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Polson company brings indy film to Montana

by HAYDEN BLACKFORD
Daily Inter Lake | September 28, 2022 12:00 AM

An independent film shot in Montana will screen at theaters across the state thanks to a local distribution deal for Rob Grabow’s “The Year of the Dog.”

Grabow’s film was a passion project, and he was thrilled to see it resonate with the Polson-based distributor Nova Vento Entertainment.

The film had a budget of under $250,000, and was shot primarily in southeast Montana — including Paradise Valley, Livingston and Bozeman.

Grabow, who wrote and acted in the film, explained that there were some challenges to filming over only a few weeks. However, he said a “phenomenal cast” proved easy to work with when under pressure.

“We got so lucky with this cast,” Grabow said in a recent interview.

Actor Michael Spears, who was recently featured in the television series "Reservation Dogs" and debuted his career in the movie "Dances with Wolves," was cast for the movie. In addition to Spears, there were many local actors who were cast for “The Year of the Dog.”

Although independent films usually acquire distribution deals — deals that allow a third party to show the film — through showings in film festivals, “The Year of the Dog” has already attracted the attention of the local distributor Nova Vento Entertainment.

Nova Vento has agreed to host nine screenings of the film. For Sept. 30 through Oct. 6 the film will screen in theaters at the following locations: Polson, Cut Bank, Havre, Glasgow, Wolf Point, Dillon, Lewistown, and Salmon, Idaho. From Oct. 7-13 the film will be shown in Livingston. There is potential for all screening dates to be extended.

“In this market, that just doesn’t happen,” Grabow said.

In addition to the film’s screenings it is scheduled to be shown at the Chelsea Film Festival in New York on Oct. 15.

AS A native to Montana, Grabow drew inspiration to write the film partly from his childhood experiences in Alaska. Grabow said that humans’ interconnectedness with animals was measurable in Alaska.

He recalled a day when temperatures dropped to 87 degrees below zero — a temperature where vehicles struggle to start. In instances of extreme cold, dog sleds were an advantageous way to travel when used correctly. Still, even the dogs are not immune to the cold, Grabow said.

The film aims to capture the relationship between Matt, the protagonist, and a dog named Yup’ik, Grabow said.

“How do you cast a dog?” Grabow asked rhetorically.

Yup’ik the dog in the film was originally named Caleb, and he was prepared by a Hollywood animal trainer for the film. Although, as Grabow noted, Caleb’s rise to stardom was swift. The “hero dog” was rescued from the pound and trained to star in the film over just six weeks.

“They’re both strays trying to find their way in this world, and after finding each other they also find healing and purpose,” Grabow said.