About the Life in the Land project

Life in the Land is a documentary film and podcast series that shares stories of those who interact with the complexities of Montana’s land, waters, and communities, looking at the success and value in collaborative & locally-led initiatives. Hear unique perspectives from community leaders, ranchers, conservationists, and more from within Montana’s rural and tribal communities. Witness how they are working together to promote resilient communities and landscapes for all life to thrive.

Throughout Montana, human activity is directly intertwined within natural systems, creating a great opportunity for global inspiration for healthy coexistence. Across the state, there are varying value systems and methods of interacting with the land and waters. This series will show the positive effects of working in interconnected ways, just like the elements of a healthy ecosystem. It will prove the success of initiatives which are guided by local communities and the natural systems of the land.

 

By connecting these stories of locally driven, collaborative efforts to

the theme of a reciprocal human and landscape relationship, this series will be a catalyst for guiding healthier systems of life in our modern world. Hearing these perspectives can promote dialogue to encourage the much needed paradigm shifts, as well as provide nuance and humanization that is the antidote for current divides and prejudices.

We hope these films and podcasts can be observed on a personal scale, as well as the films used to "kick-off" gatherings and or community conversations about how a holistic approach can be applied in your region, watershed, or community. The films and podcasts can also be used as part of educational curriculum or workshops. The content does not claim to have all of the answers, but it shares philosophies from people on the ground that we hope shed light on new perspectives and prompt dialogue in your own circles.

How the project came about

In early 2020, some Montana residents attended a "Confluence" conference in Colorado hosted by the Western Collaborative Conservation Network (WCCN), a project of the

Center for Collaborative Conservation. The attendees included agricultural producers, conservation professionals, natural resource managers, community leaders, and more. Soon after their return, the Montana attendees, informally called the Montana Group, continued to explore how they might better understand, share, and advance the long and complex story of community landscape collaborative work in the state, that they knew had been successful for years, but that not enough people were acknowledging or practicing.

In early 2021, Lara Tomov, a Montana based filmmaker, was introduced to the Montana Group.

Lara, under her media brand Stories for Action, had an interest in sharing stories from across Montana that touch on these themes of human relationships with the land, and people with diverse perspectives working together. With the promise of aligned missions, Lara and the Montana Group co-designed a project that afforded the right mix of accessibility, education, and inspiration, for those who are directly linked to this work, as well as those that may think they are distanced.

We see this as a pilot year, with content that lays the groundwork. In August of 2022 we will begin producing two additional films (15 minutes each), and 4 additional podcast episodes, which each will dig deeper into one specific community effort.

These are transformative times on so many fronts. While locally-driven regional efforts will always need to navigate through local, state, and national politics and laws, the essential work of meeting the unmet needs of land and people will fundamentally reside in our communities. A healthy road forward really depends on relationships; between us and the land, and with one another. It's about communication, curiosity, and celebrating an open mind.

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Project Leads

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Lara Tomov

Project Director & Cinematographer

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Bill Milton

Facilitator & Consultant

Bill is a rancher in the community of Roundup, Montana and always strives to find symbiotic relationships amongst all life on the land.  Bill was a founding board member of the Montana Land Reliance and participates in many working groups in Central Montana including the Musselshell Watershed Coalition, Winnet ACES, the CMR Community Working Group, and the Musselshell Valley Community Foundation. Bill has a particular interest in helping ranchers and local communities figure out how to monitor the health of working landscapes. 

 

Bill is a recipient of the “Lands and Livelihoods Award” from the Western 

Landowners Alliance, and he and his wife, Dana, received the Leopold Conservation Award for their contributions to the stewardship and conservation of working lands. MiltonRanch.weebly.com

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Lailani Upham

Co-Producer of the Blackfeet Nation film & podcasts

Lailani is an Amskapi Pikuni (Blackfeet Nation) tribal member, and an Aaniiih, Nakoda, Dakota tribal descendant. She is an adventure explorer, photographer, videographer, writer, and storyteller who travels throughout Montana to tell stories from an Indigenous perspective. Lailani grew up on the Blackfeet and Fort Belknap Indian reservations where she explored her home landscapes and was grounded in her identity through the passing down of oral traditions from tribal elders. 

Lailani works to capture stories that inspire people of all walks of life to consider their relationship with nature, while advocating for the preservation of traditional Indigenous practices and public lands. 

Lailani has worked on both feature length & short films, was a reporter for the Flathead Reservation tribal newspaper, taught tribal story-based video courses at Salish Kootenai College, and is the founder of  Iron Shield Creative,  a consultancy that fosters our natural world and human connection through Indigenous storytelling in Montana.

Lara Tomov is a filmmaker & communications consultant. Her work as a cinematographer has taken her around the world with various productions for Travel Channel, Discovery, and independent documentaries. After growing up in the Bitterroot Valley of Montana, then living out of state for too long, she is happily back at home based in Montana, where she operates her media brand, Stories for Action.

 

Lara holds a constant curiosity and passion for ecosystem and human community well-being, food systems, Indigenous advocacy, human connections to the land, and utilizing collaborative and community led efforts to improve resiliency for all life. Camera Portfolio Site

Steering Committee

Daniel Anderson - The Common Ground Project

Bill Long - Solid Ground Consulting, formerly with Montana Land Reliance

Cliff Montagne - BioRegions International

Laura Nowlin - Winnett ACES, Nowlin Ranch

Ethan Kunard - Montana Watershed Coordination Council

Life in the Land will be an ongoing communications project, and aims to be collaborative itself in nature. If you or your entity would like to be involved in brainstorming or producing for future Life in the Land work or communications, we would love to hear from you.

You can send us an email here.

Production Credits

Lara Tomov - Director, Cinematographer, Editor

Lailani Upham - Co-Producer, Blackfeet Nation film & podcasts

Katy Sprout - Production Assistant, Editing Assistant, Map Graphics

Aj Williams - Outreach & Website Assistance

Kascie Herron - Associate Producer, Central Montana Plains

Trevor Spotted Eagle - Additional Camera Operator, Map Graphics

Treasure State Studios, John Nilles - Film Color & Sound

Andy Josten - Production Assistant & Composer

Peyton Butler - Podcast Assistant Editor

Thompson Smith - Cultural Consultant

Josef "Tuna" Metesh - Editing Consultant

Marina Weatherly - Contributing Writer