by Nathan Boddy
During its regular meeting on Tuesday, May 18th, the Hamilton City Council considered and approved a ‘Location Agreement’ with Yellowstone, for filming at both City Hall and the Justice Center. This is not the first time the city has engaged in such an agreement with the popular television series, but nonetheless reviewed the proposal as a stand-alone agreement and heard comments from Yellowstone Location Manager, Dustin Daniels.
The television series has been largely filmed in the Bitterroot Valley, with one of its primary locations being a few miles south of Darby at the Chief Joseph Ranch. Daniels explained to the Council that this year will be Yellowstone’s fifth season filming in western Montana, but that this year will include five extra episodes and keep crews busy until Thanksgiving. He also expressed the appreciation of the Bitterroot Valley on behalf of the Yellowstone production team. “We’ve had a great time here over the last couple of years and we find the Bitterroot a wonderful place to be and to film our television series.”
The agreement between the City and Yellowstone will take place between June 15th-18th at City Hall, with filming taking place on the 17th, and other days earmarked for preparation and cleanup. The filming at the Justice Center will take place on June 17th after 5 p.m.. Per Yellowstone’s standard reimbursement schedule, the compensation for usage of City Hall will be $16,000, and the compensation for usage of the Justice Center will be: $8,000 for the City and another $8,000 for the Hamilton Police Association.
Daniels explained the desire of Yellowstone to use Hamilton’s City Hall by saying, “This scene is supposed to be a Town hall meeting. When we first walked in, this room was set up just like this. It wasn’t hard for our director to imagine a town hall meeting.” He went on to explain that the production would like to make minor changes, including the addition of matching wooden blinds, wainscoting, and a new curtain upon the stage at the south end of the room. Daniels explained that the production team would be happy to return everything to its original state, but that, “We’d love to leave them if that is something the city would like to enjoy.”
Daniels also explained that their usage of the Justice Center would in no way impede any necessary function of the station. Said Daniels, “If anything emergency related were to happen, we would absolutely vacate. One of the things we always keep in mind is that we are making a TV show and that life around is much more important. That’s something that is really important to us, that we don’t take precedence over real life matters.”
Following Daniels’s presentation, the floor was opened for public comment. Joni Lubke, who sits on the Board of Directors of Bitterroot SAFE, took the floor to comment on some very real life matters for some residents of the valley. Bitterroot SAFE is a non-profit emergency shelter and service provider for survivors of domestic abuse in the valley.
Lubke began her comments by expressing her personal appreciation of the television program, but then made it clear to the Council that she was there to be “a dose of reality for the housing situation in the valley, and the impact that we see for our domestic violence shelter.” Lubke went on to explain how SAFE uses a variety of means to house victims of domestic violence, and that housing right now can be extremely difficult to obtain. She acknowledged that many things are impacting the tight housing market in the Bitterroot, but that the end result is affecting some of those most in need.
“We have had to turn down 66 women in the last six months because we just couldn’t find a place for them. Our shelters are over capacity, our transitional housing is over capacity, we have wait lists but we are having to turn people down. Hotels that used to give us a night or two are telling us ‘no’ because other people are paying them for rooms,” said Lubke. “It’s kind of rough out there for domestic violence shelters.”
Before finishing her statement, Lubke again reiterated that she understands why Yellowstone would want to film in the Bitterroot Valley. “We get to live in this beautiful place,” she said, but added that the allure of the Bitterroot Valley has made it extremely difficult for “women that are desperate to get a safe roof over their head.”
The Council concluded their regular meeting by suggesting topics for future meetings, which many of the councilors suggested might be best used to discuss how to allocate the funds they receive from Yellowstone.