I'M ON WHAT MUST be the blandest highway in America, cutting towards Havre on a journey that is nothing but sky and cows resting in their own shadows. Out here every mile is like barreling towards the end of the world without the superfluous hope that it can be reached. Canada is ahead. The Missouri River is just an idea off to the periphery. Behind me, I don’t know.
I’m moving towards Havre to write a fragmented piece that will probably not be printed by a paper that has me out here on spec to cover the filming of Winter in the Blood. So far I haven’t decided what I’m going to write about or if there is anything out here to write about that hasn’t already been written about better.
Somewhere around Great Falls I make a wrong turn and after that a series of wrong turns and then I’m back on the right road somehow. This is how backcountry Montana behaves; you get so lost that eventually you discover yourself once again on the correct route. Mid-afternoon throws weird colors at the horizon.
I drive for what seems like five hours, which is precisely how long I have been driving. That’s another thing about Montana, time flows strangely as it should.
Really, I don’t know what I’m doing here.
I remind myself that I want this story to be true.
Today is my birthday.
And two clouds curl at the edges of the sun like parentheses.
Havre unfurls on a hill — just a dung-colored row of buildings, a Walmart, and more sky.
When I arrive at the hotel, Patrick Cook retrieves me in a ramshackle pickup truck that sounds like a form of exasperation.
“How’s the hotel?” he asks.
“Nice,” I say. “Its charming.”
“Sarcasm?” he asks.
“No. It’s nice and charming,” I say.
Patrick is a film student at the University of Montana and my guide for the next three days. Besides being involved in casting and serving as the directors’ assistant, he is also one of the associate producers of Winter in the Blood.
Downtown Havre is an empty bland street blowing dust and the foreshadowing breeze of tomorrow’s rainfall. We drive through the deserted streets and illegally park outside the Masonic Temple Building, where the production offices of Ranchwater Films are temporarily located. The building is an anachronistic slab seemingly constructed as an optimistic afterthought to the industrial themes of the city. It’s the only building around whose facade has some desire for aesthetic magnitude, Art Nouveau trellises and all.
We spend five minutes flicking light switches in the black archway. None work, so I clasp the oak balustrade as Patrick lights the way up with his cellphone. At the head of the staircase I can feel a carving in the smooth wood that feels like a lion or just a gauge someone crafted with an unwieldy piano.
Patrick points out a half dozen frosted glass doors on the second floor.
“The command center,” he says, gesturing at the printed out signs displaying the whereabouts of casting, production and the rest. This is where the money is raised, where the money is spent, and where the money that has been raised and spent is accounted for.
I am led into a cubicle-siz...read more