition definitely brought more attention to my film work and was a positive thing for me, as well as for the state of Montana. I’m always torn about playing any part in raising awareness about Montana or any special place- humans tend to do a pretty good job of ruining those places once they find them. But my hope is that calling attention to these places can also serve as a call to action to protect what’s left. I think Montana is one of the best states in the country and that measure is directly proportionate to the amount of it that remains undeveloped. I hope it will stay that way.

Real Montana videos can still be viewed on The Audience Awards.

Continue to follow Colin Ruggiero and Abbey Nelson‘s careers on 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.


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