About The Production
Written and directed by Academy Award nominee Taylor Sheridan (Hell or High
Water, Sicario), WIND RIVER stars Academy Award nominee, Jeremy Renner (The Hurt
Locker, The Town), Elizabeth Olsen (Avengers, Martha Marcy May Marlene), Gil
Birmingham (The Lone Ranger), Jon Bernthal (The Wolf of Wall Street, Sicario),
Julia Jones (Twilight), Kelsey Asbille (Teen Wolf), Graham Greene (The Green
Mile, Dances with Wolves), Martin Sensmeier (The Magnificent Seven), James
Jordan, Tokala Clifford, Apesanahkwat, and Tantoo Cardinal.
The project is produced by Basil Iwanyk's Thunder Road (Sicario, John Wick),
Peter Berg's Film 44 (Lone Survivor, Friday Night Lights), and Matthew George's
Savvy Media Holdings (LBJ, Shock and Awe). Star Thrower Entertainment is
executive producing along with Riverstone Pictures and The Fyzz Facility.
The Weinstein Company acquired distribution rights for the U.S. and Canada at
the 2016 Cannes Film Festival. Insiders and Voltage are selling the film
internationally and cofinanced the film.
Financing for the film came from Acacia Entertainment. Acacia Entertainment is a
50/50 joint-venture between Savvy Media Holdings and the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of
Louisiana. Acacia financed the film through a bank loan. The tribally owned
enterprise provided funding for 90% of WIND RIVER'S $13.2M budget. Additional
equity in the form of $1.4 million was provided by Voltage, Wild Bunch, and
Matthew George of Acacia Entertainment was first sent the script by Ben Kramer
at CAA who had been trying to get financing for Sheridan's third project since
"I read the script that night and called Ben in the morning to say that I was
blown away by the writing and was interested in talking with Taylor," Said
George. "I met with Basil Iwanyk and Erica Lee, from Thunder Road, and Braden
Aftergood, from Film 44, the next day. We spoke to Taylor a couple of days later
by phone, after listening to his reasons for writing the script, his history of
working on reservations and how he wanted to approach the film, I knew it was
going to be something special and it was an easy decision to fully commit."
Including pre-production, WIND RIVER was filmed over the course of 5 months from
January 2016 to May 2016 in Park City, Utah. Elizabeth Olsen was attached to the
project from very early on. In fact, for Sheridan, she was the only choice for
the role of Jane Banner. Sheridan also had some Native actors in mind including
Graham Greene, who portrays Ben the Tribal Police Chief, and Gil Birmingham who
portrays Martin Hanson, Natalie's father. But the role of Cory Lambert proved a
bit more of a challenge to find the best fit.
"I worked with Taylor very closely on casting the male lead in WIND RIVER, Cory
Taylor suggested a number of names, and we were throwing around a number of
possibilities but then he called me with the idea of Jeremy Renner and I agreed
he was the perfect choice for Cory," said George.
Matthew George suggested that Sheridan reach out to Renner personally. His note
prompted Renner to read the screenplay, ultimately leading to a meeting between
the two. That same day, Renner confirmed he was on board.
From the onset, it was important to the filmmakers to be truthful and sensitive
towards the current state of affairs on many reservations throughout the
country. With Sheridan at the helm, the film succeeded. Charl Chapman, the head
of the Tunica-Biloxi Economic Development Corporation (EDC) was so impressed by
the truths on display in Taylor Sheridan's writing, he was in disbelief upon
finding out Sheridan does not have Native ancestry.
Sheridan and George reached out to various Native American tribes and
organizations to advise on the film in the early stages of pre-production. As a
partner in Acacia Entertainment, the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana was a
significant presence during filming. The Bureau of Indian Affairs as well as the
various sovereign nations part of the film's setting were involved in many
aspects of the process from costume designers to set designers, every department
strove to make things factually correct down to the Wind River Tribal Police
logos featured on the characters costumes, which members of the Eastern Shoshone
tribe advised on. Carl Chapman, from the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana, and
Daryl Begay who is Navajo, served as advisors for the film. Both men have deep
ties within the Native communities. Members of the Northern Arapaho Business
Council, including the Chairman and Co-Chairman, as well as the Eastern Shoshone
Tribal council visited the Park City set during filming.
"WIND RIVER, because of its setting, was special to them and it shined a light
on serious issues affecting communities around the U.S. Working with all the
Native Americans, from the cast to the production and the outreach to various
tribal leaders, has been an enlightening and special part of making WIND RIVER."
Authenticity was also a major goal for Director of Photography, Ben Richardson,
whose first conversation with Sheridan focused on "Nature as the apex predator."
The cinematography had to convey the sense of man's fragility in the face of the
However, the quest for truthful representation of the brutality and villainous
nature of Wind River brought some challenges to the production as well.
"In the early part of the shoot, we were managing freezing temperatures, thin
air, and regular snow storms. Although we sought it out, the thickness of the
winter was a constant battle. All our equipment and crew needed to travel on
snowmobiles and snowcats from a truck
accessible basecamp, and at our locations it was a constant challenge not to
disturb the very snow we were there to shoot," said Richardson. "In most of the
history of this country, no-one has ever chosen to stay though the winters, the
native people would migrate away during the worst weather, but now, restricted
to reservation land, they are forced to survive in near impossible conditions.
Our characters travel everywhere on snowmobiles, and it's very clear that
without those machines, these areas are truly cut off from help. This makes
Natalie's desperate opening run all the more powerful."
Richardson continues: "Towards the end of the shoot, spring was upon us, and the
challenge became maintaining that sense of isolation and cold while the winter
snow melted out from underneath us. "
But Richardson's focus wasn't solely on the environment. While filming, he made
sure to capture both the isolation and pure frigidity of the area and balance
that with the emotional devastation of the story.
"The characters were fighting just to survive in this environment, and I always
wanted the audience to feel that," Says Richardson. "With the challenging
subject matter of WIND RIVER, I sought above all to keep the cinematography out
of the audience's way, and look for a direct emotional connection to their
performances. Consequently, some of the most powerful scenes in WIND RIVER are
very simple in their cinematic construction, and I paid most attention to
revealing and defining these wonderful actors in the frame."
"Authentic is hopefully the goal of all filmmakers, but for this film, it took
on a whole new level as this film is so close to many important issues in Indian
Country. Taylor and the producers wanted everything to be incredibly accurate
and we went to great lengths to make sure we delivered," said George. "Taylor
wanted to make every element realistic from the start - and that was the aim for
all of us.
The film ends with a title card that reads "While missing person statistics are
compiled for every other demographic, none exist for Native American women. No
one knows how many are missing." Matthew George and Taylor Sheridan spent many
hours researching, looking for an actual number to include in the ending
statistic. The lack of information available was emotionally devastating and
further comports the significance of the current situation, demanding attention
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