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Filmmaking group visits South Unit, Dickinson

Press Photo by Bryan Horwath Author and Yale professor Theodore Roosevelt Malloch shakes hands Friday with the bronzed version of Theodore Roosevelt, Malloch's ancestor, stationed in front of the Stark County Courthouse in Dickinson.

Taking a first-hand look at what would be the backdrop of their project, members of a group spearheading a Theodore Roosevelt film initiative toured the South Unit of the national park named for former president Friday.

Continuing a week-long effort to bring attention to a plan that Roosevelt biographer Richard Melheim hopes will eventually turn into a TV mini-series on the Rough Rider's time in western North Dakota over a century ago.

Theodore Roosevelt Malloch, an author and Roosevelt descendant, accompanied Echolight Studios founder Gen Fukunaga, G. Five Entertainment co-founder Darhweet Choi and TRNP Superintendent Valerie Naylor on a tour of the South Unit.

"It's an incredibly beautiful place," said Malloch, a Yale professor. "I can't imagine going through it on a covered wagon or trying to farm or ranch the area."

Like most others who make the drive through the South Unit loop, the group saw wild horses, bison and prairie dogs Friday before lunch in Medora and an afternoon stop at Dickinson State University.

"Our visit was a postcard come to life," said Melheim, who, along with his wife, Ruth Melheim Brubakken, co-authored a book about Roosevelt titled "Young Four Eyes."

"It was beautiful and haunting. You could almost picture Teddy Roosevelt sitting in his cabin getting frustrated that he had too many visitors every day and couldn't get any writing done."

Melheim, chair of the North Dakota Film Initiative Exploration Committee, wants to put together a family-friendly film mini-series about Roosevelt's time in the Badlands. He is partnering with a number of entities, including Princebury Productions & Media, which is headed by investment banker Christopher Williams.

Melheim's group hosted a banquet Wednesday in Bismarck -- attended by a number of state leaders, including Rep. Kevin Cramer and Gov. Jack Dalrymple -- and some members of the filmmaking group planned to visit the Elkhorn Ranch on Saturday.

After a visit with DSU school officials Friday, the foursome made a stop at the Stark County Courthouse in Dickinson, where they posed for pictures with the bronze statue of Theodore Roosevelt near the building's front steps.

Melheim said attracting a project like the one he is pushing for is a difficult task for North Dakota because the state has no film commission or "film incentives." That said, he added that he thinks state leaders are open to the idea.

"We had a great event on Wednesday," said Melheim. "The state leaders we met with were marvelous. I think there's an opportunity there and I think the big question is if North Dakota wants to get in the arena. If you're forward thinking, the Roosevelt legacy is all about taking care of the land, the people and building something big."

Bryan Horwath
A Wisconsin native, Horwath has been covering news in the Oil Patch of North Dakota since 2012. Horwath currently serves as the senior agriculture and political reporter for The Dickinson Press and, despite the team's tendency to always let him down, remains a diehard Minnesota Vikings fan.
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