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Pony hopes TV production returns

Pony school during filming of "1923"
Brian Rumsey
Pony school during filming of "1923"

The Hollywood writer and actors strikes are affecting places in Montana like Butte and Missoula, where big productions were set to continue filming this summer.

As Yellowstone Public Radio’s Orlinda Worthington reports,several small towns are also missing movie production money.

Creaky wooden stairs lead to the second floor of the Pony Schoolhouse. The brick and mortar structure, built in 1902, is in need of much more expensive restoration to maintain its standing as a historical landmark.

Brian Rumsey is on the board of the Pony Homecoming Club. “Well, a lot of that mortar is starting to just kind of turn to dust. And, you know, you're holding up two stories of bricks on top of this foundation. So in order to stabilize it again, we started going in and re-grouting,” Rumsey says.

Funding for that project got an unexpected infusion of money from the filming of “1923” a prequel to Yellowstone. The Pony school was used as an Indian boarding school. Rumsey estimates the production company spent six figures making permanent fixes to the building.

Rumsey said, “Throughout the whole school they plastered all the walls, both floors and painted it all. They added all new shades throughout the whole school.”

The production company paid the town four-thousand dollars a month during pre production and the same each day of filming.

“Our homecoming club has the benefit now that we have money. So we have been able to put up gutters and set up a handicapped accessibility to the park and things like that.”

Hanna Bernard is also on the Homecoming Club board.

She says people in the small community of 120 were skeptical at first about hundreds of people disturbing their quiet burg at the end of the road. But the congenial crew - and the money - quickly changed that apprehension.

“I actually only heard positive feedback from our friends in the community here regarding the whole thing, because it was super well managed. All the people that showed up here and worked on the set, they were very polite,” according to Bernard.

They also paid residents to park in front of their homes, ate at the Pony Bar and Harrison diner, even shopped local garage sales for set pieces.

“Really really contributed to our community and in good ways,” Bernard said.

The second season of 1923 was set to begin filming again in Pony, but now there’s no decision on whether or not Hollywood will return after the strikes are settled.

In Pony, I’m Orlinda Worthington, for Yellowstone Public Radio News.