Set in the rugged terrain of the badlands of western North Dakota, we knew from the beginning that this was going to be a visually stunning film. We also knew that the scenery would help us convey a very important message: that despite the terrain, Reservation Telephone Cooperative (RTC) is able to provide high-speed internet and phone services.
With six key interviews forming the narrative and the natural beauty of the area as the backdrop, the film paints the picture of just how far RTC is willing to go provide the best possible service–no matter where you are.
A Compelling Narrative
This film features two stories. The first is Leland Ranch, the last place in the U.S. to receive a phone line, now a thriving Red Angus ranch that utilizes RTC telecommunications to keep their business going; the second, Horse Creek School, which received working internet just this summer thanks to RTC’s efforts.
Through interviews with Melvin, Luella, Todd, Carla, Brooks and Nikki, we were able to interweave the two stories into one comprehensive story arc. We did so by beginning with a “hook”: “We were the last ____ in the U.S. to receive a phone line/internet.” We then establish the conflict for both Melvin and Nikki, hearing their frustrations with low-quality service or complete lack of service, and then move into how they sought solutions. Both of them mention that RTC is the only company that was able to provide help, which leads to the introduction of Brooks. Brooks has a key line that explains how RTC wants to provide the best service, no matter how rural.
We end with lines from Leland Ranch and Nikki about how RTC has impacted their business, education, and way of life; not just for them, but their kids, and the future.
Ending with a Smiling Montage
As beautiful as sweeping drone shots are, we know that real heartstring-pulling comes with more intimate, close shots of the people in the story. We wove the two together with shots of the Leland family, close shots of their son Trae and detailed shots as they interact with their horses, as well as at the school with light-hearted playground shots and a look at the students as they read, draw, and do computer work.
This can be seen particularly in our ending sequence, or “Smile Montage,” where we move through a collection of shots of Melvin and his family, students, Brooks, and finally Nicki Winter and her kids smiling at the camera. The eye contact and human-feeling to the ending sequence leave the viewer with a sense of connection with the people in the story; a positive feeling that translates to a positive feeling towards RTC, as well.