When Morgan Delaney and Anderson Rosenthal met at a party in Bigfork a few years ago, they realized they both had similar backgrounds. Delaney grew up in Whitefish, while Rosenthal hailed from Libby before they each left the state to pursue careers in film and production.
After years on the East and West coasts, they both returned home a few years ago, and after meeting each other they realized they shared the same dream of having a film festival in Whitefish.
Soon after, Winterland was born, a nonprofit film festival and technology summit that they had originally intended to launch in March 2021 in Whitefish before the pandemic happened.
“(We thought) we should jump on this before someone from out-of-town does,” Delaney said. “Especially because we’re both from here and we know how the community works and what would best serve the community.”
While Delaney and Anderson are apprehensive to set a new date due to the pandemic’s unpredictability, they are starting with “micro-launches” to promote Winterland and expose the concept to the community.
On Sunday, Aug. 30, Winterland will host its first pop-up event — a boat-in movie night at The Lodge on Whitefish Lake.
A free screening of “A River Runs Through It” will play on the beach facing Whitefish Lake, open to anyone to float under the stars and view the film in the shallows of Monks Bay in front of The Lodge.
Prior to the film, Delaney and Ronsenthal will also show an interview with Cris Neckar, a local cyber security consultant who works with large technology firms and government agencies who hire him to break into and hack high-security facilities to find their vulnerabilities.
“One of our goals is to inspire and educate the youth about the future of technology,” Delaney said.
Part of Winterland’s vision includes combining a technology aspect to the future film festival in hopes of expanding the Flathead’s job market beyond tourism. Delaney and Anderson will combine the future film festival with technology workshops, labs and presentations similar to TED Talks, featuring filmmakers and leaders in technology and film.
Once the world is safe for large gatherings again, Delaney and Rosenthal are working to host a seven- to 10-day festival in downtown Whitefish. The O’Shaughnessy Cultural Arts Center and the Whitefish Performing Arts Center will be utilized for film screenings, and they hope to eventually use Flathead Valley Community College’s new Performance and Lecture Hall.
While the festival will be global, with a variety of genres, Montana filmmakers and Montana-made films are encouraged to submit.
In addition to the films, downtown Whitefish will be filled with vendors similar to events like the famed Sundance Film Festival, which takes place in Park City, Utah.
“I always thought Whitefish was the perfect town for it,” Rosenthal said. “Probably even better than Park City or other mountain towns.”
While the festival’s date is yet to be determined, Delaney and Rosenthal have their eyes set on 2022 during one of Montana’s shoulder seasons to bring more economic activity in the slower months.
Sustainability is another important aspect to Winterland’s vision, and Delaney and Rosenthal don’t plan to use any single-use plastic at the festival while sending any excess food to food banks. They’re also looking into bicycle taxis.
“We’re sending the message of no waste,” Rosenthal said. “Part of this is raising the bar of eco-literacy.”
“A River Runs Through It” will start at 8 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 30 at the Monks Bay shallows at The Lodge at Whitefish Lake. For audio, floaters can tune into an FM radio to listen to the film. There will also be a mobile concessions stand to provide limited free snack boxes and more. All state-mandated COVID-19 guidelines will be followed.
Boats cannot be launched at The Lodge.
Winterland will offer more drive-in and boat-in style movie screenings in the future as Delaney and Rosenthal work to create a virtual film festival at www.winterlandfilmfestival.com.