The 90-minute film, co-produced by Class C Productions and Montana PBS, won an Emmy for best editing for filmmakers Shasta Grenier and Justin Lubke of Bozeman. Kyle Sorenson, promotions producer at KUSM/MontanaPBS, also won a regional Emmy for best single spot promotions for the 60-second trailer he made to promote the film on MontanaPBS. Both awards were given by the Northwest Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. In all, "Class C" was nominated for six NATAS regional Emmys, more than any other program in the contest.
"Class C's impact on our audience has been unlike anything we have experienced before," said Aaron Pruitt, director of programming at KUSM/MontanaPBS. KUSM/MontanaPBS is based at Montana State University. "An Emmy is a very prestigious award, and it affirms the incredible talent of these Montana filmmakers. We are delighted MontanaPBS can provide a venue for them to practice their craft."
The regional Emmys are the most recent of several awards won by the film, which was a labor of love for Grenier and Lubke, as well as producer Wally Kurth, a Billings native who has enjoyed a successful acting career in television. Last year the film won best film in its category at the Jackson Documentary Film Festival. It was also the winner of the Big Sky Award at the Big Sky Film Festival.
The summers that Kurth spent in Winnett many years ago were the genesis for the idea for the film, which is an honest and loving look at the girls who played for the Reed Point/Rapelje Pirates, Twin Bridges Falcons, Scobey Spartans, Rocky Boy Stars and Chester Coyotes, and the life in those towns during one long Montana winter.
"I learned firsthand, the joy, hope and passion that these small towns have for their girls basketball teams," Kurth said. "I thought it was time to give these small towns, America's treasures in my opinion, some well deserved attention."
Kurth talked about the idea with friend Markus Zetler, an MSU graduate and independent producer who is credited as the line producer for the film. Zetler told long-time friend Lubke, also an MSU graduate, about the film and he and Grenier traveled to Los Angeles to meet Kurth and talk about the idea. Lubke, who grew up in Ennis, had firsthand experience with Class C schools. Lubke and Grenier began shooting in the 2004-2005 Class C season, with follow-up interviews throughout 2007.
Woven into the stories of the ups and downs of the players on the teams and their families, as well as the disappearing way of life in towns in rural Montana is resonant, so are thoughts and commentary by Phil Jackson. While most of the world recognizes Jackson as one of the greatest coaches in NBA history, now leading the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2009 NBA finals, Jackson talks candidly and poignantly about the importance of basketball in small town Montana. It is a topic that he knows a great deal about. Jackson was born in Deer Lodge and perhaps one his favorite all-time players, his mother, was the captain of her high school team in Wolf Point.
"Basketball is a wonderful thing for a community because it is a warm place where everyone can go and it isn't a church or a bar," said Jackson, who proudly points out that his grandparents homesteaded on the Montana HiLine.
"We don't see ('Class C') so much as a basketball story -- although it does give it a story thread -- but rather the story about rural America," said Lubke.
He said the film reveals many of the forces at play in smalltown Montana, including agricultural decline, school closure, racial conflict and teen pregnancy. He said as small towns face the hard realities of modern rural life, success on the court takes on a new significance. As Dustin Gordon, a coach from Chester explains in the film, "Communities live and die through these kids."
Pruitt said the show has resonated with MontanaPBS audiences. The station, which also helped produce and underwrite the film, first broadcast it in February 2008 and then in March 2008 during the annual station pledge drive.
"The pledge response broke all previous records for a locally or nationally produced program by a large margin," Pruitt said.
The "Class C" Emmys are the second and third won by KUSM/MontanaPBS. The first was won in 2005 by Scott Sterling for graphics in the KUSM program "11th & Grant with Eric Funk."
KUSM/MontanaPBS has scheduled an encore performance of "Class C" at 7 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 2.
Kyle Sorenson's Emmy-award winning trailer can be seen on the MontanaPBS Web site: http://www.montanapbs.org/ClassC/
For more information about the film, filmmakers and the teams and players featured in "Class C," go to the film's Web site: http://www.classcmovie.com/
In addition, the Web site for the regional Emmys from the Pacific Northwest may be accessed at: http://natasnw.org/
Aaron Pruitt (406) 994-5021, firstname.lastname@example.org