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Winter In The Blood - Feature Film's video poster

Winter In The Blood is bringing James Welch's classic novel of love, loss and survival to the big screen. Help us make it a reality! Read more

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This project was successfully funded on July 6, 2011.

Winter In The Blood is bringing James Welch's classic novel of love, loss and survival to the big screen. Help us make it a reality!

About this project

The Project

We’d like to invite you to be part of our grass-roots/community-building approach to making a major motion picture: the feature film adaptation of James Welch’s classic landmark novel Winter in the Blood.
Under the direction of Alex and Andrew Smith (writer/directors of the award-winning The Slaughter Rule), filming is set to begin this August on and around the Hi-Line, in Northern Montana, where Welch grew up, and where the novel is set.
With the help of an exceptional cast-- including Montana’s own Chaske Spencer (The Twilight Saga) as Virgil, David Morse (The Green Mile, The Hurt Locker), Gary Farmer (Smoke Signals), Julia Jones (The Twilight Saga), Dana Wheeler-Nicholson (Tombstone, Friday Night Lights); several richly experienced producers-- including Susan Kirr (Tree of Life, Infamous), Carl Hampe (Slumdog Millionaire, City of God) and two Native American literary & film heroes: Sherman Alexie (Smoke Signals,Absolutely True Diaries of a Part-Time Indian) and Heather Rae (Frozen River); and a stellar group of collaborators—- including Eric Edwards, Brent White, David Storm, Kristin Burke, co-writer Ken White and the heart/soul music of The Heartless Bastards-- we are honored to be translating this landmark contemporary Western to the big screen.
Our Quest is to expose this darkly funny, unflinching, ferocious Vision to a worldwide audience, via the collective dreamhouse of cinema. We’ve been brainstorming and barnstorming on this project for four years, and are, at long last, within shouting distance of being able to call “ACTION!”

The Story

Virgil First Raise wakes with a shiner and a hangover in a roadside ditch on the hardscrabble northern plains of Montana. Haunted by the death of his beloved older brother Mose on a cattle drive twenty years earlier, Virgil is a dead man walking. 

Numbed by alcohol, as emotionally distant "as a hawk from the moon," he stumbles home to the cattle ranch he runs with his mother and ancient Grandmother. There, Virgil learns that his wife, Agnes, has stolen his rifle-- and electric razor-- and left for town. Armed with nothing but his memories and his toothbrush, he sets off to find her-- or perhaps, just to get back his gun. It meant something to him once. 

His search for his renegade wife leads him off the Reservation and into a quixotic, modern-day visionquest.  In town, Virgil’s self-destructive ambivalence makes him an easy mark for the enigmatic Airplane Man, a stranger in a safari jacket who recruits Virgil for a smuggling operation into Canada, offering cash and a convertible.

Embarking on this ill-conceived scheme, shadowed by two mysterious men in suits, Virgil caroms through a series of drunken escapades and dangerous confrontations. When a passionate interlude with a streetwise girl turns violent, he must confront her core question: “What kind of a man are you?”

Unable to answer, despairing, Virgil moves ever closer to oblivion— until he discovers a long-hidden revelation, and recovers his true identity.

Redeemed by this knowledge, Virgil risks his own neck to save another helpless creature. This selfless act allows him to absolve himself from a lifetime of guilt and blame. Freed from the paralyzing shackles of loss, Virgil renews the bond of blood between himself and the land-- and makes peace with the winter ghosts that haunt him.

What are we doing? 

We are raising the funds to complete our financing and begin production this summer. We have recently received a major grant from the Charles Engelhard Foundation, as well as generous support from investors and local townships and tribal communities, and thousands of individuals. Having successfully raised the major portion of our budget, we are now at the point where we really need your help.

This is the critical moment. We are inviting you to become a part of our adventure.

If we can reach, heck, blow past, our $60,000 Kickstarter goal we will reach our funding needs, and can start shooting our movie in August, on location in Northern Montana. With your help, we are confident you'll see the film at a theater near you in the year 2012!  And as you take your seat, and open your box of Junior Mints, you'll not only know the sweet satisfaction of having had a hand in bringing this film to light, but will also own a priceless slice of the film forever!

Thanks in advance for being a part of this project. All of us who are working on Winter in the Blood feel grateful for the community that has formed around this project-- and for the amazing support that we continue to receive. Just as the novel has touched the lives of generations of readers, we believe this film can continue-- and even expand-- that process. 

