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Thirsty vampires enjoy taste of Helena

Thirsty vampires enjoy taste of Helena

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“A Bryan Ferriter Film.”

Those words on the screen at the Myrna Loy should make a lot of Helena people proud. A team of friends, many with local roots, has chased the Hollywood dream and actually finished a feature film. Ferriter is listed as a co-producer, co-writer director and lead actor, but this project was clearly a collaborative venture.

The vampire saga “Crimson Winter,” a tale of a startling discovery in the Elkhorn Mountains, debuted at the Myrna this past week, ending Thursday.

Rather than review “Crimson Winter,” a film whose roots trace in great part to the campus of Carroll College where I teach, I’ll recuse myself from judging its artistic merits.

My reluctance stems in part from my long-time respect for Helena’s Ferriter family which has done so much for our community – Thanksgiving at the Grub-Stake comes to mind, a long-time gift from Bryan’s uncle and aunt, Don and Sharon Ferriter. Don passed in 2007, and the Grub-Stake has since left the family. Rudy, Bryan’s dad who died in 2007, also worked at the Grub-Stake.

I’ve taught some of the young Ferriters, too – and those wonderful young nuts never fell too far from the family tree.

About half of the daring dozen who made this film are Carroll grads, many from the theater program. Ryan Pfeiffer, Bryan Ferriter, Brandon Day, Isaac Marble, Nick Milodragovich, Kailey Michael Portsmouth, Martin Rogers and Jordan Auvil are among the Carroll grads who brought this dream to life.

A short film that inspired this feature was entered at a Carroll film contest, and swept the top prizes.

So the entire project is remarkably close to home for me and the Carroll family.

T’would be folly to pretend I can set aside all these connections and write a Fox review, you know, fair and balanced. So I’ll leave reviewing to others.

We can marvel, however, that Bryan Ferriter took his dream to the screen.

I’ve heard him talking about this project over the past years, often at the Red Atlas where he sometimes worked. I had a healthy dose of skepticism, simply because it’s a daunting task to bring a film to completion.

“Gonna make a movie, huh? What’s your back-up plan?”

Well, “the little filmmakers who could” have proved me wrong.

“Crimson Winter” arrived quite alive, well and finished on the screen at the Myrna Loy.

Now it’s headed for wider distribution. It’s been distributed on DVD in Europe, and will be available on iTunes and other media in the States shortly.

A moment like this is an appropriate time to recall that film is not a single art form, but rather a collaborative art.

Acting is but one small part of an enterprise involving a script, a score, camerawork, editing, fundraising, maybe a little singing and dancing - all quilted together with a lot of chutzpah.

Somehow, on a budget below $500,000, Bryan brought it all together, in no small part because loyal locals worked virtually for free. For all, it was a labor of love. They can cash their checks on the next venture.

“Crimson Winter” does an impressive job of hiding its small budget.

By using Mother Nature as a set and by minimizing the use of high-paid actors, Ferriter was able to produce a film that looks like it belongs in multiplexes. A brooding score helps set the mood and, of course, there’s lots of sharp teeth.

They did bring in veteran cinematographers and editors from Los Angeles and New York. And a few cast and crew members weren’t raised under the Big Sky.

Ferriter was also smart to latch on to a genre with a built-in following.

Thanks to “Twilight,” vampire films are back in fashion.

Young directors often start with horror, simply because production costs can be minimized. “Crimson” is not horror, per se, but it is the type of film that can launch a career. Last year, Ferriter was a Hollywood wannabe. Now his film is listed on IMDB, the online database of cinema.

Did I mention the story? It begins a long time ago in a forest far, far away, and eventually lands in the hills of Montana. Some curious grad students are investigating animal deaths around the area.

They want badly to solve the mystery.

The rest of the tale can be summed up as: “Be careful what you wish for.” There’s much more, some of which reflects on inter-species relations.

For those of us who live in the Queen City, “Crimson Winter” carries a timeless truth: Helena and Carroll College are perfectly fine places to launch your dreams – and don’t let your snobby friends from the halls of Ivy, the Big Apple and Beverly Hills tell you otherwise.


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