The western culture of North Dakota and beauty of the Badlands are captured on a film soon to be released titled “The Badlands Girl.”
“The story revolves around Maggie who is a frontier woman living in 1895 North Dakota,” said writer and executive producer Daniel Bielinski. “She is caught in a love triangle between her rancher neighbor, William, and a reckless cowboy, Jacob. She knows how to take care of herself and the land, but she has a dark secret in her past that catches up with her when her ex-flame, Jacob shows up on her doorstep.”
Bielinski also wanted to create an old-school western harking back to John Wayne style.
“Following on her heels is a band of outlaws who have a grudge against Maggie, as well,” he said.
Bielinski is an actor,writer and producer with a master’s degree in acting from Columbia University in New York City. He has acted in TV, feature films and off-Broadway theater in New York.
He moved to North Dakota in 2015 to direct the theater program at the University of Mary. Since moving here, he has fallen in love with the land and the people who live here.He began his North Dakota filmmaking in 2015 with “The Good Father” set in Bismarck. It was followed by the romantic comedy “You Beautiful Crazy Blind Cripple,” shot in 2016 at New Salem. But ‘The Badlands Girl” is the film he’s been planning since he set foot in North Dakota. The film was made at the Logging Camp Ranch, known for its abundance of Ponderosa pine, towering buttes and Badlands terrain.
“John and Jennifer Hanson (ranch owners) were very supportive of what we were trying to do and we could not have done this without their generosity,” he said.
Bielinski describes making films as a training tool for his students.
“I can’t really emphasis enough what a unique opportunity it is to be on a real film set,” he said. “It’s for young filmmakers, actors and production personnel. They are always making student films by themselves, but it's important they get exposure to highly professional films -- they get the chance to be mentored by great industry professionals and that’s really crucial to their learning experience.”
He added, “I’m doing it because an artist creates art --- the purpose is to train students to be on the set, both on front and behind the camera. Really it’s valuable, unique opportunity for them because we bring professionals to the film set from New York, Los Angeles and Minnesota. Students have a chance to be mentored by great industry professionals.”
Bielinski wrote the script in a time frame of 10 months. The horsemen are local ranchers who rode their own horses. The shooting for the 20-minute film was completed in five days.
“Considering the number of stunts and amount of “action” in the film, that was very ambitious,” he said.
He referenced the day when the opening scene of the movie was shot. It featured a posse of horsemen riding across the Badlands, pursuing the character of Jacob. Then it started to rain.
“It was a stressful morning for the production staff… fortunately we powered through and got the footage we needed,” he said.
Why produce a western?
“North Dakota is the perfect place to make a western film. There has never been a period western film made in the North Dakota Badlands until now,” he said. “By producing high-quality films in North Dakota, we hope to demonstrate there is great potential and talent here that needs to be nurtured into a real industry.”
The film was supported financially by individuals and business, as well as in-kind donations such as guns, horses, locations, food and lodging. Sponsors included the University of Mary, Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation and North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame.
The lead cast includes Erin Neufer as Maggie, Bielinski as William, Kyle Vincent Terry as Jacob and Mike McNeil as Sampson. Behind the scenes, credits include director, Evan Ari Kelman; writer/executive producer, Bielinski, and producer, RD Delgado.
Bielinski is currently speaking with investors about the intention of making the film into a feature-length movie. The storyline for the first 20 minutes is complete, but it has room to be expanded.
“I’m taking this one step at a time,” he said. “There’s so many great stories to be told in North Dakota.”
He submits his films to film festivals, but he wanted to make sure North Dakota audiences could see “The Badlands Girl” first.
“So many North Dakotans were involved in the production, that I wanted to have a special screening to show as many people as possible,” he said. “I hope with the screening, people will see see the potential of what a feature length North Dakota western film could be,” he said.
* The Bismarck premiere is at The Grand Theater on Feb. 28 and March 1 at 6:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. CT.
* The western North Dakota premiere is at the Belfield Theater on March 2 at 7 p.m. MT.
For more information, see the trailer at www.badlandsgirlmovie.com.