Local filmmaker Andy Smetanka doesn't normally sound bashful when discussing his work. He specializes in Super 8 silhouette animation, and has made music videos for the Decemberists and contributed to the award-winning films of Guy Maddin. With each project, he's exhibited the pride of a craftsman and been quick to explain every intricate step of the animation process.
The Miller's Daughter, however, is a little different. While he's immensely proud of his latest film, and still working in the beautiful world of silhouettes, the subject matter has him tiptoeing around some of the finer points.
"I've been calling it an erotic photoplay just because that sounds better than 'adult film,'" he says of the three-minute animated short. "I think I'm just using that antiquated phrase because I still need some sort of armor for it. I need something so I'm not coming across like some sort of sleazeball."
The Miller's Daughter is not sleazy. Yes, it involves silhouetted oral sex, and some graceful intercourse between two healthy cutout figures. But it also involves shots of lovebirds perched on a windowsill and a lovely flute-heavy soundtrack provided by a little-known Dutch prog rock band Focus notable only for the song "Hocus Pocus." It's decidedly more NC-17 than anything close to X-rated.
"Don't get me wrong, I couldn't be happier with the finished product," says Smetanka. "I just didn't fully realize when I was working on it that I would, at some point, have to own up to it. I never thought about having to tell my in-laws."
Smetanka needs to break the news to his Seattle-area in-laws because The Miller's Daughter was recently selected for the annual amateur porn festival HUMP!, put on by Seattle's alt-weekly The Stranger. The two-weekend event begins in Seattle Nov. 3 and culminates with all submitted copies of the films being destroyed.
"I'm pretty convinced there won't be anything else like it in the festival," says Smetanka, who took special satisfaction over filling out a release form that assured the film's "actors" were over 18 and willingly participated in the project. "I know it may not be the funniest selection. I know it may not be the sexiest or the kinkiest. But I know it will be among the prettiest."
In honor of Smetanka's artful new film, we offer an abbreviated history of Montana's seedier and more commercial contributions to the rich world of adult entertainment.
Before there were moving pictures, those in need of release turned to local business establishments. Gleim, who was also known as the Murderous Madam of Missoula, owned eight "female boarding houses" during the peak years of downtown's red-light district. She earned her nickname after killing a rival madam, and later served time at the state prison in Deer Lodge. Her headquarters, located at 265 West Front Street, is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Dumas Brothel
This Butte landmark claims to be America's longest running house of prostitution, operating from 1890 to 1982. Also listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it now serves as a museum with seasonal tours of the three-story building.
Sheepless in Montana
This 1993 spoof of the Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan romcom features Brad Armstrong as a poet from the city who escapes to Big Sky Country to find his muse. Forbidden Films covers the rest: "And before you can say baaa, our poet gets his rhythm back. On paper and on top of Dyanna. If dull porn makes you sheepish, check out our Sheepless. Then watch the fur fly..."
We looked for A River Runs Through Her and Winter in the Bed, but those must still be in development.
The celebrated "Queen of Porn" spent some of her tougher teenage years living on a cattle ranch in Fromberg, Montana, near Billings. In her best-selling autobiography, How to Make Love Like a Porn Star: A Cautionary Tale, she alleges being raped twice in 1990 when she was a 16-year-old in the small town. Jameson soon left Montana and, though underage, started dancing in Las Vegas clubs. By the time she was 19, she was performing in adult films. Her first husband? None other than Brad Armstrong, star of Sheepless in Montana!
Turns out Jameson isn't the only porn starlet to hail from the Treasure State. Victoria Paris started her career in 1988, after the Great Falls native earned her bachelor's degree in nutrition from Montana State University. She's appeared in more than 100 films, mostly during the '90s, including Paris by Night, Ghost Lusters and Black Beauty. Her latest film, according to IMDB, is 2009's Black Beauty 2: The Devil's Doorway.
Gay film star Blade Thompson lists his hometown as "Montana" in various online biographies, and notes that his father was in the military. He's been featured in Leather After Midnight as "Ghost #1" and Hole Patrol as "Hustling Lifeguard."
Finally, Tera Patrick, also from Great Falls, shot to fame after appearing as Penthouse magazine's "Pet of the Month" in February 2000. She went on to star in numerous adult films, run her own talent agency and launch a production company called Teravision. She now hosts "School of Sex," an educational show on Playboy TV.
Andy Smetanka's The Miller's Daughter screens at the Top Hat Thursday, Oct. 27, at 6 PM along with a handful of his other silhouette films, including City in Shadows. $4. For mature audiences.