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David Siegel & Scott McGehee Interview: Montana Story

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Writer-director duo David Siegel and Scott McGhee tell a moving family story in their new drama Montana Story, which can now be seen in theaters. Focusing on a pair of estranged siblings at a critical juncture in their lives and their family, Montana Story dealt with some geographically-based challenges in the making of the film. In the end, these proved worthwhile in adding to its story and countryside cinematography.

In Montana Story,  Erin (Haley Lu Richardson) and Cal (Owen Teague) each return to their family’s Montana ranch when their father falls gravely ill. While the two have been estranged for a long time, they reach very different conclusions on what to do with their horse, whom Cal has decided to put down. Rather than see that happen, Erin elects to bring him back to New York.

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We speak to Scott McGhee and David Siegel on the making of Montana Story and some of the challenges the pair faced in bringing the film and its breathtaking North-Western scenery to life.

Screen Rant: With the experience of making Montana Story, what was the most memorable aspect of making the film for each of you?

Scott McGhee: The most memorable aspect?

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David Siegel: Positive or negative? (laughs) It was an amazing experience. We got hit by some crazy weather, some really historically bad….

Scott McGhee: Montana weather.

David Siegel: Montana weather, and weather that we weren’t really expecting, because we started shooting in the middle of October. And that, I was making a joke about that that it was really, really difficult to have to deal with that and rejigger the schedule, because our story only takes place over the course of four days, so the snow kind of either has to work or not work. So, we kind of figured it out, but it was a real challenge to deal with the weather. But it was very rewarding dealing with a lot of that.

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Scott McGhee: It wasn’t just the snow, it was also the wind, too. We were in this valley called Paradise Valley, and it’s famous for these howling winds just barreling through. And sometimes, we couldn’t hear ourselves, we couldn’t have a conversation, we could only hear the actors, because they were mic’ed so well, you could hear them through headphones. But they couldn’t hear each other. So, the weather in Montana was a surprise.

David Siegel: The weather was so extreme in some places like the mine scene and the ranch sometimes that you really wondered, and there was no like, ‘Let’s wait for the wind to die down’, you sort had to shoot. And the more we shot, the more we thought ‘Well, this is going to be quite romantic and beautiful along the way’, and it turned out, we feel, that it is. And as Scott said, our production location sound people were so good, we didn’t have to replace any of that dialogue, at all.

So, when it comes to the characters of the film, what can you share about their roles in the story?

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Scott McGhee: When we started writing the film, it was about two siblings, that was the initial kind of the initial germ of the idea.

David Siegel: Two siblings who were returning home after being estranged. The idea of separation and the idea of what they were bringing back to this moment of reunion.

Scott McGhee: But Owen’s character Cal, in particular, we’ve been watching a lot of mid-century movies over the course of the pandemic when we were in lockdown, and we were talking a lot at the time, there’s a kind of fragile, masculine character, a Montgomery Clift-like character, but there are versions of that kind of character in mid-century movies, and we were talking about how we don’t see that kind of character.

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Maybe there’s a moment of weakness that the character’s struggling with or there’s challenges to that character’s masculinity, that seemed like a kind of interesting character type that we were interested in exploring again. And that was kind of something we started working with right from the start, and finding Owen to embody that kind of character for us, he did such an amazing job bringing all of that sympathy and pathos to a character who’s really appealing, but you see him struggling with something that he feels is a weakness. That was a thing we talked a lot about.

David Siegel: I mean, the story kind of grew out of themes like guilt and consequence and how do you overcome a certain aspect of one’s past. So the actors, Haley Lu and Owen, were so critical to really conveying the emotion of the story. We feel indebted to them for their great work.

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Montana Story can now be seen in theaters.

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