It’s been a heck of a ride for “Mickey and the Bear,” the indie film that was shot in Anaconda this summer.
The film, written and directed by Annabelle Attanasio and produced by Lizzie Shapiro and Mackenzie Berkman, brought a crew of around 30 filmmakers to the Smelter City, enlisted the help of hundreds of local extras and shot in over 30 locations in and around Anaconda.
“Mickey and the Bear” is in the final stages of principal photography this week, and filming is anticipated to wrap up Saturday night. A celebratory event is scheduled for Sunday and editing on the film could begin as early as Monday.
“We’ve been able to shoot in so many locations, everywhere from Capp's Taxidermy Studio and Anaconda High School to the Club Moderne,” Attanasio said Monday. “It’s been incredible to really immerse ourselves in the culture here and the history here.”
Attanasio added that none of the place names were changed in the film, giving “Mickey and the Bear" an authentic Anaconda feel.
According to a synopsis of the film, “Mickey and the Bear” tells the story of a teenage girl who is doing what she can to keep her rocky household and her single, veteran father afloat amidst his opioid addiction.
Mickey soon meets Wyatt, a confident outlier at her school who has plans to move to San Francisco after graduation. Wyatt’s resolve sparks a desire in Mickey to finally live undefined by her father, but Mickey finds it difficult to leave her dad behind.
Around 200 people appear in “Mickey and the Bear,” including the film’s principal actors and the movie’s extras. Similarly, the film has around 30 speaking roles, about 25 of which were filled by locals from Anaconda and surrounding communities. Many of those locals have little or no acting experience, but Attanasio says this was intentional, as it was an important way for her to keep the film authentic.
“Honestly, it’s an equally fun endeavor to work with someone with no acting training as it is with someone who’s incredibly experienced,” Attanasio said, noting that untrained actors tend not to get lost in the technical, don’t overthink things and can give a more truthful performance as a result.
One of the locals to appear in the film is Anaconda resident Katee Ferguson, who plays a supporting role as Mickey’s best friend Beth.
“She’s a punk-rock Christian girl,” Ferguson said by phone, describing her character.
A native of Deer Lodge, the 20-year-old says she took drama class in high school and has been in a few school plays but has never had a role in a film.
Ferguson didn’t seek out a part in “Mickey and the Bear.” Instead, filmmakers reached out to her and asked her to audition.
At first Ferguson thought the role was small and would mainly be a volunteer gig. Later on, she was surprised to learn that her role was a job and that she would be getting paid for her acting.
“To have a speaking part is actually pretty crazy,” said Ferguson.
Meanwhile, Ferguson’s husband Colten Ferguson plays her boyfriend in the film.
Anaconda resident Ray “Slim” Thornhill, who also goes by Slim Pierce, has a small role in the film as Donovan – a character who owns Donivan's restaurant.
Thornhill describes himself as an “old hippie” from Boston who has the occasional bout of wanderlust.
Thornhill moved to Anaconda 6 years ago from Whitefish and has also lived in Hawaii, where he says he worked as a carpenter on the set of the first “Jurassic Park” movie. While in Hawaii, he served as an extra in “Magnum, P.I.,” and he says his claim to fame is that he once played volleyball with Tom Selleck.
Thornhill also served as an extra in the 1965 movie “Cat Ballou.”
“I was just fascinated with the entire movie-making experience,” said Thornhill, when asked what drove him to take part in films. “It’s a lot of waiting around but it’s fun.”
Helena poet and actress Donna Davis has a few lines in the film as Wyatt’s aunt Jenny.
Davis started acting in college and has starred in over 40 plays throughout her long career. Today she performs with the Helena Theatre Company, which she described as “a ragtag band of us who love theater,”
Davis sang Attanasio’s praises, describing her as “open hearted and open minded”
“She’s a formidable young woman,” said Davis.
As for Attanasio, she said the Anaconda community has been supportive of the film.
“We’ve had so many committed people come up day after day to be extras,” said the director, describing the film as “background” heavy.
Trevor Scholler—who organizes Anaconda’s weekly outdoor celebration Alive after 5—helped plan an unscheduled celebration so that filmmakers could shoot scenes during an authentic event. Meanwhile, the Grumpy Old Men of the American Legion and many other Anacondans showed up to serve as extras.
On the day of the event, Scholler said he was excited filmmakers choose Anaconda as their location, and he hopes the movie will increase awareness about his hometown.
“People are starting to recognize us,” said Scholler. “We have a lot to offer.”