Elk hunter and mountain athlete Mark Seacat has long believed that the primal act of hunting is, at its core, quite beautiful. Now he and director Christopher Murphy think they’ve proven it. They’ve created what they call an “elegant and authentic hunting story” with their new short film, Searching for West.
Revealing the beauty of a discipline that’s been relegated to three-digit cable channels meant using the latest cutting-edge equipment, like gyroscopic camera stabilizers mounted to helicopters and a camera that shoots more than 2,500 frames per second. It meant inventing graceful new ways to show the flight of arrows and bullets. And it meant telling good stories, like when Seacat is forced to choose between forays deep into the backcountry and time spent at home with his young family.
The teaser for Searching for West will be available to view at searchingforwest.com starting Wednesday. The full film premieres Aug. 16 in Bozeman at the Emerson’s Crawford Theater, and will be free to view at searchingforwest.com, sitkafilms.com and leica.com starting Aug. 22.
The film stars Seacat, 33, an accomplished elk hunter and professional photographer whose son, West, was born 10 days before the 2011 Montana elk season. He pushes himself to do it all – chasing elk each day in grand and unyielding landscapes, getting home in time for a late dinner, staying up the night with his newborn to let his wife rest, and leaving well before dawn to do it all again.
“You have all these tensions,” Murphy said. “Mark’s a relatively new husband, a brand new father, and a passionate hunter. Hunting is his livelihood, it’s the thing he’s been living for for most of his life. But now he’s striving to be a great father and husband. He has to find balance, but balance ultimately requires sacrifice.”
Murphy, 34, grew up on a ranch near Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness and hunted with his father when he was young, though skateboarding became his passion. As a professional skateboarder, he was constantly in the presence of camera equipment, fell in love with the art of film, and studied the subject in college.
Murphy and business partner Kina Pickett, founded Bozeman-based Helio Collective, the production house behind Searching for West. Helio is known for creating pieces for clients like Red Bull Media House, Teva, Dakine, Quicksilver, Oracle, and gained international notoriety for their motion graphic work in the 2011 snowboarding epic, The Art of Flight.
“What I love about working with Helio is that they know how to weave a story,” Seacat said. “This is something that’s really personal to me. Our goal all along was to share how beautiful and inspiring hunting can be. I think the story is something that everyone can relate to, something that really tugs at the emotions.”
The film is sponsored by Sitka Gear, Leica Sport Optics, and GORE-TEX, whose products appear throughout.