Montana’s stunning and varied landscapes are no stranger to Hollywood film cameras. The state has served as the backdrop for iconic features like “The Horse Whisperer,” “A River Runs Through It,” and more recently, last year’s “Walking Out.”
This July, the focus will turn once again to the Big Sky State.
Director Michael Polish and his wife, actress Kate Bosworth are launching a non-profit film school, the Montana Institute for the Arts, right here in the Flathead Valley.
In collaboration with Flathead Valley Community College, MIA will host a two-week, hands-on film workshop from July 9-20 in Kalispell. The institute will cap the course at 24 students and will accept applications up until June 1.
Bosworth, 35, has a long history in the industry with roles in films such as “Superman Returns” where she starred as Lois Lane, and “Blue Crush” where she took the lead as a competitive surfer. Polish, 47, is an independent filmmaker and director known for “Twin Falls Idaho” “Northfork” and “Jackpot.”
The couple were married in Phillipsburg, Montana in 2013 and have since collaborated on numerous projects, including their most recent venture, “Nona” a feature-film focusing on the sex trafficking industry in Central America.
“Between the two of us, Michael and I have accumulated over 40 years’ experience in filmmaking,” Bosworth said. “We look forward to bringing our knowledge of the arts to a place that is so special to us — Montana.”
While Bosworth has come to know and love the Big Sky State, it’s Polish who has Montana in his blood.
“We started out in the cattle business way back in the day,” Polish said of his ancestors.
His grandfather used to ranch near Dillon before relocating to Kalispell when cattle work became too much for his health. He resided in downtown Kalispell not far from the courthouse and even worked on the Hungry Horse Dam. Polish and Bosworth now own a home in Bigfork and split their time between the Flathead Valley and Los Angeles.
“It’s a really special place because I can’t get Kate out of that state when we’re there,” Polish said. “When she did ‘Horse Whisperer’ at a really young age Montana just burned into her and she just kept it.”
Also helping to get the school off the ground is Flathead County Sheriff’s Deputy Travis Bruyer. Bruyer, who also works in the film industry as a tactical and military consultant, connected with Bosworth and Polish through mutual friends and family.
He explained that the idea for the film school came out of a discussion about ways to help fund Montana-made films. Bruyer said that in addition to philanthropic efforts, they wanted to create a school that prioritized hands-on learning so graduates could enter the field with some experience under their belts, making them more desirable to employers.
“That’s the hardest part in almost any job is people taking a chance on you,” Bruyer said.
Through a combination of donors, sponsorships and fundraising the institute plans to raise funds they can then distribute to Montana-based art, film or theater projects.
“Art plays a very important part of our lives if we stop and take a look at it,” he added. “[Bosworth and Polish are] just so down to earth and they want to see things grow — I’m pretty lucky to be a part of that.”
Polish has a vision for the institute that goes far beyond the workshop format — he hopes to grow the school slowly and one day build an alternative campus — perhaps in a tricked-out barn in quintessential Montana fashion. Ultimately Polish wants the institute to bring multiple facets of the industry together in a single space — actors, music professionals and producers all under one roof.
“There’s no reason to build a typical campus. My biggest inspiration was watching how Steve Jobs and guys like [Walt] Disney had a very, very small idea and just kept its course,” Polish said. “The original barn that Disney built is still in Griffith Park.”
Inside that small red building is where the famed animated character Steamboat Willie, later renamed Mickey Mouse, was born.
“There’s not going to be a Disneyland in Montana but there’s going be a really good school,” he said.
For now, his focus is on the July workshop which will cover the film-making process from script to screen. In Moviemaking One on One, students will learn will screenwriting, directing, camerawork, editing, acting and sound.
While Polish and Bosworth will do the majority of the instructing, they’ll also bring in between five and seven industry professionals. Polish will teach filmmaking, while Bosworth can speak to the actor’s perspective, sharing stories of her own experiences auditioning and on set.
Polish is most looking forward to “seeing how we can inspire students to do something on their own and be OK living as artists doing their thing because it’s tough— to make movies is very, very difficult,” he said. “This first class will be really special.”
For more information about the Montana Institute for the Arts and to apply for the Moviemaking One on One workshop, visit www.go-mia.org.
Reporter Mackenzie Reiss may be reached at 758-4433 or firstname.lastname@example.org.