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Filmmaker Letter

Filmmaker Letter

Montana Story

by writers/directors David Siegel & Scott McGehee

Montana Story was written over three or four weeks in July 2020, by far the shortest incubation we’ve ever experienced for a feature script. It emerged from a period of anxiety, sadness and frustration that will always be unforgettable, and in some ways precious.

Until our first location scout in mid-September of that year, we had never set foot in the state of Montana. Like many, we spent the early days of the COVID lockdown escaping into fantasies of American cinema past: resplendent, fevered studio movies like Hud and Home from the Hill. We’d always wanted to make a western, and the Montana of our movie is its own kind of American fantasy, cooked up in isolation—and catalyzed by the sobering truths of our own time.

Despite the many restrictions placed on the production, we were able to make this movie with a close family of collaborators, including our longtime friend and director of photography, Giles Nuttgens, and our (literal and figurative) sister, Kelly McGehee, who did the production design. It was only fitting for a movie so steeped in the lore of family. During post-production we were fortunate to continue work with a wonderful editor, Isaaac Hagy, who operated from his desk in Los Angeles as we watched from ours in New York. We also discovered the music of Kevin Morby, which spoke so naturally to the cracked Western mirror of the movie.

For us, this film is about courage, and responsibility. And trust. The question of what we owe each other—what we can possibly expect of the people we love—and how to take account when those contracts are broken, whether between two people or between people and the land itself. In our imaginations, as we wrote, Montana was a kind of vision or myth, one of the most beautiful places we’d never been. And the reality of the place never let us down. We hope you find something equally stirring reflected back to you from our story.

Posted April 19, 2022

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