Rusty, but functioning, antique tractors and a modern solar array frame Tom Tschida as he describes the unlikely way he became a rancher. “I’d been away working for a long time when [my parents] bought this place and started building it up. A few years ago I decided to quit my job and move back home,” Tom says of moving back to Montana to help his parents, Jerry and Carol Nash, run Nash Farms. After years of building a career as a photographer in Southern California, Tom found himself missing Montana. “I wanted to be around family. I wanted to be working with animals. I wanted to be playing in the dirt. So I came back to do all of that. It’s been great.” Continue reading…
There are so many winter experiences you can have in Yellowstone country, it was hard to narrow it down to just seven. I had a great time writing about the places I enjoy in this area. And researching this piece reminded me how many places I still have to hit.
I’m getting the feeling that this winter is going to be epic. Enjoy!
This road leading from the tiny town of Molt to the even tinier town of Rapelje offers views of five of Montana’s most spectacular mountain ranges. In addition to the Crazy Mountains, shown here, one can see the Pryor, Beartooth, Snowy, and Little Belt Ranges.
This road is just one of hundreds of Montana backroads. At first glance, these dirt roads look incredibly boring. Long, straight stretches between dilapidated towns with nothing but dirt for miles. As you begin to notice the details, however, you can start to piece together what life is like way out in the frontier. You may see a pickup truck spreading a giant bale of hay out for a hundred or so cattle. You’ll almost certainly see a weathered barn falling apart. And if you pull your car over to the side of the road to get some pictures, you’re likely to see a rancher pull up just to make sure you’re ok.
Bonus points to anyone who can tell me why there are boots on those fence posts (a common sight in Eastern Montana ranch country).
I TRY TO SPEND as much time on the road as possible, whether it’s going across the state to see family, or crossing state lines on an epic trek. There are a lot of reasons I’m attracted to long-distance travel. One of the best is that no matter what I might be worrying about, there’s nothing I can do about it while driving. This allows me to let go of a lot of stresses that I carry with me. It’s the letting go of the everyday that allows stories to come to me.
I’ve been toying with the idea of posting ideas that hit me on the road on my twitter feed with some kind of an #dailyidea hashtag. That didn’t happen when I went to the Wild and Scenic Film Festival last week, but I did want to share some of the places that served as inspiration while I was off gallivanting.
I’d never been on this highway before. Long and wide-open, Nevada has a sense of the Old West that competes with Montana’s. The National Cowboy Poetry Gathering was held in Elko a few days after I passed through. I’m already working on a screenplay set in the old west (kind of a departure for me), but I found myself thinking about famous cowboys and outlaws while driving through this wild landscape. As the dry landscape rolled by, my brain began constructing a bio-pic about Doc Holiday, the sickly dentist who fought along-side the Earp brothers at the OK Corral.
2. South Yuba River, Nevada City, California
I’m not sure who could walk this trail along the South Yuba River, and not be transported to another world. Soft ground beneath the feet muffle footfalls into silence. Trees seem to bend in overhead making a magical corridor. Then the trees part to reveal an almost other-worldly green river. This “enchanted” place inspired the film festival that I’m here to be a part of. Almost any magical story could be set here.
3. Ocean Park Motel, San Francisco, California
I hadn’t intended on continuing all the way to the coast when I started out on this trip, but that’s the great thing about travel: Sometimes you just end up places. And this Motel (San Francisco’s 1st) is a destination all its own. Ocean Park opened in 1937, and has been no stranger to drama over the years. According to the newspaper article reprinted by the motel, “In its early years the Ocean Park attracted the ‘hot sheets’ trade…” aka “trysting lovers”. I’m sure that each room could tell true stories that would make any plot I came up with seem bland. But that didn’t stop me from imagining a noir detective uncovering an insidious plot hatched in room #7 (or, perhaps, being uncovered by a gorgeous femme fatale.)
Anyone following this blog will know that it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything. About three years. A lot of changes have occurred in my creative life since then. By far, the biggest change, and the one that will be my focus here, has been my entry into the film industry.
