Whitefish on the Big Screen

By Beacon Staff

There are innumerable tasks and processes that go into successfully creating a feature film, and many take endurance and patience to figure out. For Billy Thompson, a longtime member of the Alpine Theatre Project, finding the location to film his brother’s independent movie was a matter of kismet.

Thompson and his brothers and a cousin will all convene in Whitefish to film “The Thin Line” from April 22 to May 10. The film has been a long time in the making, Thompson said in an interview last week, starting as a screenplay his brother Neil Thompson wrote and shopped around to various companies in California.

In the past couple of years, though, Thompson said they agreed that they should make it independently.

And with that, they needed to find the proper location. The movie is centered on the main protagonist, a young woman who has moved out of Spokane and away from her overbearing father to find her own independence in a small resort town.

The film – what Thompson describes as an “unromantic comedy” – follows the young woman as she works at a beach-themed coffee shop and tries to figure out why all of her relationships sour.

“Then she goes for the misanthrope in the corner and wackiness ensues,” Thompson said.

Thompson said it was “serendipitous” that he happened to know the perfect location. He has worked as the musical director for the Alpine Theatre Project since 2007 and has lived full-time in Whitefish since January, teaching piano and voice lessons at the North Valley Music School.

Northwest Montana has great light, Thompson said, and the beautiful scenery provides an excellent background for the movie. There were also attractive tax incentives, he said, as well as a grant they received from the Montana Film Office to help pay for the movie’s creation.
Most of the money used in filming here will go into the local economy, Thompson said, because the group making the movie would like to use as many locals for cast and crew as possible.

Some of the roles have already been cast with actors from Los Angeles, Thompson said, but there is still a casting call for other roles, especially for extras. Anyone who speaks in the film will get paid.

“We’re not taking advantage of anybody,” Thompson said, though he added there have been plenty of people offering to help for free.

“You definitely wouldn’t get that in LA,” he said.

Thompson also believes filming during the spring is beneficial to his group as well as Whitefish, because fewer tourists in the shoulder season will allow them to shoot scenes in popular places, and in turn, the actors and crew members will spend their per diem money in the local economy.

A pedestrian crosses Central Avenue in downtown Whitefish. – File photo by Lido Vizzutti | Flathead Beacon

Some of the confirmed filming spots include the Great Northern Bar and Grill and the Pin and Cue, which Thompson said would retain their names in the movie.

Thompson, who will serve as the composer and musical supervisor, also hopes to use as much music from local musicians as possible. There isn’t a budget for that, he acknowledged, but any artists looking for exposure are welcome to submit their work to Thompson at [email protected].

This isn’t the first film for Thompson and his crew. Many of them worked on the short film, “Thorns,” which came out in 2009 and can be seen at thornsfilm.com “if people are interested in seeing what we did before.”

Neil Thompson is the writer and director of “The Thin Line;” Eldon Thompson is the co-writer; Jay Thames of 77 Films is a producer; and Eric Powell is the editor.

Billy Thompson said they have also hired several Montanans to create the movie, including Allison Whitmer as the unit production manager; Aaron Goodman as the production coordinator; Toby Lister as the production designer; and ATP’s Betsi Morrison as the casting director.

For more information on casting, visit www.gastonic.com/casting. For crew inquiries, email [email protected].

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