Where can I learn more about the project?

Please visit our website You can learn about the vision, quest, story, cast, directors, production team, and  get  visual sense of wide open western landscape-- a major character in the film. We'll also be doing regular video updates, blogs and a documentary series about the making of our film! We'll be interviewing our project's writers, producers, designers, actors and musicians so be sure to check in frequently for behind-the-scenes video updates.

Is my pledge amount publicly displayed?

Have no fear! Only you and the project creator will be able to see the pledge amount.

If I donate, when can I redeem the incentive?

Great question. All of our incentives will ONLY happen if we meet our goal.  When we meet our goal, immediately after our deadline we will start to manufacture and ship all physical merchandise directly to you. The dvds, screenings and parties can only happen after the film is completed.  This will take some time, so please bear with us; contributors can track the process by joining our email list to stay in the loop from pre-production all the way to the red carpet! 

What if I don't want the incentive, I just want to support?

No problem. There is a button that you can select if you don't want the reward. Just know that you have helped us get that extra take, shot, scene or location. Thank you!

Can we exceed the goal?

YOU BET!  Every penny raised is going directly onto the screen, so the more we raise the better the final film will be. Every $25,000 that we reach BEYOND our goal allows for ONE additional day of shooting!--  on film sets, time is definitely money. With this in mind, we've created a measure of "ownership" per contribution level-- you can help us get an extra take, shot, sequence, scene, location, etc.  (If you want to help us get to an extra day, we're still looking for a couple few investors at the $25K or more level.)

Can I increase my pledge once it's been made?

YES!  Once you donate to our campaign, you may want to change your incentive reward to a different one, or increase your pledge amount.  To do so, go to Kickstarter and sign in. If you go to our campaign page, the green "Back This Project" button has been replaced with a blue "Manage Your Donation" button.  Click it and you can enter a new amount, or choose a new incentive. 

Can I gift an incentive?

CERTAINLY! Aren't you just the nicest person ever? If you would like to donate to the film but gift the incentive to someone else, go through the usual process of making a donation in your name.  For billing purposes, this action must be in your name.  After our deadline, we will send a message to you on Kickstarter that will be forwarded to the e-mail address you provided. At that time we will request critical information such as your address, eye-color, and astrological sign so that we can send you your commemorative toothbrush and Icelandic pony.  If you choose to gift your incentive, you can simply reply with the person's information whom you'd like to receive the reward and we will send it to that address. 

What happens if the money isn't raised in time?

IF our goal isn't met before the deadline, no money changes hands and we won't be able to to make our film. 

Who does the money go to?

Every penny that you pledge (minus the fee for Kickstarter's involvement) goes directly to the "Winter in the Blood" budget. It will go directly on the screen!

I'm not in the U.S. Can I still pledge? 

YES! You can pledge from anywhere. Oslo, New Delhi, Iceland, Mars, Havre MT, In the bathroom, on a train, in the rain, on a plane...we'll take it!

How do we contact you?

Dear supporters, fast friends and ardent fans, if you would be so kind as to go to and select contacts, we will get back to you in two shakes of a lamb's tail.


Have a question? If the info above doesn't help, you can ask the project creator directly.

Ask a question


  • You selected
    Pledge $1 or more

    30 backers

    THANK YOU! We really appreciate your support! We'll put YOUR NAME on our DONOR PAGE so all your friends and family can see how swell you are!

  • You selected
    Pledge $25 or more

    59 backers

    HI-LINE PENPAL! We would love to send you a personalized POSTCARD FROM SET. We'll write you a SUPER exciting note about what we're up to and send it from a post office somewhere on the Montana Hi-Line, where there are exotic-sounding towns such as Malta! Zurich! Harlem! Havre! We will also put your name on our DONOR PAGE on the website!

  • You selected
    Pledge $35 or more

    67 backers

    T-SHIRT- We've just added this reward and we're pretty excited about it! We have two different Winter in the Blood T-Shirt designs in men's and women's sizes. At this pledge level you will receive a Winter in the Blood T-SHIRT, a PERSONALIZED POSTCARD FROM SET and your name on the DONOR PAGE.

