Season 4 of the popular television series "Yellowstone" has completed its principal filming, with almost 100 percent of the work done in the Bitterroot Valley and Missoula. Fire and Ice production manager Dustin Daniels thanked the Hamilton City Council this week for working with the film crews this year.

Daniels said that the COVID-19 pandemic caused Fire and Ice Productions to squeeze the filming schedule into 60 days. He said a majority of the filming was done in the Bitterroot with 23 days in and around Hamilton and 25 days in Darby. The other 12 days included scenes filmed in and around Missoula. The filming started in August and wrapped up in November, often with two separate complete film crews working on the same day.

Daniels noted that the successful production schedule accomplished more than just one season of a television series. "By completing a full season of a nationally televised program like "Yellowstone" in the greater Hamilton area we've proved to other film production studios around the world that Montana, specifically the Hamilton area, can host film productions."

Besides hiring local actors and members of the general public, the economic value was welcomed in this pandemic year. He said over $370,000 was spent on location fees for filming on private land and he said the company spent another half-million dollars in the last six months with local vendors - including construction, equipment rental, food, and other supplies. That's not counting salaries of film crews and actors, which is the major cost of a film production. The company also leased a 30,000 square foot office space in Hamilton. And, of course, the crew rented places to stay while the production was underway.

Speaking of the pandemic, Daniels said the operation was under strict COVID-19 restrictions that often exceeded the Montana mandates. It was a priority of the company to not introduce any spread of the virus into the community.

"Yellowstone," which airs on the Paramount Network, stars Kevin Costner as the owner of the fictional Yellowstone Ranch in the Paradise Valley of Montana. Costner is also one of the Executive Producers of the series. The cast also includes Kelly Reilly, Luke Grimes, Wes Bentley, Gil Birmingham, Josh Holloway and Cole Hauser, who was included in People magazine's Sexiest Men Alive issue. While season four is now being edited for airing, what about season five?

If greenlighted, where would season five be filmed? Daniels is hoping to return to the Bitterroot. He told the Hamilton City Council, "It's very likely that we will return to film in Hamilton in the spring of 2021. Nothing is set in stone yet, but all of our offices have been carried over. So it's like 99 percent chance that we will be returning to film in the Hamilton area." He said that if that happens, the film crews will increase the length of the filming schedule.

In the past, at least two other film productions spent some time in the Bitterroot Valley. A 1950s film "Red Skies Over Montana" had scenes at the Hamilton Airport, and more recently, almost all the scenes in "Disorganized Crime," which had its premiere at Hamilton's Roxy Theater.

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