Shooting the Big Sky

Novice filmmakers expertly shoot Montana’s recreational opportunities

Sarah Cairoli  |   Saturday Aug. 1st, 2015

Three years ago, Matt Redding and Joel Stevenson had never worked with a video camera or attempted to edit video footage. Now, the two long-time friends work together to shoot and produce a television show called Big Sky Outdoors. “We consulted some experts and went for it,” explained Redding.

The two travel the state documenting everything outdoors, including fishing adventures, turkey and big game hunts, climbing festivals, skiing competitions, and even lonely fire lookouts perched atop mountains. Big Sky Outdoors started as an idea Redding conceived six years ago. “We all live in Montana for obvious reasons,” he said, citing all the incredible recreational opportunities in the state. “But, no program focused specifically on outdoor activities for Montanans.”

Redding and Stevenson have been friends for over 15 years; so naturally, Redding started describing his idea to his buddy. Initially, Stevenson was skeptical because he knew neither one of them had any experience making a television show. But, Redding kept talking. Eventually, the pair shot a demo of a ski mountaineering race, showed it to some friends, and received the encouragement they needed to keep planning.

Redding’s idea, Big Sky Outdoors, became a reality in 2014, and now airs every weekend on ABC and FOX. The show is designed with a Montana audience in mind. Instead of catering to tourists, the show focuses on the activities locals can enjoy on the weekends. In the winter, they look at skiing, snowboarding, ice fishing and dogsledding opportunities. In the summer, their focus shifts to hiking, fishing, floating, and mountaineering.

In addition to focusing on Montana’s many outdoor activities, their goal is to help local people and the local economy by showcasing Montana-made products that support an active, outdoor lifestyle. For example, whenever they film a fishing show, they use Winston rods made in Twin Bridges. All of the show’s sponsors are companies based in Montana, like Bob Ward’s, Town Pump, and Kalispell-based bear spray manufacturer Counter Assault.

Redding and Stevenson consult local experts for each show as well; their goal is to provide educational content in addition to highlighting the state’s recreational opportunities and beautiful scenery. “We go out with experts who can educate, not just catch fish,” climb rocks, and ski powder, Redding said. Fishing shows focus on casting techniques and entomology. Climbing shows focus on safety and preparedness. All of their episodes demonstrate a reverence and respect for the natural world.

The production duo also focuses on timely content. During their first year, Redding and Stevenson produced 36 episodes of Big Sky Outdoors. Only two or three weeks pass from the time they begin production until an episode airs, so that the content is pertinent and viewers can join in the activities described in each show. Every episode includes a fishing report that is compiled only days before the show airs. They also include a calendar of outdoor events every week. When re-runs are shown, they re-produce the episode so that the calendar and fishing report are still current.

On a recent episode, Stevenson and Redding take their families on an overnight float down a local river. The show starts with some tips for effectively packing a raft for an overnight trip. Once they find a sandy camping spot along the river, Stevenson prepares a feast and makes it look easy. He builds a campfire oven and roasts vegetables to complement their steaks, but the Dutch oven peach cobbler brings the biggest smiles.

In the morning, Redding gives fishing tips, and highlights the flies he uses from Montana Fly Company based out of Columbia Falls. The fishing episodes are Redding’s favorite because fishing is his passion. Like most Montanans, he and Stevenson hold their honey holes close to their fishing vests and rarely reveal their exact location during shows. It’s more fun for viewers to explore and find their own favorite spots.

Stevenson’s favorite episode covered Bozeman’s Ice Festival because climbing and mountaineering are his passions. He also enjoyed meeting the international crowd that the festival draws to the state. While not a full-time job, producing Big Sky Outdoors gives both men ample opportunity to travel and meet people with similar interests. Filming the show is truly a labor of love—love for Montana, love for the outdoors, and love for the people and places that make this state great.

Big Sky Outdoors airs throughout the state every Saturday and Sunday. Check local listings for specific details. In Bozeman, the show can be watched on FOX every Saturday at 11a.m. It is shown again on Sunday, but times vary depending on sporting events airing on that day. With DVR technology and the internet, Redding and Stevenson realize that the importance of television is diminishing. They have turned to social media to increase awareness of their program and can now be found on Facebook and YouTube. Additionally, they have all of their past episodes available on their website   

About the Author(s)

Sarah Cairoli

Sarah Cairoli is a local writer, tutor, and mother who has been enjoying all Bozeman has to offer for the past decade. She can be reached at (at) hotmail [d0t] com,)

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