Nova Vento poised for growth at new Polson headquarters
“Welcome to the future of Montana filmmaking,” reads a sign outside the new Nova Vento Entertainment headquarters in Polson. Nova Vento, which means “New Wind,” is a locally-owned film production and distribution company. The company’s start can be traced back to a post on Polson’s Facebook Yardsale page. Brandon Smith, who’d worked previously for New Line Cinema in another state, asked if anyone wanted to help him make a short film. Eden Bryant, who’d attended film school and was working as a photographer, responded yes.
Four years, several films and an additional business partner later, Nova Vento is preparing for growth. The company opened doors at their new location at 145 South Crest Lake Road in Polson last July. Approximately 5,000 square feet, the new center of operations has spacious meeting and living areas, a kitchen, four offices and panoramic views of Flathead Lake. Twelve offices were converted to bedrooms to help provide temporary housing as its needed for visiting film crews and actors.
Co-owned by Smith, Bryant and Polson Theatres owner Becky Dupuis, the inspiration for starting a Montana film company began with the desire to fill a need. The distribution arm of Nova Vento began in 2020 to fill a gap created during the pandemic for movie theatres that didn’t have movies to show. Smith and Bryant began connecting theatre operators with independent filmmakers to show their movies. The first film they helped distribute was “Effigy, Poison and the City,” which the team discovered at the annual Flathead Lake International Cinemafest in January of 2020. While most distribution companies share 10% or thereabouts with the filmmakers they represent, Bryant says Nova Vento’s split is 50/50.
“There are two dozen companies in the nation doing film distribution,” Smith said. “We are one of them.” Nova Vento is currently working to distribute their own movie, “Somewhere in Montana,” via a larger company such as Sony or Paramount Pictures. “Sony watched the movie recently and loved it,” Smith said. A follow up meeting with Sony representatives is planned in two weeks.
On the production side, their new feature-length film “Somewhere in Montana,” was written and directed by Smith and produced by Bryant. Filmed exclusively in Polson and surrounding areas, the only shot that was purchased was a clip of a helicopter flying over the city of Los Angeles. All other scenes, including interior scenes of LA buildings, were filmed locally, Smith said. From concept to completion, the movie was also funded by local investors who’ll get a return based on how the movie does in theatres.
Featuring big name actors such as Graham McTavish from “The Witcher” and “Outlander” and Michelle Hurd of “Law and Order” and “Star Trek,” “Somewhere in Montana” tells the story of a Montana rancher who butts heads with a director he allows to come make a movie on his land.
The movie’s red carpet premiere was held June 22 in Polson. To bring further awareness to Nova Vento’s endeavors, another screening of the film was held for community members on Sept. 16 at the Showboat Theatre.
“We want to keep the local community up to date on what we’re doing,” Smith told audience members.” He shared that to further develop a pool of local talent, Nova Vento has started offering classes for those interested in pursuing jobs in film. Five students recently attended a training to become production assistants. Script writing and acting classes are planned to be offered in the future as Nova Vento seeks to grow their staff. “We spent four years figuring out the formula,” Smith said. “Now that we know the formula, we’re working on a loan to bring in an additional 10-20 full time staffers.”
In addition to making their own films, Nova Vento can also serve other filmmakers who come to Montana by helping facilitate logistics such as crew members, food, housing, location, leasing of office space and even a stage they’ve built in a re-purposed warehouse. With “stages all over the world at capacity,” Smith said he hopes to bring commercial and TV shows film projects to the space. He recently marketed Nova Vento’s stage space to 20 location managers at a film guild meeting. He asked them what they’d rather look at when they walked out of a studio – another brick building – or the photos he showed them of the stunning views from the Nova Vento facility.
Essentially operating as a “micro studio” Bryant said each project that comes into the area provides an injection of cash into the local economy. She and Smith estimate about $500,000 was spent with local businesses through production of “Somewhere in Montana.”
Incentivizing filmmakers to come to Montana through increased tax incentives is something Bryant said she hopes legislators will work on. According to Bryant, her company just lost a potential project to Washington because the state provides better tax incentives for filmmakers. Bigger out-of-state companies, she added, can also tap out Montana’s current $10 million tax credit limit – leaving smaller operations without the same benefits. “Montana does have its own filmmaking community,” Bryant said. “And we’d like to be able to utilize our own tax incentives.”