  • You selected
    Pledge $50 or more

    89 backers

    GUESS WHAT? That's right-- we're going to send you an Icelandic Pony! But seriously, we're out of ponies, so instead we're going to send you a signed DVD OF THE FILM as soon as it's released! We'll also put your name on our DONOR PAGE and we'll write you a POSTCARD FROM SET.

  • You selected
    Pledge $100 or more

    65 backers

    Sound! Speed! Rolling! This is where things get even MORE exciting! Not only will you get a SIGNED, LIMITED EDITION POSTER (your choice of 3 different artists), AND everything in the FRONT ROW package, but you can also 'take' pride in personally financing a single take from the film. Take by take, we couldn't do it without you.

  • You selected
    Pledge $250 or more

    35 backers

    You have arrived— we're going to put YOUR NAME IN THE CREDITS! That's our version of the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Since your contribution is responsible for financing one entire on location camera SET-UP, we'll also send you a unique STILL IMAGE from the series of takes you paid for! AND you get everything in the TAKE package! Thank you. Now we get to move camera.

  • You selected
    Pledge $400 or more

    2 backers Limited (1 left of 3)

    I'LL BE IN MY TRAILER- You get the star treatment: A private, two hour ACTING MENTORSHIP from Dana Wheeler Nicholson (Fletch, Tombstone, Friday Night Lights) and everything from the SET-UP package! This special incentive is offered only to residents of New York NY, New Orleans LA, Los Angeles CA, Austin TX, and Missoula MT!

  • You selected
    Pledge $400 or more

    1 backer Limited (3 left of 4)

    You and your friends will have your ears tickled by the sweet melodies of YOUTH & VALOR. The band (composed of Courtney Saunders and a special guest on guitar) will perform a one hour HOUSE SHOW at your domicile. You will also receive everything from the SET-UP package! To hear some of Y&V check out this link here This incentive is offered to residents of NYC, Austin, TX and Missoula, MT

  • You selected
    Pledge $500 or more

    4 backers Limited (8 left of 12)

    Lights! Camera! Action! Want to TALK FILM? So do we. You get to have a 17.5 minute CONFERENCE CALL-- on Skype or the phone-- with our lead actor, CHASKE SPENCER, or if, you so chooseth, with THE DIRECTORS...yes, you read that correctly...seventeen and a half minutes. Start getting your questions ready! You can talk about film in general, or the specific scene in Winter in the Blood that YOU helped finance.
    Plus-- you also will receive TICKETS to a special CAST & CREW SCREENING and ensuing DANCE PARTY with live music from various soundtrack artists (transportation not included), a STILL IMAGE of the scene that your contribution paid for, the SCRIPT PAGES from your scene, AND everything from the TAKE package!

  • You selected
    Pledge $1,000 or more

    8 backers

    Your generous donation has helped us fund a LOCATION from the film - it might be the The Cowboy Bar, the First Raise ranch house, a lonely stretch of highway, or the interior of the 1950s movie theater (check out the blog for photos). As a sign of our immense gratitude we will send you a beautiful STILL IMAGE of the location you sponsored, a finely BOUND WINTER IN THE BLOOD SCREENPLAY signed by the three writers, and an ORIGINAL PROP from your location as well as TICKETS to a CAST & CREW SCREENING (transportation not included). You will also receive everything in the TAKE package!

  • You selected
    Pledge $5,000 or more

    2 backers Limited (8 left of 10)

    You are obviously as excited as we are about this film! So we're going to give you TWO TICKETS TO THE WORLD FESTIVAL PREMIERE and yee+haw PARTY AFTERWARD! (transportation not included). Although we don't know where this premiere will take place, our last two films have premiered at Sundance. You also receive a finely BOUND WINTER IN THE BLOOD SCREENPLAY, signed by the three writers—and everything in the TAKE package! When you're shooting exteriors, you often have to race the light to get your day. Luckily in Montana in the summer, Magic Hour is four hours long— exactly what your contribution afforded us! Thank you for helping us get our day!

  • You selected
    Pledge $10,000

    0 backers Limited (8 left of 8)

    COME TO MONTANA! We would like to give you a GUIDED FLY FISHING TRIP on a world-class river, and invite you to come and SPEND THE DAY ON SET! You will also receive two tickets to the WORLD PREMIERE (transportation not included) and everything from the TAKE package... Also, we love you. The Martini Shot is the last shot of the day-- everything we shot since lunch today is thanks to you. So here's to you. That's a wrap, folks!

Funding period

- (30 days)