It’s been a pretty natural transition throughout my different creative lives, from fiction, to travel writing, to travel video, and now back to fiction through screenplays.
Movies have always been important to me, and have served as inspiration for my writing. Back when I was writing fiction, I was constantly told that my stories read like movies, and that I should write screenplays. I always refused. What I loved about writing fiction (esp. science fiction at the time) was the world-building. I thought of screenplays as stripped-down shells for the directors to put their visions inside.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
It wasn’t until I read my first screenplay, a quirky love story called One Night in Seattle, that I realized the error of my nay-saying. The world in a screenplay is just as full, it’s just far more concise. (If that’s not a skill, I don’t know what is.)
With that little slice of backstory out of the way, this post is just to say that I’m back. This site is where I’m going to talk about my adventures as a screenwriter and filmmaker. I’m still in Billings, Montana, which is a long way from LA in every way imaginable. My focus will be on building a filmmaking community wherever you are, rather than chasing your dream to Hollywood or NYC. Also, I want to show that stories can be found anywhere. Not only do you not need to be in LA to be a screenwriter, but your stories are going to be more authentic and engaging if the places and people you’re writing about are right outside your window.
At least, that’s what I’m telling myself. I’m just getting started in this business. So, I’ll probably end up talking about my own attempts to “break in”. I’m sure that there will be successes and failures. Hopefully, those successes and failures will be entertaining and inspiring to people who hope, against all odds, to get their stories up on the big (or many small) screen(s).
WHEN I FIRST SAW “The Road from Karakol” at 5Point Film Festival, my brain had already been numbed by dozens of killer films about people radder than I could ever dream of being. A film about a superstar mountaineer who rides his bike through Kyrgyzstan to make first ascents? Sure, I’ll sit through that. I expected to see a remix of the usual, highly produced “I went there, and wasn’t sure if I was going to make it, but I did” movie that we’ve all seen so many times before. Visually stunning, but predictable.
What happened onscreen, however, was a shaky, handheld mess of footage, bad audio, and an opening scene of Kyle standing in front of the camera naked. From there, what unraveled in front of my eyes was a story that was deeper, more real, and more alive than anything I’d ever seen. [read more and see the film here]
*Update: Kyle Dempster passed away in a climbing accident in 2017. He was a nice guy and a true adventurer. I only met him once, but he welcomed me into his circle easily, as someone who grants friendship easily. I miss him, along with the rest of the adventure community.
It’s always a little disquieting to stumble upon something that you should have been a part of all along. It’s like wandering into a room and you find all of your friends having a party. It’s not that you were intentionally not-invited, it’s that you somehow missed all of the signs taped to every wall in your house.
Sure, it sucks that you weren’t at the party from the beginning, but now that you’re here, you might as well join in.
That’s how I felt when I fell into “The Dirtbag Diaries,” produced by Fitz Cahall. The worst part is that the signs for the party were basically taped to my forehead, and I still missed them! I’ve been following Fitz Cahall through his amazing collaboration with Bryan Smith on “The Season,” a web TV series following climbers, mountain bikers, snowboarders, etc through a season of trying to live the adventures they set out to complete.
Using the word ‘enamored’ to describe my feelings for both “The Season” and “The Dirtbag Diaries” would be drastic understatements. I’ve downloaded every podcast of “The Dirtbag Diaries” available and pretty much have it on an IV drip. You may think that it would be impossible to edit video footage of interviews while listening to Fitz telling amazing stories of adventurers, but somehow I manage.
Search itunes for “The Dirtbag Diaries” or check them out HERE.
Also, check out the beautifully narrated and filmed “The Love Letter.” You’ll be so glad you did.
Known lovingly as the “K-hole” by Missoulians, this tiny brewery features an even smaller taproom where you’ll find locals of all stripes downing Cold Smoke Scotch Ale.
They don’t serve food, but the intensely hoppy Double Haul will usher in the perfect ending to a day of fly fishing the Clark Fork (a mere 200 feet from the front door) or exploring Glacier National Park.