GREAT FALLS — Filmmakers for the movie “Pellett” were back in Great Falls on Tuesday. Last July, they shut down Central Avenue to get some shots for the future movie.
And Tuesday night, they premiered the movie’s first trailer.
“This Montana story deserves to be filmed right here in Montana. This is Montana’s movie and we’re going to work real hard and make the Big Sky proud of this movie,” Clem Pellett said.
Community members gathered at the Heritage Inn to be the first to catch a glimpse of the story.
The movie will be through the eyes of Clem, who one day was digging through his mother’s boxes and found old newspaper clippings that headlined “Montana man murdered, murderer to hang.”
“I just started following all the clues and about a year later I ended up capturing the murderer of my grandfather who had been a fugitive for almost 40 years,” Pellett said.
On April 4, 1951 Clarence Pellett was shot and killed by Frank Dryman.
“All of a sudden, a switch flipped. Wait a minute, this was my grandfather. I never met him. He was murdered two years before I was born. And then all of a sudden, I started to figure out this was real,” Pellett said.
Dryman was sentenced to death. 40 years later, he was released from parole and disappeared.
Pellett would be the one to track down and put Dryman back behind bars.
“It’s kind of surreal. Every once in a while, I sit back and go wow, look what happened. I found these articles, I tracked him down, and then things kept moving. I kept working the story, but the story kept moving me forward,” Pellett said.
Fast forward some time and Pellett was set out to tell his grandfather’s story.
“What I was fascinated by, and we tend to do this in society, we sort of immortalize the killers in cases like this and we kind of forget the victim. In this case, I was so moved by Clem’s story and his family’s story and Clarence Pellett’s life that I thought this is a picture where we can actually change all of that,” director, producer and writer, Fred Fontana said.
“As film makers you always want to tell the story where the story happened and that’s one thing that we have never wavered on. As tempting as it might be and as easier as it might be to have gotten the film made, we are committed to Montana and are glad that Montana is committed to us,” producer Peter Sobich said.
“It was just a chance to film in Montana and a chance to tell this wonderful story of a family’s redemption over time. I couldn’t say no,” co-producer and cinematographer Jeremy Miller said.
“How fascinating that was and how through perseverance and through so much fortitude and continuing to hit down the nails and finding this killer, that was really what struck me the most,” drone operator Parker Alexander said.
For the filmmakers and Clem Pellett, shooting on location was not even a question.
“We’ve been embraced by several communities and have gotten to meet some wonderful people. But in addition to that, the scenery is absolutely incredible. When you are telling a story with a camera as the cinematographer and a drone operator do, you have to look outside of the script at times to find just the right aesthetic to help accent the story. Montana just offers some places that are stuck in time. When we go back to the 60’s and tell that part of the story, you don’t have to look very far,” Miller said.
“The terrain out here is just absolutely gorgeous...it fits the story of what took place in 1951,” Alexander said.
“It’s a Montana story, everything happened here. It’s a great opportunity to highlight the places where the actual crimes took place,” Fontana said. “Were shooting in the courtroom that these trials took place in. The stairs that lead up to the courtroom are the stairs that the killer was brought up to as he was going to receive the sentence to be hung.”
The movie is not done yet. The crew hopes to begin shooting by the end of the year, or early next year.
“This movie is the perfect example of why I do this. For two hours I have the opportunity to put an audience in a theater, make them watch something and maybe if we’re lucky we effect their lives. I think that’s why we are all in this...this movie has that value to it,” Fontana said.
“I think that a lot of families have tragic figures in the histories of their families. It may not be last year or ten years ago and it certainly might not be murder. But I think families can relate to tragedies in their past and Clem has mentioned to me in telling his story to different audiences that he’s been amazed by the number of people who have come up to him and shared stories of their own family tragedy,” Sobich said.
They are showing the trailer on Wednesday in Shelby at the Toole County Courthouse at noon.
A press release for the movie states:
Murder took him. Justice eluded him. Time forgot him…until now. The man is Clarence Pellett. The film is PELLETT. It has been said that filmmaking is the miracle of collaboration. We are putting together amazing pieces as we construct the components of this wonderful movie highlighting the story of Clem Pellett’s quest to seek justice for his grandfather. The role of Shelby, Great Falls, and the Hi Line has and will continue to be a large part of this film’s success. As we are in the final stages of casting and fundraising, we will be releasing the film’s trailer and everyone will get a sample of what we’ve all been working so hard to achieve. We’re close to bringing this film to life.
We will keep you updated as the film production progresses.
(JULY 24, 2018) The start of filming for the Montana-made movie "Pellett" closed a section of Central Avenue on Tuesday morning and for Clem Pellett, it’s been a long time coming.
“Everything that has happened up until now, the book, the articles, the documentary, and everything that has happened is surreal to me,” he said.
The history of the movie goes back to April of 1951 when Pellett’s grandfather, Clarence Pellett, was shot to death by Frank Dryman.
“The murderer got let off. Three times he was sentenced to hang and three times it was thwarted,” Pellett said.
Dryman was released on parole and he disappeared for 40 years. Actor Kam Dabrowski will step into the murderer’s shoes as he takes on the role of Dryman for the movie.
"People always ask me the question if I have any difficulties taking on a role like that. I treat it the same as any other role. I still have to do all my research, but this is definitely a great project,” Dabrowski said.
To Pellett, it is important to keep the movie as authentic as possible: “We are filming it at actual sites and using actual cars of the time. We are going to follow the story very religiously. It is going to be right now."
The actual movie production won’t start for a few months. This week’s test shots will help with the trailer and create a smooth filming process.
“We are laying the foundation for getting the props, cars, camera angles, and all those types of things,” Pellett said.
The reality of the movie is unreal to him.
“This happens to other people. This doesn’t happen to you. It is, it is happening. I have excitement, but you know it is the story of my grandfather’s murder so it is little emotional as well,” he said.
The crew will also head to Deer Lodge and Shelby to shoot at other authentic sites.