Montana – The Ultimate Location

Montana Film Office

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Introduction to Montana

Montana certainly lives up to its nickname as the Big Sky State. Spectacular national parks—Yellowstone and Glacier—are the highlights of an incredible landscape of roaring rivers, dramatic mountain ranges and serene prairies. Montana has been the site of historical battles, prehistoric dinosaurs and unforgettable vacations, and its blend of landscapes will appeal to productions who seek an epic scope.

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Info

Locations

Incentives

Film Credits

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About Montana Film Office

Established in 1974, the Montana Film Office markets Montana as a business destination for production companies and provides technical assistance to productions that choose Montana. It is the responsibility of the MFO to ensure the state is film friendly. We work with producers to find locations that fit their script and serve as their liaison through every phase of their production.

Producers have come to depend on the MFO to help navigate permitting, understand regulation processes, and assist in location nuances. In the film industry, time really is money. A state’s willingness and ability to facilitate film productions often becomes a factor in choosing their location.

General Info for Montana

Weather in Montana (Billings)

  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Average high in ºF 33 40 48 58 67 78 86 85 72 59 43 35
Average low in ºF

15

20 26 35 44 53 58 57 47 37 26 18
Av. precipitation in inch 0.81 0.57 1.12 1.74 2.48 1.89 1.28 0.85 1.34 1.26 0.75 0.67

Average Daylight Hours in Montana

  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Daylight Hours 9.6 10.2 12 13.3 14.5 15.4 15.2 14 12.3 10.5 9.3 8.4

Permitting Agencies

Montana does not have an overall state permit process. Permitting is very dependent upon where you are shooting.

Public lands have long served as a top location choice for the film industry, and many of Montana’s most iconic locations are on public land. Two (2) State and six (6) Federal agencies manage over 31 million acres (about 35 %) of Montana’s total land area.

When filming on private land, you should obtain a private land owners’ agreement. Also be aware that there may be cases where private land intermingles with public lands.

Filming on lands managed by the categories and agencies below will require a film permit. Some agencies manage more than one category. Contact the Film Office for assistance.

More Information on Permits

First Aid & Medical Services

Numerous medical and support services exist across the state. You can find a comprehensive list here.

A Few Filming Locations in Montana

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Yellowstone Film Ranch

Butte

Virginia City/Nevada City

Old Montana Prison

Billings

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Yellowstone Film Ranch

This Western backlot is styled after 1800s gold rush towns and uses five fully functional interior/exterior sets with support buildings to create 28 unique structures against the backdrop of Emigrant Peak. Buildings include a church, saloon, general store and barn in addition to a main street for shootouts and establishing shots. Productions can also utilize a cabin and village sets, and the nearby city of Livingston offers ample lodging and dining options.

Butte

The Highland Mountains and east-ridge of the Continental Divide surround the city of Butte, which offers authentic Western locations, contemporary buildings and access to the national forests. Productions can utilize the stately mansions and Victorian architecture of the uptown business district as well as the numerous ghost towns and abandoned towns in outlying areas.

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Virginia City/Nevada City

These neighboring gold rush towns grew rapidly in the 1860s when prospectors traveled West seeking riches in Alder Gulch. Today, they are home to over 150 preserved 19th century buildings that lend authenticity to Western-themed films and TV shows. Locations include the Nevada City Railroad Station, a stagecoach buildings and several saloons.

Old Montana Prison

The oldest Territorial Prison in the Western United States dates back to 1870 and features immense grey sandstone walls that were buried four feet deep to prevent convicts from escaping. The prison was decommissioned in 1979, but the facility still houses cells, wardens quarters, a yards a chapel and gates for your next prison-set production.

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Billings

Montana’s largest city offers easy access to the Yellowstone River, Crow Indian Reservation and local talent. Popular locations include the Billings Depot (a massive passenger station that can accommodate hundreds of extras), the Moss Mansion (a 28-room building with original furnishings) and the Rimrocks (an environment of ancient sandstone cliffs and hiking trails).

Incentives & Rebates

Montana offers a 20% transferable income tax credit on production expenditures in the state with additional amounts that can increase the credit up to 35% of the production company’s base investment in the tax year. These per production, additional incentives include 25% of compensation for Montana resident crew members, 15% of compensation for out-of-state crew and 20% of above-the-line compensation (actor, director, producer, writer).

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Film Credits for Montana

Montana is more than meets the eye. Beyond beautiful exterior locations, the state also offers a variety of urban and unique town looks. The crew is fantastic and the film community is strong. I would highly recommend filming in Montana and shooting wide!

Jeri Rafter

Line Producer

I fell in love with Montana photographing it, in the spring, in the summer, in the fall. And when I knew it well enough, I wrote a script for it, together with Sam Shepard. That became Don’t Come Knocking. The experience of shooting in Montana was fabulous. Our local crew and casting were great, and the weather was steadily gorgeous. It could become addictive.

Wim Wenders

Film Credits

  • The Last Beyond
  • Yellowstone
  • Mickey and the Bear
  • Puppy Swap
  • Radioflash
  • Robert the Bruce
  • The Beast
  • Thin Line
  • Any Bullet Will Do
  • Wildlife
  • Broken Ghost
  • Buster’s Mal Heart
  • Karpenter
  • Return to Zion Ranch
  • The Ballad of Lefty Brown
  • The Forlorned
  • Walking Out

  • Certain Women
  • Dead 7
  • Population Zero
  • The Sighting
  • Timber the Treasure Dog
  • Love Like Gold
  • Subterranea
  • The Revenant
  • Bella Vista
  • Falcon Song
  • Crimson Heart
  • Day of the Gun
  • Jimmy P.
  • Nebraska
  • Treasure State
  • Winter in the Blood
  • The Misadventures of the Dunderheads
  • The Vessel
  • ….and many more

What Are You Waiting For?

Let Destination Film Guide Connect You!

Allison Whitmer

Allison Whitmer

Montana Film Office

Phone: 406-841-2881
Email: allison.whitmer@mt.gov