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'Winter' showings extended, directors speak at reception


February 4, 2014

Lindsay Brown

Andrew Smith, left, and Alex Smith, directors of "Winter in the Blood," chat with members of the public during Monday evening's reception at the Old Post Office.

The two days "Winter in the Blood" was shown at the Cottonwood Cinema 4 were so popular, it was decided to extend the showings into next week, Andrew Smith announced at the reception at the Old Post Office.

Alex and Andrew Smith talked to actors and community members who came to the reception at the Old Post Office Monday night. Many involved with the production of the film attended the reception, and people got the chance to talk to them face-to-face after seeing them and their work on the big screen.

Alex Smith said he enjoyed making the film on the Hi-Line.

"It was amazing working up here," Smith said. "We had the best time."

Smith said there were many tax incentives to shoot the film in Canada, but he and his brother made the decision to shoot on the Hi-Line to get the actual places from the novel and because they thought they would make up for the money they would save in Canada through in-kind cooperation from the Hi-Line.

"Shooting it where the book came from made it work," Smith said.

Smith said the reason he and Andrew chose this novel was because "it haunted us for 35 years."

They both read the novel in high school and had the chance to become acquainted with the author, James Welch, a former professor at University of Montana. Welch died in 2003.

"It was about time for his work to be translated to the big screen," Alex Smith said. He added that part of the reason they chose the novel was because very few Native American authors have their work made into movies.

Smith said if he could change anything about the way they shot the film, he would have started shooting on time instead of a week early, in order not to rush through the production.

"I think I would have also shot more scenes with the kids," Smith said. "They had a lot of energy."

This is the Smith brothers' second feature film. The first, "The Slaughter Rule," is another Montana-based film released in 2002, starring Ryan Gosling and David Morse, who is also in "Winter in the Blood." "The Slaughter Rule" is available on Netflix.

"We love bringing the film back home, and we appreciate everyone's patience," Alex Smith said.

Alex Escarega, who played young Virgil First Raise, said filming the movie was pretty exciting.

Escarega said the movie was hard work for two weeks, during which he did not get much sleep. "Winter in the Blood" was his first time acting in either film or theater.

"(The directors) are pretty cool," Escarega said. "I auditioned with Alex and did some scenes from the movie."

Escarega is from Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation and auditioned for the role at Montana State University.

"I was nervous to see the movie," Escarega said. "It was a little embarrassing, but it was cool."

Lindsay Brown

Alex Escarega, who portrays young Virgil First Raise, chats during Monday evening's "Winter in the Blood" reception at the Old Post Office.

Charles Gallus, an extra in the film and a Havre resident, said making the movie was pretty cool, but a lot of work

Gallus said the two days he was on set, he worked eight-hour shifts on two sets, at the Lodge Tavern and the Mint in Chinook.

"Each scene was 40 to 50 takes," Gallus said. "(The directors) wanted it to look as good as it possibly could."

Bill Thackeray was also an extra in the film, but was also listed as a consultant in the credits. He helped the Smiths with the script for accuracy and also showed them the locations from the novel.

Thackeray has written many articles on James Welch's novels and was a friend of the author before he died.

"He was very quiet-spoken, but witty," Thackeray said.

Cottonwood Cinema 4 decided to extend the running time of the movie into next week, with showings every day from Feb. 7 to 13 at 7 and 9:20 p.m.


Reader Comments

Carol Stiffarm writes:

Awesome movie....it was nice to see local spots in the movie. I thought all the local actors should be commended for a very good performance. Including my grandson Tuarie Stiffarm-Rosette who played the youngest Virgil. He is an enrolled member of the Chippewa-Cree Tribe. At the time of filming Tuarie was only 4 years old.


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