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From the Hi-Line to the Red Carpet — Part I

Co-director Andrew Smith and lead actor, Chaske Spencer, on the set of "Winter in the Blood." (Photo courtesy of Donnie Sexton, Montana Office of Tourism)

PartnersCreative’s PR team tells the journey of “Winter in the Blood,” a Montana-made film.

In the summer of 2011, the Montana Film Office asked us to help publicize a film shooting on the Montana Hi-Line, called “Winter in the Blood.” From the beginning, it was clear that this film was going to be significant to our state’s film industry.

Based on a classic novel by Montana author James Welch, the film starred Montana actors, featured Montana locations and was directed by Montana-born brothers Andrew and Alex Smith. (That’s co-director Andrew Smith and actor Chaske Spencer at work in the photo above.)

One of the inescapable truths of PR at that stage in a film’s life cycle is that early buzz is entirely manufactured. Even after shooting for “Winter in the Blood” wrapped up, nobody but the actors and crew had seen even a scene of the film. Very few people had even seen the script.


Early buzz is thus largely a measure of the pedigree of the producers, directors and stars, multiplied by whatever PR effort is applied. Fortunately, all of these elements worked together to generate media and grassroots interest in “Winter in the Blood.” Our early outreach generated coverage in film industry publications, including IndieWire and Screen International, and in several Montana publications.

Was it well deserved? We still didn’t know for sure.

In late spring 2013 Alex and Andrew Smith wrapped post-production, and shortly thereafter learned that the film had been selected into the prestigious 2013 Los Angeles Film Festival for its worldwide debut.

At that point, our PR department went into overdrive, garnering stories in publications including Los Angeles Times and Variety. We created a social media Web page for followers to keep up with the film and Montana Film Office happenings at the festival. We also helped organize a premiere party at LAFF, creating Montana Film Office-branded swag to reinforce the connection between the film and the state.

Finally, in mid-June, LAFF audiences got the first look at the actual film. Positive reviews began to appear. IndieWire called it “artfully and skillfully made, with stunningly gorgeous cinematography.” Twitch concurred, noting that “the real star of the show here is the vast, sun-kissed landscape of Montana.”

Montana Film Office-branded swag
Montana Film Office-branded swag

Seeing those reviews, we felt a peculiar sense of pride. In truth, we had nothing to do with the film — only with helping spread word about it. Ironically, we hadn’t even seen it ourselves yet. But it’s a great feeling knowing that our faith in the filmmakers paid off in positive recognition of their work.

Follow this link for Part II of this article.

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