Valley of Bones, a full-length feature filmed shot mostly in southwest North Dakota, is set to be released on Sept. 1 after rights to the movie were acquired by Smith Global Media a little more than seven months ago. The movie follows a disgraced paleontologist—played by Autumn Reeser—as she makes her way to the badlands, attempting to resurrect her career. But runs into trouble while digging for dinosaur bones.
By COLE BENZ
Almost two years ago, cast and crew filmed multiple scenes in Amidon, Bowman, and Marmarth, and featured some local residents cast as extras. But the origins of the movie date back farther, when director and North Dakota native Dan Glaser was working on a different project.
While filming the feature film “Oxenfree,” Glaser happened to knock on Jon Wanzek’s door in Minnesota, and through conversations, Wanzek recruited him to film Valley of Bones. It was an idea Wanzek had had for some time.
“Here he had a premise for a movie he’s always wanted to make,” Glaser said during a phone interview with the Pioneer. “So he was like “when you guys are done filming this movie in a couple of weeks, let’s sit down.””
Wanzek, the film’s executive producer, owns a ranch in Amidon, and wanted the film to be shot in this state.
“Being able to film in North Dakota lent a lot of authenticity to the project,” Glaser said. “It would have been really easy for Jon to try to film it in Canada…but he was really insistent about wanting to feature North Dakota.”
Only a select few interior scenes were shot in Los Angeles.
Glaser also appreciated being able to work in North Dakota because he doesn’t think there are many midwest voices within the industry.
The cast and crew spent about three weeks in the area, and when they left Glaser said they only had about 10 days left of principle photography. Shortly after production wrapped, Glaser found himself in a meeting with Smith Global Media. Glaser had put together an assembly cut of the film in about five days, which he indicated was an incredibly short period of time.
“We sat down with them and showed it to them, and they were very awesome,” he said. “They were just really great people and very interested in independent film.”
Glaser could tell from the atmosphere of the meeting that they were interested in the movie, saying it was good talk. The media company told them to come back after the film had been completed and they would talk some more.
And so they did. And the media company purchased the rights in January, though they waited months to make the announcement. Glaser said the company was getting things ready for the announcement in the days between acquiring and announcing the deal, like producing an official trailer and picking a release date.
“They’ve been working on the marketing and the [public relations] and stuff for awhile now,” the director said.
Glaser told the Pioneer that the company plans to release the film on 300 screens.
“[It] is pretty decent for an independent film,” he said. “It kind of exceeded our wildest hopes for the movie, honestly.”
This is by far the biggest project Glaser has worked on since embarking on a career in film.
“It’s sort of a step-up that every filmmaker needs to take at some point,” he said.
Glaser also told the Pioneer that Smith Global Media is also in an agreement with Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, which will distribute the DVD and Blu-Ray copies of the movie upon its release.
Glaser looks back at his time in the Bowman area and was very complimentary of the support he and his crew received throughout their stay.
“Everyone in Bowman welcomed us, and in some cases literally into their own house,” he said. “That midwestern hospitality can’t be beat.”
He also really enjoyed the time in western North Dakota because he had grown up in the state and hadn’t really spent much time in the area.
“It was really just interesting to acquaint myself with other side of the state I grew up in,” Glaser said.
The next step for Glaser and the film will be promotion. There is a premier scheduled for Los Angeles, and one for Fargo prior to the Sept. 1 official release of the film. He didn’t know if the film would run in Bowman, but said they intend on hitting the midwest hard with showings, so people can anticipate it running somewhere near the area.
As for his next endeavor? Glaser said it’s on to the next project, which included working with Reeser again.
“It’s really just about trying to keep going,” Glaser said. “We hope people enjoy Valley of Bones and just keep making stories.”